Sunday, November 2, 2008

"Lovin' the 'Laws"

“I haven't spoken to my mother-in-law for eighteen months. I don't like to interrupt her.”
Ken Dodd, English Comedian

Surveys reveal that many people say their most challenging relationship is with their in-laws. When you stop to consider, this makes perfect sense. They didn’t attract you or draw your interest and may certainly not have held it once you were hooked. In fact the opposite is sometimes true.

Think about it: a man and woman meet, they may feel some physical attraction, and as they spend a bit of time together see that they have common interests and opinions. The mutual attraction grows and more depth of topics explored. For those who, at any point along the way, find that they aren’t connecting or agreeing, a parting of the ways typically ensues. For those who continue to see a simpatico relationship gaining ground, it flourishes and marriage is the result.

On the other hand, when meeting the (future) in-laws, you may not have a thing in common except their offspring. They may not be physically attractive in your eyes and their views or style of communicating may be miles away from yours. Yet here you are with your new family; a forced, lifetime love affair with strangers. Not everyone is as lucky as I am. My in-laws should win awards, but not so with some.

Mothers-in-law have a bad rep, but possibly for good reason. (Everybody Loves Raymond is a case in point) Moms love their own children…then here comes this newbie who criticizes her son’s wardrobe selection or her daughter’s distaste for sea food; some silly thing that a spouse might find annoying but may evoke extreme defensiveness in a mother.

Fathers-in-law aren’t the butt of many jokes except for the cliché of threatening their daughters’ boyfriends with physical harm. This is the stereotype for brothers-in-law as well. Sisters-in-law are often a bit kinder to a new brother-in-law than a new sister-in-law. It is no easy feat to win over the heart of a girl who has idolized her big brother since she was a baby.

I’ve heard some terrible stories of in-laws who are rude to the new family member, are indifferent to grandchildren or, conversely from the other end of the new spouse being hostile and causing division in the family.

Either way, it all comes down to treating these strangers with an attitude of loving kindness. Surely there’s something lovable about them…the bright blue of his mom’s hair; her dad’s extensive gun collection…and hopefully they’re finding something about you that’s inspiring love as well—even if it takes 30 years.

Share your in-law stories…many will relate!
Diane Markins


Linda S Fitzgerald said...


How true! Remember the film with Jane Fonda as the "monster mom" of Jennifer Lopez? Funny,exaggerated, but pieces of the truth therein.

I didn't have a great relationship with my mom-in-law. The families lived on 2 different planets - so to speak. After Alan's death, she faded into the background - mainly I think by mutual choice. Our girls remained close with her, but I did not. There had been very painful times in our lives because of that dramatic difference in how we perceived life in general & family specifically. She was so angry that her daughter adopted a 3rd child, she wouldn't look at the baby. When I became pregnant with our 3rd daughter a few months later. . . she was exceedingly rude to me during that following 9 months. She must have known it, because she apologized to me within a few hours after the birth of our beautiful 3rd daughter.

Interestingly, the 2 "daughters" she was so angry about being brought into her world are the very one's who remained the closest to her over the years. Just goes to show.

All in all, she was a good woman who simply saw life from a drastically different angle than my family did. . . and that's usually the major 'straw' that breaks the backs of trying to bring 2 families together as "in-laws". My spiritual mentor friend of so many years, refers to his daughters-in-law as his "daughters-in-love!"

I think for the most part, as a mom-in-law, I'm accepted well by my sons-in-law. Perhaps that's because I stay out of the way!!!

Best position to be sometimes.

Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Diane! Please post at the STATION as well.

Much love,

Anonymous said...

very stange relationships we have with the inlaws. i've seen or heard of all that you just talked about.

the first time i met my mother in law i was taking my wife (who i had just begun to date) home for the evening. as i went inside and met her i observed a few things.

first, she was in a bath robe. second, she was herding her youngest daughter into the kitchen to finish her homework. but lastly i noticed how collected and confident she was in spite of having her oldest daughter out on a date with a new guy, having her youngest avoiding homework that needed to be done, and not having the time she needed to finish getting dressed.

she greeted me with a warm smile and a friendly hand shake. we got aquainted in her living room while she was wearing a robe. most women would have freaked out!

the first encounter i had with my mother in law was as fortelling about our future relationship as it was about the kind of daughters she had raised.

Diane Markins said...

I don't have a son-in-law yet but hope he values the same things you noted in your mother-in-law. He's just as likely to meet me in my PJs, without makeup as in any other state! Hopefully he'll look further than my appearance or whether I'm having an off day to assess me. I've prayed for my kids' spouses since I was pregnant with them, so meeting my daughter-in-law felt like a reunion. I can't wait for that experience with my someday-son-in-law!

kathleen said...

Hello Diane,

You know my story but I will add this. Before my mother-in-law became blind and my father-in-law died, I spent every Sunday with them and brought my children. We truly had good times visiting, despite the language difference. Now that my father-in-law has passed and I have her full time. I truly don't begrudge her. She is a chore at times, but just the other day, after giving here her bath and blow drying her hair, she turned to me with her sightless eyes and smiled and said, "Thank you, Kathrine"

Neither one of them would ever accept that my name is Kathleen. They told me that name does not exist.


Diane Markins said...

I have heard a little of your story in the few weeks since we've begun visiting online. Living so far from where you grew up and immersed in a culture that is sometimes harsh for women must be difficult at times. Taking such tender care of a 90-year-old mother-in-law, who still can't even get your name right, is a revealing statement about your character!
Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

The only in-law experience I have is when my older brother got married. As you said it was hard for me to open up to this new person in my brothers life that I didn't know at all. This is my big brother, my hero in a sense and it felt like someone else was taking him away. I had to get over my own fear and know that God put her in my brother's and all of my family's life for a reason and she is here to stay. And what a perfect addition to our wacky family she is!
Love ya sis! (Chels)