Solving the Christmas Mystery

Mystery gift“I’ve solved the mystery,” a newlywed recently told me. “I now fully understand why my husband never puts his dish in the sink or picks up his underwear off the floor where he stepped out of them. His mother raised him to be helpless.”

I laughed. She didn’t.

She recounted their cross-country trip for the Christmas holidays, which they spent in her mother-in-law’s home. “It was our first Christmas together as a married couple, but his mom had not been well and she begged us to come. Apparently her son is the cure for what ails her,” she sighed loudly as she recalled the trip. “She waited on him hand and foot. From the tearful greeting at the front door till the moment we left.You would have thought he was coming home from the war: My son! My son has come home! “Just something about that set my teeth on edge. His home is 2000 miles away. This is his mother’s home. He’s a grown man, for crying out loud.”

It was a tough situation. But most men come to the altar with something very real: the other woman, his mother, who has known and loved him far longer than “that new woman.” Mama probably also thinks she loves him more than any wife ever could.

You can come to the in-law party at any age. It’s not reserved for twenty-somethings alone. But the older you are, the more challenging a task to build a relationship with the other woman may be. Accepting and welcoming a new daughter might be easier when you’re 45 than at 60. We’ve spent more time on the planet at 60, selected and become committed to our way of thinking, living and being.

The same is true for the new bride. The longer you’ve been out from under your own mother’s purview and lived on your own makes a difference. Accepting the drama from a brand new mama may be a long way down on your to-do list. And the challenges between mamas and the girls who marry their sons have no expiration date. The distance and difficulty may remain in the relationship far beyond the first year of adjustment.

There are other twists on the scenario with the women in question smiling through gritted teeth at best, snarling and spitting at worst. All as we sit together around the Christmas tree in celebration of the birth of our Lord.

There may have been past hurts in the relationship between the MIL and the DIL. Other variations on the theme may be a factor, as well: today’s families are complex, with blended families, ex-spouses, step-grandparents and so on. Tensions can run high.

So how do we focus on the real reason we’ve come together? A couple of quick tips: don’t dredge it or dramatize it. Drop it, instead.

  • Don’t Dredge It: Don’t make this year’s holidays unbearable by dredging up the past, obsessing about it for weeks in advance and assuming that this year, too, will be a disaster. It will create dread on your part and the potential to read something negative into everything she says. If you go loaded for bear, every movement in the brush gets a backside of buckshot. Let the past stay in the past.
  • Don’t Dramatize It: It’s a brief season. Avoid creating drama over a few days spent together. I spoke to a woman who dreaded the holidays because her woman-in-law was such a drama queen, similar to the woman in our opening example. If she wants to make a fuss over her only son, let her – and stop rolling your eyes. He’s still going home with you when it’s over. And Mama, remember, his wife is the most important woman in his life. If you love him, treat her as he would expect you to.
  • Drop It! Take past issues and hurts to the foot of the cross, drop them and, walk away. Make a decision to leave them there. Jesus is more than able to heal the hurt that comes from rejection by those who are supposed to love you – He experienced it. Whether you are the MIL or the DIL, if you are a follower of Christ, it’s what He expects us to do. I am not suggesting what you’ve experienced isn’t genuinely painful. I am suggesting that if you are waiting for her to make it right, you might wait a very long time.

Why not make this the year you make your move and choose a fresh start in the relationship? Consider it a gift to the man in the middle. Doing it will make more real the holiness of this holiday season – and it will make our Lord smile.

This topic is tough to address in a single post. My book, Related by Chance, Family by Choice, covers the topic of women-in-law relationships comprehensively. Written with the input of my own three daughters-in-love, it’s for every woman whether the relationship is just beginning, already difficult – or good, and you’d like to take it up a notch. You can find it at the links listed here at:
Amazon
ChristianBooks.com
or at your local Christian Book store.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Fonda MILToday I am sharing an abridged excerpt from my first book, “Related By Chance, Family By Choice: Transforming Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships. I hope you enjoy it. You can find the book at Amazon with this link: Amazon

“This is my mother-in-love, Deb.”

The young woman behind the counter in the green apron smiled at me and waved. She was Sarah’s Starbucks boss, and I was glad to meet her. I was thrilled, however, with my daughter-in-law’s introduction of me. “Mother-in-love” was a sweet surprise, and I was once again reminded why this lovely girl has captured not only my son’s heart, but mine as well.

Mother-in-love is what Sarah calls me when she introduces me to friends or coworkers. It touches my heart and makes me smile when she says it. It is a wonderful honor. It also made me think about the terms in-law and in-love. I was intrigued by the contrast of these two titles. Love versus law. The more I meditated on them, the more interested I became. Where did the term in-law originate?

The explanation is simple: we are in-laws because of the legal joining of the couple. We are related according to and through the law.

Next on my quest was to understand what the term law means. What are its attributes? How does it serve? Who does it protect? The law has specific qualities and characteristics that distinctly define it.

