Katy Guest: It pays to pick your in-laws with care

A marriage in trouble involves more than the couple

Share
Related Topics

Two battles of the in-laws have played themselves out over the past week, each one representing a wholly different convention in the marital-parental discord tradition. At the macho end of the continuum, in Derrida-esque death-of-the-father scenes, the restaurateur Gordon Ramsay has rowed spectacularly with the chief executive of Ramsay Holdings, his wife's father, Chris Hutcheson. The latest reports have Ramsay hiring minders to stop his former mentor entering his HQ, as publicists confirm Hutcheson has stepped down. Meanwhile, in Huyton, Merseyside, scenes chez Rooney-McLoughlin are starting to resemble a joke by Les Dawson. Wayne can always tell when Coleen's mother is coming to stay, he might say: all the mice start throwing themselves on the traps.

The tension between a young man and his parents-in-law is an age-old phenomenon. In Walter Scott's poem, "Lochinvar", the young lord is forced to steal away his bride on a fine steed as his father-in-law stands fuming in Netherby Hall. In Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies, young Adam must ask Nina's father for her hand in marriage, and a cheque to tide him over; the old rogue Colonel Blount signs it "Charlie Chaplin". In Coronation Street, Ken Barlow and Deirdre's mother Blanche only really went to war when the old battleaxe moved in with them – "This one's had more affairs than Soft Mick" being one of her finer lines. And of course, in Shakespeare's plays, the beloved's parents are a frequent source of disharmony: Ophelia was an unfortunate victim of Hamlet's relationship with his mother; and neither Romeo nor Juliet were particularly lucky with the in-laws.

While ancient family feuds, tricksy colonels and treading a measure do not feature heavily in the current headaches of our contemporary heroes, having had "more affairs than Soft Mick" does. Relations between Ramsay and Hutcheson began to sour two years ago, when a woman called Sarah Symonds claimed to have had a seven-year affair with the chef. It's a shame, as Ramsay seems to have been even more in love with his father-in-law than he is with his long-suffering wife, Tana. Ramsay was celebrating Hutcheson's birthday when his first daughter Megan was being born, leading him to turn up at the hospital "absolutely pissed". And in his autobiography, Humble Pie, Ramsay claims to have got all his best advice from Hutcheson. It's a shame he never offered his son-in-law and protégé any words of wisdom regarding women who write books called Having an Affair? A Handbook for the Other Woman.

Rooney, similarly, can't really be surprised that he invoked the ire of his mother-in-law Colette: he cheated on his wife Coleen with a prostitute when she was heavily pregnant with his child. Now, Colette has apparently ruled out a move to Spain for the young Rooney family – more because she wants him where she can keep an eye on him than because she's worried he won't be able to count up to dos in a foreign language, say insiders. It's no wonder he decided to sign his contract and stay at Manchester United for another five years – Mrs McLoughlin makes Sir Alex Ferguson look like a pussycat.

For those of us lucky enough to have in-laws who are generous, personable, smart and ludicrously good-looking, such familial conflict seems inexplicable. So does the behaviour of Laura Hadland of Warrington, who last week broke a world record by making a 32ft by 42ft image of her mother-in-law for her 50th birthday... in toast.

At least the Rooney/Ramsay predicament is normal. And the subject of all the best jokes. "My mother-in-law fell down a wishing well," said the great Les Dawson. "I was amazed; I never knew they worked."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women are working in some of the lowest-paid sectors such as cleaning, catering and caring  

Women's wages have gone backwards. Labour would give women the pay they deserve

Gloria de Piero
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?