Tag Archive | healthy relationships

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”.

 

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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 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.

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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 for Mothers-in-Law & Daughters-in-Law – Round Three

This from a woman who has three beautiful grandchildren and carefully considers:

I will make a conscious effort to consistently respect my DIL.

I appreciate and enjoy the fact that she is loved and adored by my son!

I will regularly affirm her by pointing out things I admire about her.

I remember to say to her things like “You are such a great Mom!”.

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How nice it feels when someone sincerely says “Well done!”

Wouldn’t it make significant difference to each of us if we practiced these simple things and were on the receiving end of them, too?

Simple.
Worth it.
Be intentional.

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.

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?