Mother’s Day is this Sunday, I hope you remembered! It’s not too late to get a gift or send a card to your mom. As I’ve been thinking of Mother’s Day, I’ve not only been thinking about my own mother, but my mother-in-law. I am very thankful for her and that she’s not the stereo-typical overbearing, controlling mother-in-law who doesn’t want to let her precious son go. She has always been so loving and supportive of my marriage, my husband and of me. (Thanks, Mom!)
I realize though, that this isn’t the case for everyone. Mother-in-law issues, and in-law issues in general, often come up for various reasons. When two people join together as a married couple, they come from two different families with different traditions, philosophies and methods of doing life. Even if you like each other’s families, problems will come up along the way and it’s wise if you and your spouse have a plan to dealing with them.
Here are a few strategies to help:
Leave and Cleave:
Genesis 2:24 tells us how to do this: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” This can be a difficult reality to adjust to at first, but it’s important and becomes easier over time. Leaving and cleaving means that you put your spouse above any other earthly relationship. When in-law issues arise, make sure that you’re protecting your marriage first and foremost.
Create Healthy Boundaries:
Talk to your spouse and then your parents and in-laws about what boundaries you need to establish to protect your marriage. Is it okay for them to come by unannounced a ’la Everybody Loves Raymond? Are you okay if your mother-in-law cleans your house when she comes over? How long of a visit is acceptable when they come to town?
Talk as a couple about any potential scenarios for which a boundary is necessary.
There’s no one-size fits all recipe for handling holidays, but communication is key. As an extended family, make a commitment to take the pressure off each other by not having expectations. Expectations around the holidays just makes them more stressful and less enjoyable.
Devise a flexible plan, making your marriage and family’s needs priority. Talk to your parents and your in-laws about your plans and if/when you can celebrate with them. I love the idea of celebrating holidays on the day of, but I also think being flexible about celebrating around the holiday is a great way to handle everyone’s needs, schedules and budgets. I love the little saying, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent of out shape.”
Handle Conflicts Directly:
Don’t beat around the bush in talking to your in-laws about an issue because it’s awkward. Yes, conflict is awkward, but with practice, it becomes easier. Speak directly to the family members involved and don’t gossip, it just creates more problems.
Remove Your Expectations:
No, we can’t change our in-laws, but we can change our expectations. We can choose to remove our ideas of how they should be and instead appreciate them for who they are. No one is perfect, not even you and your family of origin. When you take the pressure off someone to perform to your standards, you will find the relationship more enjoyable and meaningful.