• The law limits and excludes.
• The law is a finite thing: black and white, inflexible, ?focused on minute details.
• The law is conditional: if you, then I.
• The law is of the mind and intellect.
• The law seeks to benefit itself. Its only fulfillment is to ?be obeyed.
• The law is without emotion and without mercy, and it ?pronounces judgment.
• The law demands a high price to be paid if it is not ?observed correctly.
• The law is designed to rule by power; it enforces norms ?and standards of behavior.

The purpose of the law includes a coercive effect in regulating conduct. ?If a personal or family relationship is ruled by law, it leaves a lot to be desired, doesn’t it?

The law is inflexible and coercive, enforcing standards established through harsh penalty. It is relationship based on the conditional proposition that if you do as I require, then I will not punish you, or I may even provide you with some benefit. Wasn’t that the arrangement between God and man after the Fall in the garden and before the death of Christ on our behalf?

Relationship between God and man before grace was built on the Law given to Moses. The book of Leviticus provides a thorough and detailed description of the requirements by which man could maintain relationship with God. There was a lot of blood involved. It required daily attention and a constant investment of time. The next required act of obedience was never far from one’s mind, because the penalties for failing to follow the Law were substantial.

Sounds like some in-law relationships I know. Characterized by demand and obedience, inflexibility and personal preference, these relationships choke out the potential for family unity and harmony. Grudges are nursed like babies at the breast. Walls are erected, bridges are burned, and the structure of the family divides like the waters of the Red Sea.

But love is quite another matter. The characteristics of love are very different.

• Love is a living thing.
• Love overlooks, forgives, and grants pardon.?• Love includes and gathers in.
• Love is easily satisfied and does not demand on its own behalf.
• Love is unconditional.
• Love is from the heart and seeks to benefit others at the expense of itself.
• Love is fulfilled when it’s invested and given away.
• Love is full of mercy.
• Love pays the price.

Now that’s more like it. There’s an element of promise, hope, and possibility in a relationship rooted and grounded in love.

So, the burning question is this: Should we be living our in-law relationship in love or under the law?

It’s not a surprise the Word of God provides us direction.

“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law,” (Rom. 13:8). “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works,” (Heb. 10:24).

Love accomplishes what the law cannot. And love is a choice.

Christ chose to love us when we were anything but lovable. He knew every last secret, every shred of pride and rebellion, every ugly thought. All of it. He loved us still. And He asks us to do the same to a lost and dying world. Even with our woman-in-law.

Demonstrating love on a daily basis is not easy. Some people are hard to love. They are difficult, arrogant, opinionated, prideful, selfish, and the list goes on. It does not matter to Christ. To love those who are lovable is nothing special—those who walk without Jesus can manage that. He asks us to love those whose behavior is hurtful and damaging.

That’s a tall order. Being civil is not sufficient. Love those who seem determined to take you down, to hurt and demean you. Pray for the ones who use you in a spiteful way. Remember that before we trusted in Christ, we were just as unlovely in the eyes of a perfect and spotless Lord Jesus. If we can’t or won’t make this our goal, we are failing to follow the foundations of life in Christ.

Love is a choice.

I hope you will make an important choice. If you desire to live your life aligned with God’s word on the subject of MILs and DILs, this book can be a very helpful tool. You can find Related By Chance, Family By Choice at this link: Books by Deb

Podcast At My Faith Radio: Learning to Love Your In-Laws

RadioDeb recently guested at My Faith Radio with host Susie Larson. If you missed the broadcast, you can listen to the podcast here: MyFaithRadio 

Divided loyalties, inside jokes, new traditions… entering marriage can bring a host of emotions and tensions between a spouse and his or her new family. Fortunately, it is possible to enjoy the process. Listen as Deb DeArmond returns to talk about how to establish healthy in-law relationships.

Susie and Deb explore:

• Common stereotypes of difficult mothers-in-law (Marie Barone of Everybody Loves Raymond,for example).

• How mothers can train and raise their children, specifically their sons, to leave.

• How a daughter-in-law can “turn the mirror” back toward herself and look at her own heart and posture first.

• How to respond prayerfully to a distant or hostile in-law.

• The right way for a man to honor his mother while cleaving to his wife.

Key Scriptures: Matthew 22:39Ruth

Bless My Mother-in-Law?? Really?

Mother with her daughterWith Mother’s Day just a few days away, why not entertain a new thought this year? Bless your husband’s mom. She did raise the man of your dreams, after all.  If for no reason other than that, this is a great time to let her know you appreciate her. Find my brand new article today on my friend Dawn Wilson’s website. Here’s the link:  Upgrade with Dawn

Life, Love, and Family Podcast

RadioYou can find a link to listen to a recent interview I did with Dr. Tim Clinton on Life, Love and Family Radio. We talked about the mother-in-law/daughter-in law dynamic. We also discussed that man in the middle! Take a listen! Deb DeArmond on Life, Life and Family Radio