Gaining the Upper Hand in the In-Law Relationship
“You must be present for every Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthday, school play, clarinet recital, and soccer game in our kids’ lives. I want you to love them and spoil them and teach them things that Kevin and I can’t. Like how to throw a right hook, for example.” In the 2005 hit movie Monster-in-Law, Viola, a meddling future mother-in-law reluctantly receives these words from her soon to be daughter-in-law, Charlie.
After months of sabotaging the relationship between her son and his fiancée, Viola finally “wins” and Charlie agrees to call off the wedding. In the one touching scene of the movie, Viola comes to her senses and asks Charlie not to call off the wedding and destroy her son’s happiness.
If only every in-law would come to their senses in this regard. But if you’re one of the many with a strained in-law relationship, you likely know it usually doesn’t happen like it does in Hollywood. According to the University of Cambridge, 55 percent of daughters-in-law describe their relationships with their mothers-in-law as “strained” and “infuriating.” In the same study, mothers-in-law describe being in the company of their daughters-in-law as “tense” and “uneasy.”
Years ago, I came across a Southern Bride article where relationship expert, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, was presented with this question, “What do you do if you don’t get along with your mother-in-law to-be, and what is the best way to tell your significant other?” Her answer forewent the niceties: “You do not tell your spouse that you don’t like the woman who gave birth to [him] and raised [him] to be the person you’ve chosen to marry.”
She continued, “The Commandment of honoring ‘Thy Father and Mother’ includes in-laws. They are not your equals and are to be given the respect they’ve earned. So, don’t argue with them. If you don’t agree with something they’ve said just let it go into the wind. Do not torture your spouse with your anger or hurt with their parent. It hurts them and the marriage.”
No matter how crazy your in-laws may seem, they are your spouse’s parents. Don’t force your husband to choose between you and the parents he loves. I know this might be difficult, especially if your in-laws are not the loving and accepting type, but this is necessary for your own sanity, growth and happiness (as well as your husband’s).
Think of it this way. When you allow your in-laws to upset, frustrate or irritate you, in essence, you are turning your power over to them. In that moment, you have given them the ability to adversely impact your day and your overall happiness. Your decision to choose happiness at the beginning of every morning has now been overturned by the very people who oftentimes drive you bananas.
To increase your happiness in this relationship, it takes but two things: self-control and optimism. Self-control is what allows you to gain the upper hand in the relationship by not allowing them to impact your joy or hurt your relationship with your husband. The optimism helps you see the better person they still have time to become. You and I have changed for the better over the years and so can they.
Until tomorrow…make it a great day!
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