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What I Learned in May

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Did you catch the rainbow?  They always make me smile!

 

Okay, okay!  So, I seem to be a bit “behind the eight ball” so to speak, with getting my “What I Learned In …. ” posted in a timely manner.   I could tell you I learned it in June so as not to look like I’m late announcing this.  However, truth be told, I did “learn” this in May.  So, I might as well say so.

This was definitely worth recognizing, worth writing about, because it changed my perspective on the MIL/DIL thing.  So, perhaps you’ll find it worth the time to read.  😉

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This is one thing I became very much aware of in May …..

I’m HIS mother.  And he is a grown man now.  (THAT part I already knew!  Keep reading.)

I’m not HER mother.  I’m not HER friend.  I’m not HER family.  She need have nothing more to do with me than she would with an acquaintance.  My daughter-in-law did not choose me and I didn’t choose her.  They chose one another.  He is HER husband and she is HIS wife.  I have no claim on her – her time, her attention, her friendship, her love.  It may come – and I hope it will – but I have NO claim.  Nada.   Rien.  Niente.  This is at the core of the MIL/DIL relationship.

We both get to choose how much time, energy and effort we will put into the relationship, how far we let the other into our life, how often we want to spend time with one another, … whether we will choose to be friends …. family … allies ….

It may have been different years ago … in previous generations.  And it’s most likely different in other cultures.  (This we will explore in future posts!)  But, for here and for now, that’s what I see.  That’s what I hear.

That sheds some light on the subject … for me!  And in some way …. it seems to make the whole relationship a bit …. easier.  I feel more relaxed.  And that’s got to show.  This “I get it!” realization dissolves any pressure I might have been experiencing – even unknowingly so.  Fewer expectations … fewer “should”s ….. fewer “need to”s …. more time and space to see what, if anything, will come together.

Rainbows?   Perhaps.  But, there’s no rush.  I feel less inclined now to “make it happen” and much more comfortable to “wait and see”.

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Only Go In ….

Only go in as far as you are invited.

In the MIL/DIL relationship, this sounds like a very healthy approach.

When you visit someone’s home, do you barge in or do you ring the doorfront doorbell and wait for someone to open the door?  Do you march into their kitchen and open their fridge or do you wait to be invited to sit down and be offered a cup of tea and biscuits?   When they offer to give you the 25 cent tour, do you insist on viewing the bedrooms or do you follow their lead as they point out things that they’d like you to notice?

Is your MIL/DIL a hugger?  Or not?  Be sensitive to this.  Is it a cultural thing or a personal preference?  Does your MIL/DIL want help when cooking a meal?  Or is the kitchen her domain?  pregnant-woman-choosing-name-her-baby-20047832Or advice on parenting or investing or how to throw a great party?  Does she mind when you text her at work?  Is your phone call every Sunday welcome?  When it comes to where to buy a home, a name for the baby, how to land that great job, whether she should home school the kids …

… only go in as far as you are invited.

If you push your way in – on any issue or in any situation – it’s likely you’ll be met with resistance … in the form of coldness, withdrawal, sarcasm, criticism, correction, or worse – outright rejection, verbal attack.  Who among us likes pushy people?  Or busybodies who are regularly interjecting themselves in other people’s business?

Paopen front doortience.  Wait until she is ready for the next step toward sharing.  Wait until she sees more of who you really are instead of who she thinks you are.  Wait until respect comes into play … until familiarity and trust have their way.  And acceptance.  Maturity.  It takes time.  Only vegetables and fruits germinate, flower, ripen and re-seed in the same year.  Few relationships mature that quickly.

Don’t kick against the goads.  Recognize that you both have a lot to offer one another.  And neither of you needs to be in a hurry to be liked, appreciated, understood and ….. loved.

That’s what I’m learning.  🙂

Over a Bowl of Fruit at Sammy J’s (part 2)

Bonnie and I continued our conversation as we nibbled on chunks of pineapple, plump, sweet blueberries and red, ripe strawberries at Sammy J’s Breakfast Cafe.  She was sharing her experience with her soon-to-be MIL.

Hmmm … curious.  Had she recognized before the engagement that Matt’s mother might not welcome her into the family?

“Bef-euro-diamond-engagement-ring-platinumore we (Matt & I)became engaged, I was a friend of the family.  I had dinners with them, participated in activities with them.  No one really took our relationship seriously.  I think they knew it was coming, but denial is a beautiful thing!”  She again broke into laughter.

She and Matt had dated for two years and when she became his fiancée, things picked up speed.  In the short three months between engagement and wedding, “there was an epic battle.”

“Over what?” I asked.

“The wedding … where we would live … everything!  I yielded on the things that I didn’t care about – like what dresses the bridesmaids would wear.  Have your way!”

The blender whirred in the background and I imagined fruit, milk and honey being blended into a lip-smacking smoothie.  Blending… smoothie … The situation Bonnie described was an example of neither and I pondered how I might have reacted were I “in her shoes.”

“Your attitude was basically “Do whatever you want?” I offered.bridesmaids dresses

“Yeah.  And she did.  His mom planned the whole wedding.”

Matt’s sister chose the bridesmaids’ dresses.

“Yeah, and she let me pick the color.”

Bonnie had wanted a small, intimate ceremony and reception, but that was not to be.

