One of the most difficult relationships can be that which we have with the in laws. It seems that in a poll of married couples half have overly involved irritating in-laws and the others have in-laws that are either uninvolved or non-existent. Once children enter the picture it seems that this relationship can become a continuous source of increased anxiety and frustration.
When we marry we often don’t consider that we are marrying into another family. This other family can have familial rituals, habits and behaviors that are totally unlike the ones we are used to. When these annoying or odd behaviors become intrusive on our own family life it is sure to cause strife. So how much involvement is tolerable and acceptable? That usually depends on the people involved – however a good rule of thumb is to use your emotional feelings as a guide.
There are some matters which should not be breached with the in laws. The first of which is money and both the lack there of or abundance in. When in laws begin trying to direct the financial goals or steer their children and spouses in certain directions it is wise to change the subject and close it succinctly. Sure, in most cases the in laws may have your best interests in mind and just want to be helpful but if you are trying to make your own way in life, constant pries and and quizzes into your financial stability is just plain nosey. There is no reason to open yourself up to the criticism of how you spend, save or earn your sustainable income. By the same token, it is wise to find other means of borrowing money if the need arises. While some in laws may not lend with strings attached; a great many will. At some point, especially during a heated moment this is certain to blow up in your face. An equivocal relationship between people usually involves keeping money matters firmly separate and under wraps. The best way to set this boundary is to do it early on, and to remain committed to keeping some things under private.
The second and probably most difficult area between a couple and the in laws is the children. From practical experience I can say that allowing the in laws to be responsible for the routine care of your children is a big mistake. Even as they may be the most capable; it is a choice that will result in huge amounts of resentment and turmoil. The in laws should be grandparents and not caregivers. If grandparents are placed in the role of care giving it gives them carte blanc to input their two cents regarding every decision you make. It will also cause irritating dialogue and will greatly inhibit the parenting skills and abilities of mom and dad. Why, because it is easy for the kids to be confused on who is the ruling patriarch or matriarch. When children witness overly involved in-laws it is as if they have two sets of parents and they will often detect that the in laws still see their parents as children. Children are very keen at manipulating this situation. Placing the in laws in this role also continues the childhood patterns of relying so heavily on our folks and gives the in laws a first hand look into the internal workings of the family – where they will begin to feel entitled.
For most people, the daughter in law mother in law relationship is the hardest. Even though your mother in law may feel like your best friend; there are times when every wife feels criticized, belittled and invaluable by her mother in law. The only reasonable explanation is that since women are so petty, there is resounding jealousy that encircles this relationship. Many moms of sons find it difficult to realize that they aren’t ‘needed’ in the ways they once were and find it even more difficult to imagine that any other women could take care of her son as well as she did. Even though I have an amicable relationship with my mother in law she will still call every night to see if I have prepared a meal for her son to come home to. Not just a meal, but a respectable meal – because she cant bear the thought of her poor son having to eat spaghettios after a hard day at work. This while I eat leftover chicken off the living room floor! She also insists on constantly offering to iron his shirts and my children’s clothes; which is just an attempt to bring light to the fact that I DO NOT IRON. I am not sure if I even own one. The best defense is to sound appreciative, let her do what she wants, hang up the phone and remember that it is YOU he comes home to every night. If you’re really secure the daughter in law can even indulge the mother in law once in a while and put up with the shameful looks and slanted comments in order to get a break for herself. Let her iron, cook, clean and fold your laundry. Who cares if she thinks you are lazy, as long as you don’t have to do it! And on a softer note there is no reason to not allow people to feel and be needed once in a while. There are a great many things this woman can do better than you and her experience can be a paramount example if you let it. The bottom line is she loves your husband, your children and wants what’s best for them.
Another rule of thumb with in laws is that they should never be made aware of the arguments or things that we don’t like about our spouses. Never. Blood is always thicker than water and few parents, even though they know their child’s flaws, wants to be reminded of them. Down the road this can cause real trouble. If you husband is being a total jerk, then share it with friends- not his mother. By the time you forgive him for whatever he did your mother in law will still be remembering the harsh words you used to describe him. This is also true for our own parents. It is best to leave marital discord to the psychological reckoning of friends, chat rooms, diaries or even strangers.
Luckily for me, my husband and my father are great friends. The only thing my husband has had a problem with was announcing my pregnancies to my parents. Not because he was ashamed of them but because he felt like it was just another way of admitting that he was sleeping with this mans daughter. Aside from that, my dad is the one who seems to get my husband in trouble taking him out for ball games and long nights of shooting pool. When they get home there is no way I can be angry at either of them because my dad is clearly the source of the trouble. Even so, I am grateful that they are friends and I am grateful that my mother in law and I get along most days. We had a rocky start and quite simply the hardest thing was actually setting the boundaries. Once those boundaries between her family and mine were set they have seemed to be respected both ways. I still do not share financial information; allow her to be responsible for my children nor do I talk about my husband to her. But other than that we are great friends. At some point I realized that the in laws are just parents. Just as I see my children growing up but never want to relinquish my role or set aside my love the in laws still see us as their children. They will continue to want the best for us and our family for as long as they live. That is the kind of love that when received raw can only add to the significance and abundance of our lives.