Archives

One Christmas Many Years Ago

So, it’s that time of the year. A time when we look back on 2015 and then look forward to a new year. A time to review the past and set goals for the future. Perhaps it is a good time to share two DIL’s stories and a fond memory.

******

She had expected to be accepted.

Isn’t that a simple, basic, realistic expectation? That the woman your son decides to marry would be welcomed into the family as an important, significant, valuable person who belongs and is on equal footing with everyone else? This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone has to be best friends. But, is it really too much to ask that a MIL make the effort to send the message that the DIL is welcome at any and all family gatherings and events? That her ideas, opinions and thoughts will be treated with the same consideration that the MIL would want others to show her? That she is to be treated with common courtesy, respect and, yes, love? Not necessarily affection, but with the attitude that conveys “I am for you. We are now on the same team.”

After all, the two have become one.

But, she wasn’t accepted. Why? Because she was Protestant. And his family was Catholic.

“This was the 1950s when religion was everything.” His mother had already “picked out” the young lady he was to marry.

What does it feel like when you choose the one person with whom you want to partner for life, the one to whom you have given your heart, the man with whom you want to build a family and his family shuts the door in your face saying “You’re not welcome here. You’re not like us. You’re not what we’d hoped for for our son. You don’t fit in.”

What do you do?

I can’t answer that because my experience was very different. I’d met my honey in August and dated him into October, when he asked me to marry him. We flew to Chicago at Christmastime so that I could meet his parents. He had called ahead to let them know that he was bringing his fiancee and they had said that they weren’t surprised.

If you know Chicago, you know that there winters are abominably cold and snowy. So, when we got out of the airport limo and walked through the garage into the house, the warmth of the reception drove away any chill I might have been feeling. My future MIL smiled broadly, embraced me and said wholeheartedly “Welcome to the family!”

Thirty-five years later I can still see the scene in my mind’s eye. And I knew acceptance.

She didn’t know much about me then, but she had determined in her heart and mind that she was going to love me and do everything in her power to encourage our marriage to succeed. What a kind and wise woman my MIL was! She left us 17 years ago, but her influence lives on.

**********

So, if you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution, consider this: I’m going to accept my MIL/DIL for who she is – a most important woman in my son’s/husband’s life! I will celebrate in my heart and mind the qualities in her that are admirable and I will remember that some characteristics that aren’t so lovely, … well, I have plenty of those, too!

Acceptance. It’s one of the things we are all looking for in this life. You can afford to offer it to your MIL/DIL.

Thank-you, MT, for accepting me – warts and all. There’s so much I wish I could talk with you about now that I’m a MIL, too!

I hope we meet again.

Advertisements

Affirmations for Mothers-in-Law & Daughters-in-Law – Round 4

“Anonymous” shared her approach – in detail and with conviction:

I take advantage of opportunities to serve my Daughter-in-Law in any way I can, even when I am not feeling it. (Isn’t this when affirmations can be especially important?) I will even change my plans if she needs me.

(Serve? How often to we hear that word or consider that concept in regards to our MIL/DIL?)

I take notice of her feelings and make an effort to “read” her, especially when we talk about controversial subjects. (You and your Daughter-in-law can share views on controversial topics? Bravo!)

I am not her mother, but I am someone who loves her. Therefore, I will treat her as I treat other loved ones.

I will speak the truth in love.

I will encourage my Daughter-in-Law.

Authenticity is my goal and I will practice this with consideration and respect.

********

Obviously, this Mother-in-Law has thought things through and is demonstrating love in words and deeds. She is working at living out the motto of this blog – “MILs & DILs – Family, Friends and Allies”.

Thank-you! Your efforts influence us all for the better.

Affirmations – Round 2

A couple of thoughts harvested from a MIL’s mind as she gets ready to attend a grandson’s football game.

I will look for ways to affirm especially when I am tempted to “fix“!

I will do my best to put my expectations aside and love unconditionally.

*******

This MIL says these have made a difference in her heart and are bearing good fruit!

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.

*****

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

*******************************************

Who’s next?