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It could easily be argued that a bride and groom should be the ones to plan the details of their own wedding.  At the same time, I recognized that Bonnie had employed that wise principle of “choosing one’s battles.”   “Do you really need to ‘die on that hill’?”my husband would ask me when we were raising our two sons.  “Can you let go of this issue and allow them to do it “their way?”

I never knew a battle that I didn’t want to fight to the finish.  … But, that’s not wisdom.  Bonnie, on the other hand, must have realized that, to have any kind of a chance of a decent relationship in the future,  she would need to allow her MIL some “say” in the matters about which she felt strongly.  And there were many.

Is this one factor in fostering a great MIL/DIL relationship?   Yielding to another for the sake of peace?  Sometimes “yes” and sometimes “no”.  And for soon-to-be-MILs:   Whose “day” is it, anyway?  It’s your son, but it’s their wedding – one of the biggest days of their lives.   Is there any good reason for demanding, manipulating, and otherwise overruling the wishes of the two to be wed?  Wisdom suggests a different course of action: open communication, honest conversations, and a cooperative approach – no matter who’s paying for it.  This is an event that will be remembered by all for many, many years to come.  And it often sets the tone for the future MIL/DIL relationship.

Habits of the Heart

A friend, John Backman,  has recently written a book entitled Why Can’t We Talk? ..  Dialogue as a Habit of the Heart.  In it, he speaks about the “soul work” that must be done by those who truly desire to dialogue with people of all different worldviews, backgrounds, cultures and persuasions.  It has struck me that I’m hearing this same idea in regards to building and growing a great MIL/DIL relationship.  IMG_1066The condition of the hearts of those involved is tantamount to its success or failure.

Are the MIL & DIL automatically comfortable with one another?  If so, great!  If not, then what?  Do they easily find topics of common interest so that there is no lack of stimulating conversation?  If so, great.  If not, then what?  And do they bond quickly and permanently?

Even thought they both love the same man, they grew up in different generations.  One knows better who their man was and the other knows better who he is.  Oftentimes, there is discomfort, unease, misunderstanding, awkwardness, barriers and unrealistic expectations between the two women.   What then?

That’s the opportunity – not the problem.   That’s the place of growth, personal as well as relational —  blossoming, refinement, discovery – about oneself, others, this world and, perhaps even what God is calling one to become.

“In life as in the dance, grace glides on blistered feet.” — Alice Abrams

“Soul work” is challenging.  It is uncomfortable, even painful.  It calls for the continual cultivation and practice of humility, forgiveness, graciousness, patience, kindness, generosity, acceptance and love.

Whew!  Now, I’ve got enough to work on for the next 50 years.  And by then, the MIL/DIL relationship will no longer be an issue for me. 😉

MIL = Blessing-in-Disguise in “Mail Online”

Excerpt from “How to Make Your Mother-in-Law Love You Forever”  —  by SHARON BEXLEY, femail.co.uk

A blessing in disguise

Denise says it’s worth reminding yourself that your mother-in-law can be a blessing, and it really is worth putting in some work to improve your relationship. ‘Mothers-in-law can be a real source of support. Daughters-in-law need to recognize that and not automatically assume things will be difficult, which often may alienate the mother in law unnecessarily.

‘If you start off with a bad relationship, and let her get away with making you feel inadequate, the less likely things are to change. The more confident you are about your position in her son’s life, the easier you’ll get on.

‘If you let things lie, and never tackle her, it will cause problems not just between you and her, but also between you and her son.’

Be Careful Not to Take Offense Easily

On a cold January morning, Cherie and I planned to meet at a Dunkin Donuts, but the place was packed! and there wasn’t even room to park.  So, we ventured a couple of miles further to check out a small place at the corner of N. Lowell and Windham Depot Roads.  I had passed the place numerous times on my way to visit friend and to attend a small group which gathers weekly at Nellie’s home.

We were delightfully surprised that no other patrons were present and we could have the place to ourselves to talk at length.  We settled in at a table as far from the front as possible and grabbed two mugs of hot coffee and cocoa (with whipped cream on top!)

Even as we began our conversation about in-law relationships, I could tell that Cherie had wisdom to share that she had learned over the years.  She is analytical and had prepared in advance some thoughts to convey.

When asked what makes for a great MIL/DIL relationship, one of the first things she related was the following:  “Be careful not to take offense at first words because I have found myself a couple of times doing that not knowing where Meagan was coming from.  And I found it was a lot better …  It took me a while to ask her ‘Do you remember when you said such and such?  Did you mean …. ?”   And she said ‘Oh, no.  I didn’t mean that at all.  This is what I meant.’  It clears the air.   If there’s a misunderstanding, clear it up”. 

Before much time goes by? 

“Absolutely.  And that goes for any relationship.”

Our conversation took a turn at that point when  Cherie mentioned that her DIL said about her relationship with her husband “We have disagreements, but we never have arguments.  John actually listens to me and my opinion and how I feel about something.”

Maybe that’s the difference between discussing and arguing? – whether both parties actually listen to one another.  (Bonus thought!)

Great insights, Cherie.  Going to put those on my mirror.  Be careful not to take offense easily.  Make a point of clearing up any misunderstandings  as soon as possible.  Listen – really listen.