Tag Archive | MILS

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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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?

 

Affirmations – Round 1

A few thoughts from one reader as she rolls through a Saturday morning with three young children to feed, clothe and clean house with.

I will allow my MIL room to be herself as long as things are respectful as well as healthy for our children.

I won’t judge my MIL because I’m not walking in her shoes.

I trust that my MIL has our best interests at heart.                     

I will regularly pray for my MIL, her marriage, her health and our time together.

I will practice patience with my MIL and appreciate that she is patient with me when I parent differently than she would.

*****

These affirmations – repeated regularly – can lead one’s heart, mind and relationship down healthy and enjoyable paths!

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Who’s next?

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?

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!

 

 

The Wedding

When our son asked Juliana for her hand in marriage, we were delighted! We had long thought that they seemed so right together and after three years, they were still so enamored with one another. Especially since we had seen him with no other girlfriends along the way, we thought “This is the one!”

What we weren’t prepared for was the social minefield into which we were so cavalierly stepping . My older sister whose son had married a couple of years before shared with me the traditional advice given to mothers-of-the-groom: “Shut up and wear beige!”

Ouch! Are you offended by that? I was. I look terrible in beige. 😉

Obviously, the advice was intended to counteract what often happens between young ladies – who’ve been dreaming of this day since they were young children (think Cinderella and Prince Charming) – and mothers who’ve been waiting – and perhaps praying – for decades for their sons to “tie the knot”. Rarely are these two groups of people playing the same movie in their heads.

Ta da! Conflict!

“Wait a minute!” the soon-to-be MIL thinks. “That’s not how this scene looks in my version of the story.”

“Of course” muses the soon-to-be DIL. I’ve always known that I would get married in jeans on the beach.”

So, let’s take a look at the traditional advice a bit more closely.

1. “Shut up!” Realize whose day it is and whose “once-in-a-lifetime” event it is. Yes, there might be cultural differences involved. Respect them. Yes, there will be differing expectations here. Respect them. This goes both ways. At the same time when a man and a woman decide to commit to one another for life in a sacred ceremony, they should be the ones to have the final say on how they do it, don’t you think? For others – even family – to force their wishes on an engaged couple is to plant the seed of resentment right in the middle of that relationship.

2. Wear beige. This day is about the bride and groom. It’s their party. Have you seen the movie “Monster-In-Law”? The mother of the groom was afraid of her very significant role becoming – all at once – so very insignificant. She feared “disappearing” in the estimation of others. She desperately wanted – even needed – affirmations to shore up her self-esteem. So, she dressed like a peacock and was ready to strut around, enjoying the admiring stares of all.

This is not the time nor the place to act like a supermodel. Realize that “It’s not about you!” Ask your STBDIL what she’s thinking about for colors and styles and then find something simple, yet flattering that would fit the category described. Be comfortable in it, but don’t plan on being the center of attention. The Mother-of-the-Groom is not the star of this show. She is merely a supporting actress.

Ah, the wedding. Mothers-of-the-Groom:  Heed the spirit – but perhaps not the letter – of this advice – Shut up and wear beige.