Tag Archive | daughter-in-law

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.

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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.

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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!

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!

 

 

Working It

“When Eddie and I started dating, his mother was pregnant with her 5th child.”

Emma and I met in a café to catch up on each other’s lives and to share some experiences and insights on this MIL/DIL thing. Emma has two sons, both of whom are recently married. So, she can talk about the MIL/DIL relationship as well as the DIL/MIL one. It’s quite an advantage to be able to see things from both sides of the fence.

Emma’s MIL, Gloria, was – and still is – a hairdresser. At the age of 84, she owns her own salon and works 3 – 4 days a week to pay the bills. She’s a strong, opinionated woman according to Emma and has come through a lot in her time. As a child, she grew up in a convent because her mother was an alcoholic. Then, she contracted Tuberculosis. After Emma & Eddie married, Gloria went back to school to earn her GED. This is a woman with energy and drive to spare!

Eddie was her firstborn. So, she was fiercely protective of him. Come to find out, Emma’s & Eddie’s mothers came from the same hometown. So, Gloria knew Emma’s mother who, like the rest of us, “had her positive and not so positive traits”. Gloria knew about some of these and wasn’t too keen about Emma and Eddie dating.

As an aside: This got me wondering. Isn’t it difficult to not have opinions about whom our children date? Or, at least, to conceal these from them? I had a similar challenge when my widowed father developed a relationship with a widow in his later years. Did I have any “say’ in the matter, I wondered? Of course, not. Keep my opinions to myself and mind my own business. That’s what I did and I’m glad of it now. …. Back to the story

So, Gloria decided to break up the dating couple. She told Eddie that Emma would end up just like her mother – a person who is high maintenance; a person who has lots of ailments; a hypochondriac. Follow In her mother’s footsteps. She told people that Emma would be pregnant before they made it to the altar (No doubt Emma’s fault, if so.)

And all these things trickled back through the grapevine to reach Emma’s ears.

“So, we were not on the best of terms whatsoever” Emma stated.

They got through the engagement. They got through the wedding.

“What I would do is just acquiesce to her and just give her as much control as I felt was good to keep the relationship the way it needed to be. And then she came to our apartment, our first apartment one night and I don’t remember the incident, but I pushed her, I bodily pushed her, out of the door and said “Leave now!” and shut the door behind her.

That confrontation proved to be a turning point. Their relationship improved.

“So, what changed? When you pushed her out the door? Did that change something in her?” I pondered aloud, looking for that nugget of wisdom to pass along to those DILs whose MILs are overbearing, intrusive or nosy.

“I’m thinking that it did” Emma mused. Perhaps her MIL had stood in the hallway facing a closed door and suffering a bruised ego and had decided that she had overstepped her boundaries and might need to take a step back on this one.

“She’s a very perceptive person, but again, she’s highly opinionated, as well. … and she’s street smart. … We got to know each other better, related to one another better. Then, the kids came and Gloria adored the kids. Then, she started picking up on how good I was for her son.”

Gloria wanted weekly Sunday dinners together. Her son didn’t. But, Emma convinced him that it was the “right thing to do”. She also reminds him to call his mother regularly.

“To this day, I’ll say to him “You need to call your mother because she is going to call you. And he’ll say ‘Yeah, yeah’. And 25 minutes later, she’ll call.

“Does she call at a certain time?” I queried.

No, I just have this feeling” said Emma. If we haven’t heard from her in a while, I’ll say ‘You need to call your mother. She’s not feeling well’ because she won’t call if she’s not feeling well. So, I worked with him and through him to bridge the relationship … to get him to come back because he would have walked … not for any negative reason, but that’s just the person he is. He wouldn’t have made the ties as strong as they are if I hadn’t intervened. It’s the same thing with our kids.”

Now? Emma and Gloria are best friends. Once a month on Saturday they go out for coffee or lunch – just the two of them. And Gloria is teaching Emma how to knit a baby sweater. The first great-grandchild is on the way!

That’s over 35 years of working it. Nice.

Emma summarizes “I just basically had to figure out who she was and what was important to her and work with that.”

Hmmm… Emma loves Eddie. Gloria loves Eddie. Emma finds a way to love Gloria because she is Eddie’s mother. Gloria finds a way to love Emma because she is Eddie’s wife.

And it has paid off “in spades”.

Taking Up Another’s Offense

I feel so privileged and humbled when a woman entrusts me with her MIL/DIL story. This warm, Spring afternoon was no exception. Avery traded seats with me so that I could enjoy a gorgeous view of the mountains of the Pacific Coast Range. Things were quiet at the moment in a household with two teenagers and we were taking advantage of a lull in activity to enjoy a cup of tea together on her back patio.

