Leaving the plethora of mother-in-law jokes aside, the relationship between a man and his wife’s mother can sometimes be very difficult. It’s only natural that every parent believes that their daughter deserves the very best, and often it’s all too easy for a mother or father to fall into the trap of feeling that they still know what’s best for their children even when they’re fully grown up and independent. Conflict can arise and it when it does, it makes life difficult for everyone involved.

It’s best to avoid animosity by getting your future mother-in-law firmly in your camp before making a proposal. While that might be a lot harder in practice than it is on paper, the effort will be well worth it in the long run. The first thing to do is be patient. Remember that her generation’s standards may be different from your own and it may take a while to prove that you’re a good person who really does love her daughter and intend to care for her. Be polite, even formal at first, but not too showy or ostentatious.

Don’t try and completely change your personality for her but place a little extra emphasis on neatness and courtesy. Go that extra mile for your girlfriend’s family just as you would for her. There are very few mothers-in-law who won’t warm to a man who is determined to be pleasant and helpful.

Don’t discuss engagement rings the first time you meet. Get to know your loved one’s family first- while you don’t have to fall in love with them too, you might have to put up with them for a very long time to come so take care to get the relationships off on the right foot. Volunteering to take on a few small tasks can make a big difference. Mowing the lawn or picking up an elderly relative doesn’t take much effort. An evening spent babysitting may be more challenging but showing that you’re willing to look after children can be very valuable indeed.

When the time does come to select a ring, asking the advice of your girlfriend’s mother can make her feel involved and respected. If she recommends a hugely elaborate five stone diamond ring that you don’t think will suit her daughter at all, you don’t have to go with it. Sometimes simply asking for advice will be enough to get her on side. However, do remember that your girlfriend’s mother may know her tastes very well indeed, so it’s worth taking the guidance seriously.

The mother-in-law-to-be can also be very useful in other ways. When planning a proposal it’s always handy to know the lady’s ring size, for example. While it’s always possible to resize a ring there’s nothing quite like slipping on one of our unique engagement rings and finding a perfect fit. Your girlfriend’s mother may already know her daughter’s ring size. If not, she’ll almost certainly be able to get it for you without arousing the suspicion that you’re about to go down on one knee.