Tag Archive | expectations

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.

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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.

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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.

Affirmations for MILs & DILs – Round 5

They keep coming in!

Here are a few from a woman whose DIL and daughter text her regularly during the day, including her in the messages to each another when sharing ideas, experiences and questions. A bit of comfort in those relationships, eh?

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I will remind myself that my DIL has her way of doing things and I have mine. Neither is wrong – just different.

I will always give her space to build her own family. I need to let them establish their own home.

As a MIL, I will remember how it felt when I was the DIL and let that guide my words, attitudes and actions.

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That last concept …. You MILs out there, didn’t you use it when you were raising teenagers? It helped, didn’t it?!

Do it.

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.

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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!

Over a Bowl of Fruit at Sammy J’s (part 1)

“This whole issue of expectations seems to cause a good deal of conflict between  MILs and DILs.”

I offered this as an opening to my conversation with Bonnie as we sat together on a warm summer day in a very busy diner.  We hadn’t known each other very long, but were both involved in a weekly Friday morning  group.  I was curious to hear her story as she had written about her MIL/DIL relationship  that “We have come a looong way in  32+ yrs.”  bowl of fruitShe was enthusiastic to share.  I followed her lead and ordered a bowl of fruit and iced tea.

“I’m all for full disclosure” she stated.  “Get it all out on the table.”  The waitress placed our food and drinks in front of us.

Even though Bonnie and I hadn’t spent much time together, I wasn’t surprised by this.  She is a “straight-shooter”, one who rarely minces words.

“I want to know what your expectations are and I want to respect them.  Tell me.  There’s no right or wrong.  I wish my MIL had done that with me.”

Isn’t that a great attitude?  She wants to respect her MIL.  But, what about this:  Is it true – that there are no “right” or “wrong” expectations?  Expectations are  … conjecture.  We suppose that something or someone will be a certain way.  Let’s check out the definition:  expectation – a strong belief that something will happen or be the case. 

“So” I ventured, “do you remember what your expectations were when you married?”

“I think the term ‘mother’ has enough connotations in itself for one to expect … umm… love.  Not mushy, gushy love, but love and respect.  And because Matthew chose badly, she was kind of ‘standoffish.'”

I was confused.  “She felt that your husband chose badly when he chose you?”

“Yeah” she replied.  “Below him.”

Around us customers came and went.  The blender whirred.  The dishes were cleared off the table next to us.  And I didn’t know what to say.  Does this kind of thing still happen?  Seriously? I took a sip of the cold tea aiced teand wondered “Why would she feel that way?” .

“Umm, I was rough around the edges.  Very independent.  I didn’t need anybody.  I don’t need you.  I’m a Christian and at that point I was three years in the Lord and God had done a lot of work in me before she met me.  She should know that!”

We both erupted in laughter.  Some of us just know that we have come a long way and still have a long way to go.

Bonnie continued.  “But I was …   She paused, thinking.  “They were upper middle class … and I wasn’t.  I was …. I can imagine his mom having sleepless nights thinking about Matthew marrying me.  She didn’t know me … all she knew was what she saw –  tomboy …. bold-speaking … aggressive … and it was hard for her.”

Hard for her?  Yes.  Because her expectations for her son were not being met.  Where did these expectations come from?  Did she even know she had them?  What were yours when you married or added a DIL to your family?

Stay tuned for Part 2!