Saturday, August 10, 2013

In-Law's & Approval

 “Couple Sitting Of The Couch Having Problems In Their Relationship” 
by David Castillo Dominici via 

Approval: the belief that someone or something is good or acceptable.


We may (initially at least) desire their approval. 

But in reality the idea of in-laws may not be picture perfect and far from it. 

The word in-laws alone may conjure up images of two sides screaming it out on Dr. Phil as he assesses the friction filled dynamic to offer up some sense of sage advice for all involved. 

Whether it's a father in law, sister in law, brother in law or the often cursed mother in law.... in-laws can be a challenge to live in harmony with... to put it nicely. 

My own marriage was riddled with meddling from my in-law's that seemed never ending and truth be told, was. 

As a young woman when you first marry you may have idealistic expectations of family gatherings.... you may picture yourself helping your mother in law make the fruit salad, helping your sister in law bake a pie etc at Thanksgiving each November or laughing at family gatherings over a glass of wine or pouring over family photo albums with the warm and fuzzy feelings you wish and hope for. 

Instead you have issue (valid) with something your in-laws have done 

And all of this could have been prevented with a little thing called boundaries. 

Exasperated, you may turn to your husband with hands in the air "What the heck is going on?!" You may exclaim incrudeously. He may shrug and point out that she is only trying to help. 

"Help?!" You cry... "Oh My God... that's not helping. That's interfering, meddling and just plain rude." 

If he does not see what you see is an issue this is when the situation becomes incredibly much more difficult. If he is not willing to admit his mother needs some boundaries then your issue with her will translate to an issue with him. 

I remember feeling incredibly frustrated and thinking when I was first married "Why doesn't he grow a pair? I mean, seriously.... get some balls!" 

Now I will say that the issues with my in-laws grew to gigantic proportions once we announced we were pregnant. Announcing we were pregnant was met with a "Maybe it will turn out retarded!" followed with a cackle reminiscent of an evil witch. 

Stunned, I stood there speechless that anyone would have such ineptness and mean spiritedness. Who are these people? I'd always think... and yet if I voiced any opposition about anything they said or did it would be twisted to "Well, you are too sensitive." or "She's so whiny." to my husband. And their favorite one was dished out with a dismissive shrug, "Well, you'll get over it."

(I didn't know at the time I was dealing with emotionally toxic individuals who gas-lighted, projected and made me truly believe their awful behavior wasn't really them but me being too sensitive.)

Moments like these continue for so long and so often you may begin to think your own family looks pretty normal by now even with whatever hair raising dysfunctionality they bring to the table. I mean, at least you are used to their dysfunctionality... these new people? Not so much. 

We had only been married about three years and my mother in law was constantly advising how to parent our newborn and I was fed up. Thinking she clearly needed something constructive to do with her time and since she was a widow, I signed her up for a dating service online. Great idea in theory perhaps, but obviously not well received. I highly wouldn't recommend going that route. 

What I would recommend if you are having issues with an in-law.... 

Try to be the bigger person. I know, I know, that may be like pulling nails but the truth is... when we marry, on some level we want our in-law's approval. We want them to like us. At first we may be willing to take a lot of... ahem "poo" to feel accepted into the inner circle. But as the marriage progresses and we as women become more confident in our roles as wives and mothers we may find our mother in laws advice more off putting and critical than helpful. Holding your tongue is best if the issue is something minimal like she doesn't care for your new haircut. Picking your battles is wise, and should be saved for deal breakers (like she's putting your children in danger such as letting them walk on railroad tracks in which someone must speak up). Setting boundaries in a firm way is best. When you feel your mother in law is pushing your limits (and buttons) just say "You know, that sounds nice, we'd love to stay but we are going to have to leave at the time we said because my parents are anxious to see the kids too."

Your husband. It's important you talk with him about how you feel. If he's a Mama's boy and believes his mother is behaving just fine and appropriate... if he states "I don't have a problem with her", then you have a really big problem. He needs to acknowledge your stance and needs and wants for the relationship and family as a whole. It's technically his role and place to stand up to his mother and say "Mom, I know you mean well and want to help, but we've decided to go with such and such or do so and so...." If he is not willing to do this and set a boundary in a nice and loving (and consistent) manner I would advise marital counseling. 

It's extremely important that when we are dating someone we mesh with their parents. If they treat you luke warmly, act as if you are invisible, say cutting and rude remarks or act inappropriately... stay alert to any of these red flags. They will make their initial first impression of you and if they decide they don't like you their opinion likely won't change over time. Even after you marry they may be gunning for any reason to put pressure upon their son to ditch you. If you believe your in-laws have a huge issue with you while dating it may be wise to reassess your relationship with the man you are potentially planning to spend the rest of your life with... 

Is he willing to go the extra mile to protect your relationship? 

Is he willing to cleave to you and make you his number one priority after God?

Is he willing to actively set healthy loving boundaries with his parents? 

Do you have anything in common with his parents besides him?

Is there purposeful love being demonstrated between his family members? Or is everyone filled with friction and turmoil? 

When a hurt has occurred is there apology and forgiveness? Is it discussed or swept under the rug, dismissed or trivialized?

As a newcomer they shouldn't view you as a threat but as an additional family member embraced into their circle. Each side should feel included and the husband's family should not take priority over the wife's or vice versa. 

When we don't feel accepted and know that we are not what our in-laws forsaw their son marrying and they make it clear to us... that can be extremely disappointing. But here's the truth: 

You are not defined by their lack of approval.

We can pray for the relationships in our family regarding our in-laws and hope that each heart will be softened, that each will be sensitive to each others feelings and at the end of the day each will treat the other how they would wish to be treated. 

As we all know, unintentional hurts may occur within a family (we are human, not perfect) but if overall we are each attempting to be sensitive to how we would feel if someone attempted to treat us like an outsider or less than.... we can create a happier, healthier, loving family. 

And at the end of the day that's what a family should be. 

© ~ 2013 

               To My Readers:

                Thank you for reading, 

              commenting and sharing! 

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