Tag Archive | DILS

Slights Happen

“What does she mean by that?”

Do you ever feel slighted by your MIL/DIL?  Chances are, the answer to that question is a resounding “YES!”  Well, that might be more your problem than hers.  Read on and ask yourself if you can see two sides to each of the following complaints:

“She didn’t text, email, Facebook, Tweet or call on my birthday.  Again.”

“She never eats much when she comes over for dinner.”

“She always calls at the most inconvenient times.”

“My DIL never picks up the phone when I call.  It always goes through to voice mail.”

“My MIL just stopped by to visit yesterday and she didn’t call first.”

You know what I’m talking about.  A slight is “an insult caused by a failure to show someone proper respect or attention”.  They can be real as in “Wow!  You’ve really put on weight!”  And they can be “suspected” as in “She’s always offering to help.  Is that a thinly disguised vote of “No confidence”?

Was disrespect intentional or simply a  matter of bad timing, faulty assumptions, forgetfulness, or generational differences?  How do you know?  Does it matter?  Would your response be any different?  Should it?

Interesting questions to ask oneself as a MIL or DIL.

Sometimes our perceptions of slights are more a consequence of our own mood at that moment.   Sort of like humor. Funny – not funny. Annoying – endearing.  Stupid – silly.  Appreciated – not so much.  So, a valuable practice would be to ask ourselves whether we are feeling hungry, tired, worried or “under the weather”.img_20160322_093951

Slights can happen a LOT between a MIL and a DIL when communication is lacking or a healthy, foundational understanding hasn’t yet been established.  Think about it – if your good friend looks at your hair and says “Do you want to take a little more off the top to give that “do” more height?”, would you be offended?  Or would you think “Hey, she’s interested in helping me finfettucini-wzucchini-and-arugulad a good hairstyle that flatters my face.”  When another friend offers to share with you a favorite recipe, are you worried that she thinks you aren’t a good cook?  Or would you see it as strengthening a bond of commonality?

That’s when it makes a big difference whether or not you are spending the time and energy to build a MIL/DIL relationship that is open, honest, encouraging and loving.  That’s when it pays off to care enough to really see who your MIL/DIL is as a person instead of putting her in a box with an “in-law” label.

Here’s a link to an interesting article by Rick Hanson, PhD entitled “Why You Shouldn’t Take Slights Personally” – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-wise-brain/201104/why-you-shouldnt-take-slights-personally

Slights.  Is the best response to confront? Retaliate?  Are they like those pesky little black flies – best dealt with before they can really get to us and cause bites that swell and hurt for days?  Would we be better off all-around if we gave them the kind of consideration that the word implies – very little?blackflies

None of us wants to be thought of, or to see ourselves, as little or small.   But, isn’t that, in fact, how we act when we give too much consideration to slights?

And if you think that perhaps I am lecturing on this issue, well, can you imagine why I am entertaining this topic on my blog?  🙂

Got a story to share on this topic?  Let’s hear it.  And tell us how it can help MILs and DILs become “friends and allies”.

 

What’s In a Name?

Okay, so here’s an idea that popped into my head while on my way to the airport to fly to Chicago. We would be spending the weekend with our older son and ….

That’s where we get to fill in the blank.

Am I thinking “our son and his wife”? or “Our son and our DIL”? or “Our son and Natalie”?

Do you find it all surprising that these three titles, names, labels all connect with their own flavors, connotations, and each evokes its own particular emotion, attitude and mindset? I considered this realization to be an “Aha! moment – an epiphany.

Does it bring up a feeling of possessiveness when I think of Natalie as my DIL? Is she somehow “mine”? Is there ownership or overseeing to be done if she is? Think about this: my husband, my friends, my parents. What is mine I have a say over. What is mine I influence; I sometimes control; I have a special interest in and, perhaps, investment in. So, I might be more inclined to interact with “my” or “mine“. I am definitely connected with “my“.  Somehow, it might feel quite natural to take more liberties with my ____________. What do you make of that?

Now, let’s try this: Let’s say “my son and his wife”. That feels different. That seems to acknowledge that Natalie is primarily related to Kristof; that my relationship with Natalie is because of him; that they are a couple and because she is in relationship with him, she is in relationship to me. So, there feels a bit of space, perhaps personal distance between her and me.  After all, she is not mine.  She is his.

Then again, I might simply refer to her by her name – Natalie. “I’m going to call Natalie.” “I wonder what Natalie would enjoy for a birthday present.” “Natalie is a fine cook!” More space around Natalie here, isn’t there. It might seem like she stands more as her own person with her own unique history, personality, gifts, preferences, style, … unencumbered by role expectations, obligations or even forced feelings of familiarity.

“My DIL” I might assume I know. “Kristof’s wife” I don’t know as well as he does. “Natalie” I’m getting to know and I’d like to know better.

Does it feel the same for a DIL who considers these options toward her MIL?  My MIL?  His mother?   Ginny Liz?

What’s in a name? Perhaps more than any of us has recently considered!

What’s your take on this?

 

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.

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

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!

 

 

For Those In-Law Visits

“I think this is really big between the MIL and DIL.”

Avery and I were talking about the challenges of being grafted into a new family through marriage.  One frustration she shared was that, especially early on in a marriage, those in-law visits can be downright difficult!

Oftentimes when adult children return home to visit, they slide right back into their former roles and relationships with family members.

Does that happen to you?  To your spouse?

The oldest sibling immediately exhibits characteristics of “Ms. Bossy Boots” and the youngest becomes “the Baby” yet again.  The two who rarely got along while growing up find themselves arguing with one another … again … over anything or nothing.

