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

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Politics of hope needed to avert flight to margins

Liam Fox
 

Cameron's speech was an attempt to kill immigration as an election issue

Andrew Grice
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game