Affirmations for MILs and DILs

One of the “best practices” adopted by agents and speakers in the company with whom I work is to use affirmations to help focus on our goals, train ourselves in disciplined thought, encourage ourselves in the direction we’d like to move and generally plant and rehearse constructive ideas in our minds. These affirmations are to be recited – with conviction – daily or more often. They are to be carefully worded declarations of what we are choosing to dwell upon, work toward, change and accomplish. They are attitudes we’ve decided to adopt and actions we’ve purposed to take to make this year one in which we achieve great things, enjoy life more fully and become more of the person we’d like to be.

So, as I read through the list of affirmations that my accountability partner had sent me for the year, I was impressed by her stated desire to excel, not only in her employment, but also in her marriage, ministry and relationships with sons, DILs and grandchildren. Wow!

A few weeks later, as we reviewed our goals again during a long-distance telephone call, I shared with her my renewed desire to write a book on the MIL/DIL relationship. And then, a thought struck me: What an interesting idea! To write and recite daily affirmations regarding our MIL/DIL relationships. This could be transformational!

So, would you throw in your two cents? Especially those of you – my silent audience?! Share some affirmations to which you have committed. OR some that you believe will improve, strengthen, deepen your ties to your MIL/DIL. OR those you would advise others of us to consider. Would you?

I’ll collect and post them and they’ll serve as more opportunities to enrich our lives.

Stress, Grief, Loss and Craziness

You remember Jody from the “Step-MIL” post a month ago? Good. Her story continues – this time as the DIL.

At first, it couldn’t have been easier, couldn’t have been better. Jody’s husband, Chester, had grown up in a country where it was common for families to have maids attending to most of the household duties as well as caring for the children. Chester’s mother, Penelope, spent her time and energy baking and entertaining, things in which Jody had little interest or proficiency. This, Jody surmised, might have been the reason they “got on” so well – no competition. They were “so different” from one another, each having skill and accomplishments in completely different realms.

Then, all that changed.

Jody and Chester birthed their first child, moved thousands of miles away from family of any sort, and Chester’s father passed away. A trifecta of “significant life changes”, scoring over 200 points on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

Have you experienced a tsunami such as this in your own life? What happened to the “you” that was you?

Jody reports that her MIL began making unkind comments. While shopping together one day, Jody asked the shopkeeper a question. To Jody’s surprise, Penelope leaned toward the woman and said conspiratorially “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I’ll tell you what she needs.”

This behavior continued for a number of years during Penelope’s infrequent visits which were paid for by Chester & Jody. Things “came to a head” one day when Penelope made what Jody says was an especially critical comment to her son, Trevor, age six. After that, Jody could not even bring herself to sit at the same table with Penelope. She was so upset and hurt by what she saw as her MIL’s meanness. Visits across the ocean have altogether ceased in the past eight years as the desire to facilitate Penelope’s transit has evaporated.

“Was it something you did or said that caused the conflict? I inquired. Jody could think of nothing and mentioned that she had noticed that her MIL’s relationships with her other DILs had soured earlier.

Did she think about confronting Penelope about the situation – seeking to uncover the cause of the “about-face” in her attitude?

Nope, that wasn’t Jody’s style. Would it have cleared things up? One can only guess.

Chester’s take on his mother’s behavior? “She’s gone crazy.”

What happened here? Was it the move, the great loss of her husband? Was it the arrival and “loss” of a grandson? Did Penelope realize what was at stake and how her words were wounding? I wondered as I nibbled french fries and sipped a Lemon & Paeroa.

What role might grief have played in these situations? They do say that when you grieve such a significant loss, you go “a bit crazy”.

We humans are complex beings and our relationships are naturally complex. More often than not, there are no simple answers.

Do you see yourself on either side of this situation? If so, what will you do differently now that you’ve had a “birds-eye view”?

If not, what, without judging, are the “take-aways” that will improve our own MIL/ DIL relationships?

Your thoughts?

Sharing Her Mother’s Heart

When Isabel heard about my foray into the murky waters in plumbing the depths of the MIL/DIL relationship, right away she wanted to share her story. And it might be an all-too-common one, even though each person who lives it might believe she is the only one to endure such misunderstanding and heartache. Still, she has great hope that there will be a happier ending. Let’s listen to Isabel tell about being a MIL.

