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Affirmations – Round 1

A few thoughts from one reader as she rolls through a Saturday morning with three young children to feed, clothe and clean house with.

I will allow my MIL room to be herself as long as things are respectful as well as healthy for our children.

I won’t judge my MIL because I’m not walking in her shoes.

I trust that my MIL has our best interests at heart.                     

I will regularly pray for my MIL, her marriage, her health and our time together.

I will practice patience with my MIL and appreciate that she is patient with me when I parent differently than she would.

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These affirmations – repeated regularly – can lead one’s heart, mind and relationship down healthy and enjoyable paths!

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Who’s next?

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When Her Questions Feel Like the Inquisition

It was the Summer of 2014 and we sat together on the back deck of a large house overlooking a beautiful lake. Sally had married in 1980 and her MIL had passed away a few years ago. Being on the MIL side of things these days, I was initially surprised to hear that as a young DIL, Sally had not welcomed her MIL’s interest. Well, at least not the way it had been expressed.

See if you recognize yourself on either side of this scenario.

“I felt, when we first got married, that she kind of wanted to treat me like a daughter and I didn’t want to be absorbed into this family that I really didn’t know. And the little that I did know, I wasn’t crazy about.”

Hmmm. How many of us MILs have heard ourselves say to our DILs something like “I’m so happy to have you as a daughter!” or “Now, I have a daughter!.” or “I love you like a daughter!” In fact, in a previous post, Fran said that exact thing to her DIL. In each case,the motivation was very likely to welcome the DIL into the family wholeheartedly and express delight in the woman whom our son chose. From personal experience, these best intentions are not always received very well – which is exactly what Sally was talking about. Too close – too quickly.

“My MIL was a very emotional, clingy, manipulative woman” she confessed. When they arrived at her in-law’s home for a visit, her MIL would be in tears, so happy that they were there. Then, she would ask “When are you leaving? Oh, can’t you stay longer? When are we going to see you again?” More tears.

Then, there would be “20 questions”. Sally says that there were times when she felt “emotionally raped” because of all the questions. Her interpretation was that her MIL wanted to be a significant part of their lives. So, she would move closer – figuratively. As a result, she as the DIL would “retreat” a bit, feeling that her personal space had been infringed upon. Which caused the MIL to push in further, asking more and more questions. Which … well, you get it. A vicious cycle. Sally admitted that she hadn’t had, at that point, the skill set to deal with this.

“I’m sure she was just trying to make conversation, but …”

Here’s one example of how it would go: Her MIL would phone and ask to speak to her son.

“He’s out.”
“Well, where is he?”
“At a meeting.”
“What type of meeting is he at? What is he doing at that meeting?”

Her MIL would keep pushing and pushing for more specifics. She wouldn’t accept a general answer. Now, Sally had been raised to answer every question put to her, whether it was appropriate or not. Finally, she would feel cornered and admit that her husband was at a therapy session.

Does the word “boundaries” come to mind as you peak into Sally’s world?

Another scenario:

“What do you want to do?”
“Well, what is there to do?”
“Well, we’ll do anything you want to do.”

They rarely did anything together except have these conversations.

“What do you want for dinner?”
“Well, what are you going to have?”
“Well, we can have anything you want. I can make tuna salad, but you can have anything. You don’t have to have tuna salad.”
“Let’s have tuna salad.”
“We can go out to dinner if you want.”

I can picture a MIL so wanting a good relationship with her DIL that she would try to be very accommodating. And that might appear to some people as fawning or being wishy-washy.

Is it?

This is GinnyLiz thinking aloud: When do accommodations and questions become negative and destructive and barriers to a good MIL/DIL relationship? Where is the handbook on this stuff?

I can see, being a MIL, that some MILs would ask lots of questions thinking “I want to know about you so that we can find things in common so that we can talk. I want to know about your life and where you came from.” And when they confide in their DILs, they might be saying “I want to tell you about me, who I am, where I come from and what occupies my interests.”

Why would DILs not understand this and embrace it?

What’s your take on this? Can you shed any light on this subject?

Simply versus Easy

“That’s easy!” Ever heard those words?
“It’s so simple!” Really?

The word “simple” is an indication of the level of complexity of an activity or concept. “Easy” refers to the level of comfort that a person experiences in that activity or with that concept.

So, “simple” and “easy” are not synonymous.

Check out what these terms might mean when applied to the MIL/DIL relationship.

Having a healthy, thriving relationship with your MIL or DIL is really simple! All you need to do is practice mutual respect, consideration, forgiveness and love … all the time. Simple. It’s not rocket science. It’s not brain surgery. Both of those require years and years of schooling, training and experience. Both involve complex computations, scientific equations, skilled manipulations and expensive equipment.

