From The Wall Street Journal:
Jim Brown knew he was in trouble before his mother finished asking the question. “Am I a better cook than your wife?” she asked, calmly stirring a pot on the stove in her kitchen. With his wife, Joy, standing next to him, Mr. Brown stammered and stuttered. He prayed—”for a trap door to appear,” he says. Finally, he did the only thing he could think to do: Tell the truth. “I said that my wife is a better cook,” the 50-year-old owner of a Duncanville, Texas, auto-repair shop says. The fallout? “Biblical,” he says. “There was wailing. Gnashing of teeth.” Even his wife got mad—telling him that he had been insensitive to his mother. Sadly, the scene wasn't new to the Browns, who had been married seven years. The strain between his wife and his mother—and his position, stuck in the middle—was taking a toll on all three relationships. His mom criticized his wife for her parenting style and for not getting a job. His wife cried and complained to him. He retreated from both women. “I am a guy and not that intuitive, and I didn't really understand either one,” he says. “My inclination was to go mow the grass.” Over the next couple years, the Browns kept trying to make the triangle work—until the conflict reached a crisis point and then took an unexpected turn.
Few family relationships are more fraught than the ones between a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law, and the man caught between them. It has been fodder for comedy in movies and on TV forever, yet each generation seems to have to learn for itself how to make this triangle work.