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Competing With Her Mother-in-Law: The Intersection of Control Management and Emotion Management in Sport Families

Extensive ethnographic research with wives of professional athletes revealed that in certain sport families, the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is among the numerous unique marital and occupational stressors these wives confront in their everyday life. Many wives believe they must compete with their mothers-in-law for their husbands’ attention, love, and support. This chapter makes a case for their use of the intersecting and complementary processes of “control management” and emotion management, which involve a variety of interactional strategies, in maintaining these relationships. Although these self-management processes tend to further entrench the wives in the subordinate status to which they are relegated in this male-dominated occupational world, they learn to skillfully use these processes as they struggle to preserve their marriages, support their husbands’ careers, and maintain a well-defined sense of self.