By Deb Dearmond
As promised, today we are flipping the coin over to examine the image of the daughter-in-law.
Often she is the recipient of our sympathy. After all, she has to put up with the fire-breathing dragon her husband calls Mom. And if you missed Part 1 of this article, please take a look: I’m not suggesting that some MILs haven’t worked very hard to earn their reputation as difficult at best and disastrous at worse.
But often daughter-in-law’s no bargain either—and it’s working against both women—and the man-in-the-middle.
During the research for my book Related by Chance, Family by Choice, I interviewed a woman who told me she had found the key to dealing with her son’s wife. “Keep my mouth shut and my checkbook open. She’s not interested in spending time with me, but she’s glad to spend my money.”
The DIL, according to our survey, may be the one to throw the first punch in the relationship. In fact, she may do it peremptorily, just to let Mama know how things are going to be.
A DIL may come to the relationship expecting a meddling mama-in-law, one who corrects and criticizes, who believes her DIL will never be good enough for her son. With this as her expectation, DIL stakes out her territory and puts Mama on notice that her advice, her suggestions, even her interest in creating a relationship are unsolicited and unwanted.
Often what we expect to see is exactly what we find. Any movement in the bushes gets a barrel full of buckshot. She’s hostile to the woman who raised the husband she loves and stakes out her territory with a wallop.
Even if she’s not hostile, the younger woman may encounter a very different “mother” than the one who raised her. The challenge comes when we see different and judge it as wrong. Different is not wrong. It’s simply different and often, we do not understand the difference.
When we fail to understand, we fill in the blank with our own interpretation and we hear:
- I hate you.
- You’re not good enough for my son (and never will be).
- You’re doing it all wrong.
- You’re a a bad wife, mother, homemaker, cook, etc.
We now have our personal (but inaccurate) translation, and we live as though those words came from her mouth. We may even believe she actually said them. Once offended, we may return fire and the battle rages.
At this point, you may realize you’ve had a role in creating the problem—or you may believe sincerely that your hands are clean. To the Lord, it doesn’t matter. If the relationship is in trouble, God asks us to step out and clothe ourselves, preparing to do His will and His work. It’s not about who did what or who’s to blame. It’s about accepting responsibility to walk in love.
Each of us is responsible for our own behavior; God is responsible for the results when we are obedient to walk according to His will.
If it’s already bad, are DILs doomed forever to be stuck in a really stressful relationship? Not if we choose something better.
1 Thessalonians advises us to dress properly in the Spirit: “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet” (1 Thess. 5:8 NIV). Joyce Meyer puts it like this: “How do you put on something spiritually? You have to plan for it mentally.” We must plan ahead of time to:
- compliment and encourage
- forgive quickly
- bless those who curse us
- focus on the needs of others
In other words, don’t wait for the feeling to kick in to kick off a change in your approach. Feelings are fleeting and subject to change. Plan kindness. The way you put on love is to decide to do it and then follow through.
I can hear some of you asking, “So I’m supposed to be pleasant in the face of her punishing attitude? Slap on kindness along with my favorite shade of lipstick?” Yes, you’ve got it!
It’s easy to love those who are lovely, kind, generous. Anyone can do that. Even the sinner. Jesus asks us to go well beyond that.
So call your MIL, take her to coffee, send her an email that says, “thinking of you.”
After all, she did raise the man of your dreams!