Tag Archive | in-laws

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”.

 

The Wedding Gift

Tonight I’m visiting one of my favorite cities in America – Chicago. As I enjoy watching the Friday night activity on Milwaukee Avenue, I’m thinking back to a conversation with Fran at an Olive Garden restaurant last year. We were enjoying a bowl of soup and a salad while talking about how MILs start off in their role with an immediate handicap. The stereotypical MIL is an object of scorn and ridicule in modern-day America and it’s a challenge to avoid being labeled as one from the start.

Fran has two sons.  And she will tell you that they were both answers to much prayer. When the younger one became engaged to a lovely young woman, Fran decided on a wedding gift. She told her son that she was going to pay for their honeymoon … with one stipulation: that she go with them!

Now, Fran is a joker, a teaser. Her Christmas letters are not “brag rags” like many of the ones you might receive during the holiday season. They are hilarious! They ought to be published in the “True Life” columns of The New York Times. They are that good. So, even though her son knows this very well, his response to this offer was an unequivocal “No, you’re not”. Not surprising.

Fran approached her soon-to-be DIL separately with the same offer. Clarisse laughed nervously.

“She thought I was joking, but she wasn’t quite sure.”

“Because she didn’t yet know you well enough” I offered.

Fran nodded in agreement. “She didn’t yet know me well enough. But, she played along.”

Eventually, so did her son who occasionally would quip things like “I hope your bags are packed. We’re going to Costa Rica!”

Just before the wedding, Fran sent them both an email saying was sorry, but that she couldn’t go on the honeymoon with them after all. As it turned out, the finale of that season’s “Dancing with the Stars” was scheduled for that week and she just couldn’t bring herself to miss it!

Sounds like a good sense of humor plays a role in this mother and son as well as MIL/DIL relationship!

More of Fran’s fun approach to MILhood next week! Stay tuned.

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”.

Rust

Does this look like me?

Rust?  What’s rust got to do with the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship?  Possibly more than you might think.

Occasionally I surf the web, looking for suggestions, recommendations, advice – pearls of wisdom – on how to promote good in-law relations. If you’ve done the same, you’ve probably discovered that there’s not much out there. It’s way too “in vogue” – acceptable – to make snide comments about your MIL at which everyone will laugh. Did you ever notice that there are some groups of people who are fair game for public insult and degradation? Mothers-in-law seem to be among these.

Here in America, our communal dysfunction is on display for the whindexole world to enjoy.  Grown women post on Facebook, log onto blog sites, text and phone and appear on television to denigrate those grafted into their families by marriage.  What a novel idea for promoting family bonding!  What an inventive method for communicating to our sons or husband that we really, really love them!  It makes everyone’s holidays that much more enjoyable, doesn’t it?

Wrong.  Bad idea.

Rudeness, criticism,  lack of consideration and mockery are the language of the immature, the ignorant, the self-centered and those starving for the approval of others.

Mockery is a rust that corrodes all it touches. – Milan Kundera

All it touches.  Everything and everyone.

 

Do these words seem harsh to you?

Definition of rust (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary)
1
: the reddish brittle coating formed on iron especially when chemically attacked by moist air;
2
: any of numerous destructive diseases of plants produced by fungi and characterized by reddish-brown pustular lesions
Could we say that belittling someone – whether to their face or behind their back – might be called attacking them?  What about characterizing snobbery or fault-finding as fungi which could cause pustular lesions – wounds – even on a strong person (iron) to slowly form and break down their mettle (pun intended!)?

 

And neglect?  A passive approach which causes rust – verb: To deteriorate or degenerate through inactivity or neglect

Who am I really?  And what kind of stuff am I really made of?
Is rust what’s happening in my heart?  In hers?
Or is this –

rockgard-150x150

 

 

 

 

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.  😉

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

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”.

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.  🙂