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Avery is the mother of one son and one daughter and has been married to Quentin for 19 years. I asked her to tell me about how she met Quentin and his family and how their relationship had changed over time, what she had been through and what advice she would give.

Here’s just a part of her story.

“In hindsight, your relationship with your MIL begins before you get married”.

Avery and Quentin met when both of their fathers were ill. They would travel most weekends from Washington, DC to New York City in her car because he didn’t have one, dropping him at Penn Station where he would take the train out to Long Island to visit his Dad. She would visit her Dad in Westchester County and then go pick up Quentin on Long Island on Sunday and they would drive back home to DC.

“And so it was this amazing kind of courtship that really involved our families and in a very tender time. I only knew Quentin’s Dad for six months before he died. So, my relationship with Quentin’s mom, with my MIL, started in the midst of this very kind of “sped-up” getting to know each other because, really, his Dad was dying.

“I was really close with his mom. His mom was a real “girly girl” and I wasn’t … and she just loved going to get her nails done and I’d never done that before. It was a very sweet, familial, loving beginning relationship. So close, even, that …….. I would often, when we visited, stay the night with her in her bed, if there were a lot of people visiting and we needed to ‘bunk up’. She and I would often be the ones ‘bunking up’. So, we were really, really close.

And then Quentin’s father passed away.

It was then that Avery heard about ” this crazy family story” about Quentin’s mom having had an affair with the same man since Quentin was five years old. Turns out that it wasn’t just a “crazy family story.” It was true and Quentin’s Mom had shared that information with her two children when they were in their early twenties before their father died.

“It was like this unspoken, spoken thing. But, the kids were grown and out of the house and I think Quentin was in law school. So, this was like something he was supposed to accept and deal with. So, along I come in the midst of all this sadness around Quentin’s Dad having cancer and dying. It didn’t come up and when it did, I was absolutely mortified. I just couldn’t believe it. It was so far out of my experience of what someone would do, let alone talk about, let alone ask the children to endure.

“And I think what happened over the next, you know, five years, ten years, is that because of my husband’s choice and reality of how he could deal with those facts … I reacted to that. So, in other words, he felt like there wasn’t much he could do but accept it. …. I wasn’t okay and so I became really angry at her for hurting him, for hurting my husband, for hurting her husband, for presuming that her behavior was … whatever. I had a lot of judgment and I got angrier and angrier.

“You know, we’d go and visit, but I just tried to endure it, and, you know. …. It was hard. It was very, very hard. When Quentin and I, as a couple, grew older and learned to do things differently in our own lives, with each other – we needed to grow and be better about taking care of ourselves, our well-being, our mental well-being – we started to change.  As a result, Quentin, probably six or seven years ago, started to finally deal with that relationship – he and his Mom – and allowed himself to at least express to me and I think also to her, tremendous sadness and misgiving about how that all happened. And what I noticed – which was a miracle – is that the minute my husband, could say what was for me the truth about what had happened, I didn’t need to do it anymore! And my ability to see her as really a part of my family – she’s my MIL, she’s family, she’s as damaged as any of the rest of us or anyone in my own family or me, … no different – no better, no worse – I could really love her again.”

Avery recognized that she had felt the need to protect her husband from someone who had hurt him deeply. When Quentin realized his pain, where it came from and how he needed to address it – and then acted on that – something changed inside Avery. Something significant.

“It allowed me to actually do something better for my husband which is love him and his family … I thought I was protecting him, being mad at her. And really, if I want to protect and love him, I need to let him take care of himself and I need to love his family. And so all of that happened and I could just feel the relationship come back together … in terms of me and my MIL. It’s okay. It’s okay.

“It’s certainly been great for me as a DIL to not be so angry with her for what I perceived that I needed to be angry with her about because of my husband and I think that’s the interesting thing about the MIL/DIL relationship is that it’s all about the spouse.”

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That’s hard-earned wisdom.

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

Is it about honesty and love and truth and forgiveness and acceptance and brokenness and family? Is it about letting go of offenses against someone other than ourselves … or perhaps, even better, not taking them up in the first place?

Challenging when “the two become one”, don’t you think? But, what Avery figured out – does she suggest providentially? – is that loving our husbands can often be expressed by leaving them the room to maneuver through life’s obstacles and trusting that they will find a way to address the issues that face them. Didn’t we marry them because we believed they were able?

For me, another “take-away” from this is that we don’t love our MILs or DILs because they deserve our love. We love them because we love our sons and our husbands.

More from Avery in a future post