Not so with having a great MIL/DIL relationship! It requires none of the above. It’s really simple. Don’t you agree that everyone knows how to forgive? Weren’t you taught at a very early age to respect your elders? Remember that old adage your mom drilled into you – “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Of course.

So, we all know how to do what we need to do to enjoy those Hallmark holiday celebrations with the family; to have great conversations and interactions with our son’s wife or our husband’s mother. And might it be significant to these special men in our lives if that were the case? I hear a resounding “Yes!” from “the peanut gallery”.

Simple? Yes. Easy? Not so much.

Jimmy Evans presents marriage enrichment seminars for couples from age twenty to 90. And one of his premises that I remember really well is that “We – all of us – are ‘messed up!'” So, when we accept the fact that every one of us has failings, weaknesses, brokenness, quirkiness and irritating habits, we understand why “easy” isn’t the word to describe many relationships.

True, none of us are perfect. If I’m not perfect and you’re not perfect, chances are that – thrown together for any length of time (and isn’t that what happens to MILs and DILs?) – we’ll unintentionally rub each other the wrong way, miscommunicate, misunderstand, disappoint, offend and disagree.

Now what?

Simple! Be kind in all your dealings with your MIL/DIL. Speak, act and even think respectfully in all your dealings with one another. When you are offended, forgive quickly. When you offend, apologize sincerely. And be generous when patience and acceptance are needed. And they regularly are!

Easy? Nope. But, think about this: Are you even able to do that with your spouse? The person that you love most in the whole world? Rarely is that easy. But, it’s oh so worth it.

Why do I say that?

Because of the person you will become in the process.

Wedding Plans and Fran the Cow

So, you met Fran in the last post.  She called me the other day to announce that her son and DIL were expecting a child.  What wonderful news!  Ed and Gina had waited until the dangers of the first trimester of pregnancy had passed before making any announcement to family or friends.  This seems to be quite common these days.  Fran exclaimed her frustration with the fact that during the 10 days she had recently spent with her son and DIL, they had not once leaked their secret.  10 days!  That’s a long time to keep one’s lips sealed while in the presence of interested parties.  They also did not take advantage of the opportunity to ascertain the sex of the unborn child.  This is not a common thing to do these days.  Fran is perplexed!

But, let’s scroll back a few years to the planning of Ed and Gina’s wedding.  Here’s another one of Fran’s stories as she weaves a bit of fun into a serious message and situation.

In the case of each son & DIL, Fran had nothing to do with the wedding preparations.  On this occasion, it was intentional.  I voiced my opinion that the whole “Planning the Wedding” thing was a social minefield that I had not expected.  She chose not to navigate it, but to fly over in a helicopter, so to speak.  Early on in the process, Fran looked Gina square in the eye and held her shoulders as she spoke.

“Gina, this is your day.  You need to have the wedding that you’ve always dreamed of.  I will not make any demands upon you … except for one thing.”

As Fran tells it, the expression on Gina’s face went from one of ease to wariness.  What was this soon-to-be MIL going to say next?  And did she really have to accede to this woman’s demands?

“What is it?” Gina asked.Priscilla the Cow

“I want Fran the Cow to walk you down the aisle.”

Well, Gina just burst our laughing.  Turns out that Gina’s family lives on and operates a dairy farm and they had named one of the cows after Ed’s mother after the engagement was announced.  (Cows are people, too, you know!)  So, when Gina heard Fran’s request, she knew that her future MIL was joking and was, in a way, poking fun at the stereotypical MIL who regularly demands that things be done her way or there will be trouble to pay!

Fran went on to talk a bit more about her relationship with Gina.

“You mentioned that you had thought that a relationship with your DIL would be easy.  And in my case, it really was – very easy, very natural”

“To what do you attribute that?  You’ve probably never thought about it” I suggested.

Her answer:  “Gina.  Gina is very easygoing and sweet and nice and perfect.  As a matter of fact, I always talk about her in glowing terms.  A lot of people make comments saying ‘Wow!  I’ve never heard of a MIL speaking so highly about a DIL!’  They are so surprised that I have that relationship with her.”

“In general, it seems quite … um…would you say “fashionable” to complain” I interjected.

“Exactly!  Think about all the MIL jokes” replied Fran with a wry smile.

“I’ve wondered where those all come from and I haven’t really figured it out” I mused.

“Oh, I’m sure they come from experience because … ” Fran sat back and looked at the space above my head for a moment, lost in thought.  Then, she went on to tell about her experience as a DIL.

But, that’s for another post.

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One of my “take-aways”?

Fran had taken advantage of a critical opportunity to communicate to Gina in a humorous way that she would do her best to not be the overbearing, insensitive, interfering,  MIL that is the butt of innumerable jokes and the cause for endless eye-rolling and broken relationships.  Did she learn this from her experience with her own MIL?  Yes … and no.  More on that next week.

What are your “take-aways” from this story?

Got a good story of your own to tell?  Let me know!