Saturday, September 3, 2016

Ensuring Healthy Family Gatherings: Helping In-Laws & Mothers-In-Law Recognize Their Place

Holidays are generally a time to encourage family gatherings and family celebrations. Family doesn’t just mean those connected by the same bloodline, but also includes those who are related by marriage and some not related at all, except by a fondness for each other. Those related by marriage are considered in-laws, and they include the parents and siblings of each spouse.

Now, just because there is a marital connection that extends the meaning of family to include in-laws, it doesn’t mean that the in-laws either feel included, want to be included, or accept the inclusion of their son, daughter, brother, or sister’s spouse. They rebel against their son, daughter, brother, or sister’s marriage, because they could not control his or her choice in a spouse. On the other hand, you, as a spouse, might feel the same way about your in-laws as they feel about you. And clearly, there is no bond, especially during family gatherings and holiday celebrations.

As an addition to your spouse’s family, these rebellious in-laws make it difficult for you to feel respected and included in the family. As a result, instead of being viewed as in-laws, you can probably call them ‘outlaws.’ They would feel better about you being out of the family, rather than being in the family. They often fight vehemently to deny your role as the spouse of their loved one. As a matter of fact, family gatherings and family celebrations often include these in-laws, as well as the ‘outlaws.’
The title you choose for your spouse’s family depends on whether you see them as in-laws or ‘outlaws,’ based on how you believe you have been treated or how you are currently being treated by them. In all actuality, you will have the in-laws, and you can’t stop those who decide to play the role of ‘outlaws’; they just don’t like you and didn’t or don’t want you in their family! However, how you handle them and how they handle you mostly depends on where you are with being comfortable with you.

I know that many of you have experienced the above ‘outlaw’ behaviors, especially from your mother-in-law and sister-in-law. This rebellion can and possibly has wreaked havoc on you, as the unwanted spouse. The rejection is heightened during family gatherings and holiday celebrations. With the push back and rebellion from your in-laws, you are now faced with making a decision as to whether you and your spouse will attend family events or not. You and your spouse will also have to decide whether or not to invite your in-laws to attend your events.

The Labor Day holiday is generally seen as the last holiday of the summer season, allowing families to gather inside and outside. For many of you, Labor Day is often the last time for your family to engage in the great cookout, which often leads to a great fallout. Any time there is a gathering of people, especially among family members, there will probably be issues and drama. But, even more so, family gatherings with your in-laws can have issues and drama of mass proportion.
Although you all are gathering as a family, there is often competition, resentment, animosity, and other unresolved in-law issues. But, you must deicide if it is you, or is it your in-laws with the problem or causing the problem? Finger pointing seems easy, while taking responsibility for your behaviors can make your life and everyone else’s life even easier. If you are the in-law, it is time for you to get over the fact that you could not control whom your loved one married. Find your place, and stay in it!

When you marry into a family, it is important to recognize and remember that you did not marry your spouse’s family, nor did his/her family marry you! However, there is one in-law that you will probably have to deal with, or decide not to deal with, more so than any of your in-laws. This person is your mother-in-law. This woman is usually closer to your spouse, next in line to you. As a matter of fact, she can either make or break your marriage and she can also set the tone of family gatherings and family celebrations.

As with all families, there is a hierarchy when it comes to in-laws. Mothers-in-law and fathers-in-law are seen as the matriarch and the patriarch, not only in their own families, but also to the son-in-law or daughter-in-law who has entered their family. However, because many mothers-in-law did not want their son to marry the woman he married, or she did not want her daughter to marry the man she married, there can be friction between the families.

Mothers-in-law, especially, have the power and the authority to not only direct or redirect the condition and health of their own families, they also have the power and the authority to direct or redirect the treatment of their sons-in-law and daughters-in-law; not only during family gatherings and family celebrations, but also on a daily basis. As a mother-in-law, it is time for you to get over the fact that your son or daughter is married. As a matter of fact, you did not lose him/her. In a sense, you gained another child.

As a spouse, you must assess your relationship with your in-laws; especially your mother-in-law or future mother-in-law. Mothers-in-law must also assess their role, behaviors, and attitudes, and relationships with their sons-in-law and daughters-in-law. Ultimately, the survival of your marriage depends on you and your spouse; but your mother-in-law does have some power and authority. How much will you give her?

In order to ensure that the family, including in-laws is healthy, allowing for healthy family gatherings, healthy celebrations, and healthy family relations,  mothers-in-law must finally come to recognize the power that they have in bringing and keeping their family together, while accepting and respecting their sons-in-law and daughters-in-law. However, in order for mothers-in-law to exert the positive aspects of their power and authority, when right, you, as a spouse, must also be willing to take a stand and a stance for your spouse, and not allow your in-laws to disrespect him/her.