Their spouses can be mystified by this metamorphosis.  Hard to say why it happens, but … it does.

Another thing is that the new inductees to the family are introduced to a culture possibly quite foreign to them.

“There are these habits, how they were around each other.”

She really didn’t like it.

“When your Dad comes home, everyone hides.  When your family members are done eating supper, they simply get up and leave the room without waiting for everyone else to finish.”

“There’s all this engagement and activity and the MIL, as the elder, she kind of sets the tone and the pace.  ‘I don’t want you to help.  I expect you to help.’  I think it’s really critical for a person and their partner to really talk explicitly about how to partner through that.”

“There’s this activity, this behavior, that he (her husband) doesn’t even notice, that’s really hurtful to me.  And I don’t even know how to respond because I look to him and he’s not even responding.  So, I don’t have any clues about how to ‘do it right’ and if I try to talk to him about it without a lot of intention, he replies ‘Don’t worry about it.  She’s just like that.’  It’s not helpful to the spouse who’s trying desperately not to drown in this pool of missteps.  I’m going to say the wrong thing.  I’m going to do the wrong thing.  I’m going to do the thing that no one does.  And then…. I’m done.  Not in real life, but in your own in-law way.  I’m the outsider now and I’ve sealed the deal forever as being the outsider.

“Here’s the lesson.”  Avery leaned forward as she spoke.  This was important for her to share with other DILs.

“I needed to know that when we’re together in his family’s home that he’s on my team – even if he’s also on their team.”

Couples need to be very intentional about communicating this regularly during family visits – verbally and otherwise.  This could look like the two of them going out for a long walk, hopping in the car and going for a ride, or going upstairs to the bedroom, closing the door and taking a nap together.

In-law visits.  They can be daunting.  So much so that, if you don’t find a constructive, healthy way of conducting them, you might find yourself saying – as I did one weekend – “Honey, I think I’ll skip this trip to the Lake House.  Why don’t you just take the kids and go?”

Here’s another idea from someone who’s been “in the game” for 19 years.  Suggest to your spouse that, each evening, perhaps for 15 minutes or so before bed, the visiting in-law (or outlaw as my father-in-law calls me) gets to share some of his/her observations about how things are done differently in that household.  These can and should be done without judgement.  For example:

“I noticed that your family likes to take photographs whenever we sit down all together at the dining room table.”

“All the women of the family are expected to clean up after a meal.”

“Wow, your family sure likes to get up early in the morning and get going!”

“Wine is a regular part of every supper at your parents’ house.”

“Your mom is quite the hugger!”

There is no need for explanation by the spouse.  No need to defend the practices.  The sharing could simply provide a safe place for the in-law to articulate what he or she is noticing and this could aid in the processing of those differing behaviors, assumptions and attitudes.  One way of doing things may be just as valid as another.  Different doesn’t necessarily mean wrong or bad.  But, just being able to say “Gee, I’m really uncomfortable with the way this is done” and know that one is being heard can go a long way toward releasing stress and sorting out one’s feelings.  Maybe, just maybe, it would move the couple toward recognizing,  understanding and perhaps even accepting one another’s family and upbringing.  And future visits might be more enjoyable and comfortable for everyone.

I wish someone had suggested these things to me and my husband many long years ago.  It might have prevented a lot of pent-up frustration that had plenty of time to turn into bitterness.  Now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I will take heed!

What do you all think?  Weigh in on this topic with your insights and experiences.

 

Self-fulfilling Prophecies?

Ever heard of Bob Rosenthal? He is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside. His interests include self-fulfilling prophecies, which he explored in a well-known study of the Pygmalion Effect: the effect of teachers’ expectations on students. Much of his work has focused on nonverbal communication, particularly its influence on expectations: for example, in doctor-patient or manager-employee situations.

2014-11-03 11.51.06
On my way home from meeting with my writing partner over a cup of coffee at Me and Ollie’s, I heard a broadcast of This American Life and they were talking about how expectations influence behavior. Yeah, we’ve mentioned that in this blog before.

Bob Rosenthal conducted experiments with rats. He brought a bunch of experimenters into his lab and told them that some of them were going to work with incredibly smart rats and some would work with incredibly dumb rats and that they were to see how well the rats from each set would run through a maze.

Now, the rats were all your ordinary run-of-the-mill lab rats, but he had labeled their cages “smart” or “dumb” and had told the experimenters what to expect. Guess what? The experiments ratshowed what they expected. The “smart” rats went through the maze almost twice as fast as the “dumb” rats.

Turns out that what the experimenters were thinking and feeling greatly affected how they handled the rats. The “smart” rats were handled more gently which affected how they performed.

Carol Dweck, who’s a psychologist and researcher at Stanford says that this same phenomenon holds true for people as well. Teachers expectations of students has been shown to raise or lower their IQ scores. A mother’s expectations can greatly influence the drinking behavior of her middle school son. A military trainer’s expectations of a soldier can actually influence how fast or slowly he/she runs.

And so on.

Somehow we communicate our expectations to people around us – sometimes by how far we stand from them; sometimes by our eye contact or lack thereof; how we touch or don’t touch them. Our assumptions and beliefs about people – what we exWoman Thinkingpect from them – is often a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So, there it is. Wouldn’t you guess that it applies to our MIL/DIL relationships, too? We’re not talking “control”, but influence that can tip the scales in one direction or another.

What do we expect from our DILs? Our MILs? Are we even aware that we have expectations?

What are some of mine? Yours? How might these be affecting our relationships with our MILs/DILs?
Might we want to change our thinking??

To listen to or read the entire broadcast, click here: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/play_full.php?play=544

Fascinating!