When her son, Andrew, was in middle school, Isabel drove him to soccer practice and often stayed to watch. On one of those occasions, they bumped into another mom and her unruly daughter, there for the same reason.

“I wonder if my son will marry a girl like that” Isabel pondered.

Don’t you know that years later, that’s exactly whom he married! Small world indeed.

The girl’s name was Adrienne. At the end of the school year, she and her family moved to Greece to rejoin his family and learn the family business. Many years later, they returned to the States, and subsequently Adrienne transferred to the same school that Andrew was attending. Both of them ended up at the same party one night and instantly connected.

They never looked back.

“It’s good” Isabel says, after celebrating more than 15 years of their marriage.

But, she wasn’t always sure that this is how it would go. When Andrew & Adrienne first started dating, Isabel felt the need to write to her son, cautioning him against moving too fast in the relationship, to think things through carefully. She “shared her heart”.

“He wasn’t happy.”

Know what Andrew heard? He heard that his mother didn’t like Adrienne.

Is that what Isabel really said? Or was her motivation to help her son make this “second-most-important choice in life” a really good one? Was she saying “Think over what you want in life and don’t rush into this lifetime commitment”?

In any case, Isabel became his enemy and Adrienne, his comfort. Andrew never confessed to telling Adrienne about their conversation, but Isabel believes that he did . And that, Isabel says, has cost them years of heartache.

Andrew and Adrienne became engaged to marry, and Isabel wanted to encourage them. She took Adrienne aside, sharing with her the same message she had shared with her own daughter upon her engagement. Isabel now says that this was a mistake.

From her own many years of experience, Isabel knew that marriage is challenging. She, no doubt, had experienced those times when one is not quite sure that one has made the best choice deciding to marry this person … or to marry at all. She voiced this, trying to prepare Adrienne for the inevitable, to help steel her soon-to-be-DIL against the passing discontents and disappointments that all married couples must overcome.

“She didn’t hear me. She didn’t hear me. Know what she heard?”

A long time later, Isabel found out.

How often do our very best intentions result in exactly the opposite results from those we are hoping for? I know the answer to this – too often!

In the meantime, Isabel and her husband, Gustav, welcomed Adrienne into the family, and shared with her and Andrew everything they offered their own daughter and son-in-law. Andrew and Adrienne reacted coolly and remained distant, often declining invitations to share time with Isabel and Gustav at the family vacation home on the ocean. Grandkids came along, but time with them was limited. Hopes of sharing with them the thrills of sailing, kayaking and hiking went largely unfulfilled.

So much lost time and opportunities.

One evening, as Adrienne, Andrew, Isabel and Gustav sat together enjoying cups of freshly brewed coffee, conversation lagged between them yet again. And then, the proverbial “dam” broke. Isabel could stand the conflict no longer.

“What is this between us?” she cried.

She had wondered if her daughter, who also had a strong personality, was at odds with Adrienne. Had this caused the rift? Had her husband done or said something so offensive that it would haunt the family for years?

“I was God-smacked when I learned it was me” she exclaimed.

According to Adrienne, long, long ago Isabel had said that Adrienne was less than a desirable partner for Andrew, that she had hoped for someone with a better upbringing, with a higher social standing.

What?!

“I was undone. … I cannot say that I said I was sorry. … I was incredulous that she would accuse me of that. …. And I couldn’t own it, because it wasn’t true!”

It wasn’t true.

“All those summer holidays and long weekends that we had together as families, that I thought were so good, were horrible for them. We have lost years!” Tears ran down her cheeks even as she remembered the pain of that realization.

**********************
How could Adrienne have heard what was not said?

Have you ever told yourself something often enough and for a long enough time that you actually believe it is true? Probably most of us do so unawares. We actually convince ourselves of falsehoods – about ourselves and others.

Examine your own self-talk about your MIL/DIL. Is it truthful? Is it helpful or hurtful?

What thoughts about your MIL/DIL keep playing over and over in your head? Are they facts or interpretations?

Does shame and guilt over past choices overshadow your every conversation and interaction with your MIL/DIL?

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

BTW, there’s more to this story.

Hope.

That’s one reason I keep writing!