There should never have to be a choice between your wife and your mother! There are too many things that your wife can do for you that your mother can’t do, and your wife most certainly should not want to be your mother! Both spouses must come to recognize the type of mother-in-law you are dealing with. At the same time, mothers-in-law must also come to recognize the type of mother-in-law they are, while recognizing their place in the lives of their sons and daughters.

And women, you must also take a stand and a stance for your spouse, when right. At the same time, as long as your mother-in-law is not disrespecting you or encroaching on your marriage, you have no reason to be jealous of her, belligerent with her, or try to interfere with or prohibit the relationship between your husband and your mother-in-law. If there is conflict, each spouse is charged with dealing with his or her own mother. Just as mothers-in-law have a place that they need to stay in when it comes to dealing with their sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, so, too, do sons-in-law and daughters-in-law have a place they must stay in when it comes to dealing with their in-laws.

Listed below are characteristics of the top five mothers-in-law to be aware of, as a spouse and as a mother-in-law. You can decide if your mother-in-law fits one or more of the identified characteristics of the top five mothers-in-law listed below. And mothers-in-law you can decide which of the top five identified types fit you. Knowing where you fit can possibly help your family to truly come together, instead of falling apart at the next family gathering or family celebration! Instead of the fallout, you, your spouse, your family, and your in-laws can enjoy the greatest cookout ever! Mothers-in-law, it is time for you to affirm that it’s all about family, including your son and his wife (your daughter –in-law), or your daughter and her husband (your son-in-law). It’s no longer all about you, just because you are Mama! From now on, ALL in-laws matter, and it’s up, up, and away with the outlaws! 

Here are five types of mothers-in-law to be aware of:

1.     You are marrying my only son/daughter mother-in-law: As this mother-in-law, you are generally clinging to your son/daughter, especially after he/she has married. And if your only child is a son, or he is your only son among other children, you are really determined that you don’t want any other woman to have your son but you; none of them are good enough for him. You constantly find fault with your daughter-in-law, putting you son in a precarious position. You interfere on a daily basis, finding a reason for you to have to call him, as well as finding ways for him to have to keep putting you first. You forgot about the ‘leave and cleave’ that is stated in the Bible. Your son is supposed to leave you and cleave to his wife, not to his mother!
2.     My son/daughter is always right mother-in-law:  This type of mother-in-law doesn’t see beyond her son or daughter. No matter how wrong her son/daughter is, this mother-n-law will stand for his/her wrong, especially against his/her spouse. She won’t encourage or stand for what’s right, because her son/daughter is never wrong. She might not push for a man to marry her daughter if her daughter has nothing going for her. However, as my mother used to say, ‘a mother always wants a woman to take her no-good son.’ No matter how wrong her son is, she believes some woman should take him off her hands. After all, she has taken care of her son and raised her daughter, and she wants to continue taking care of him after he is married. . He is her son, and he is never wrong!
3.     I can’t/won’t mind my own business mother-in-law: This mother-in-law has major difficulty minding her own business, especially if her only son or only child gets married. She just doesn’t seem to be able to help herself. She finds a war out of no way to get involved in the business of her son/daughter and his/her spouse. There is no such thing as ‘leaving and cleaving.’ Especially if her only son or only child gets married. She often feels abandoned and lonely after the marriage. And she often does not have a life of her own. As a matter of fact, she doesn't want one!  It seems more devious for her to keep meddling in the life of her son/daughter, and she blames his/her spouse for taking her son/daughter away from her. This mother-in-law is often miserable and can be vindictive.
4.     I’m not in it mother-in-law: This mother-in-law just wants to remain neutral. She doesn’t want to take a side, one way or the other. Her philosophy is, ‘you married him/her, whatever is going on is between the two of you.’ As a matter of fact, she further believes, ‘I didn’t tell you to marry him/her in the first place; this was your choice, now deal with it!’ It is sometimes difficult to decipher if this type of mother-in-law genuinely wants to remain neutral, or if she is trying to punish her son/daughter for marrying someone she did not approve/
5.     I want to be fair with my son/daughter-in-law mother-in-law: This mother-in-law is one of the ideal mothers-in-law, and there are many of them. She will stand for what’s right and not what’s wrong, even if her son/daughter is in the wrong. She is impartial and doesn’t take sides. She will uphold the right of her son-in-law or daughter-in-law in the presence and the absence of her son or daughter. She treats her son-in-aw or daughter-in-law as if he/she was her biological child; the same way she wants her son or daughter to be treated by others. This mother-in-law is more spiritually connected and is willing to go beyond the call of duty to keep her son or daughter married, without interfering (unless absolutely necessary, such as in cases of abuse).

In-laws, mothers-in law, fathers-in-law, sons-in-law, and daughters-in-law must all remember their place…to love and respect each other, and to respect and accept the choices made by each, while enjoying healthy family gatherings and fostering healthy family relations.

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