Image via Wikipedia
Question from a Reader
Just a comment….I don’t know what a good/great mother-in-law, daughter-in-law relationship looks like. My mom still has issues with my grandma. My mom’s mom was very good at saying what ever came to her mind, it was rare that we all visited with out her getting cranky with someone much less a daughter-in-law. I have been through a lot with my mother-in-law. Especially because I’m the only one with grand kids nearby. From what she says my sister-in-law (her other daughter-in-law) eats healthy and has perfect parenting skills. That is a hard pill to swallow. I feel like I’m under the microscope. Anyhow, I find it difficult to hear the words “Mother-in-law” without getting a negative feeling. I don’t want to feel that way. It’s kind of like the word submission. It has taken a long time to view it rightly and there are still days where I have to slowly reprocess my feeling about that word until I get it right.
I don’t even know that I would be able to trust my mother-in-law because what has happen in the past. (just being honest)
First, this is a good question: What does a good in law relationship look like? Mutual respect and wisdom would be the answer. I understand that sometimes a mother in law might not understand her daughter in law and vice versa but it does take time to develop and a lot of patience. I answer a lot of questions in the paragraphs below. As believers we are to understand why certain issues could make us angry or what idol are we dealing with as it says in James 4:1-4. We need to remember that we cannot control the other person but we can control ourselves. 1 Peter 2:18-23 We should not revile when reviled against and that God allows circumstances and situations….all of them for His purposes and ultimate will. Romans 8:28-29 and 1Corinthians 10:13. Now…are we willing to do the work and serve, either the mom-in-law or the daughter-in-law without an expectation of them responding the way we think they should? Psalm 62:5….that is the question.
Let me share a funny…A big-game hunter went on safari with his wife and mother-in- law. One evening, while still deep in the jungle, the Mrs. awoke to find her mother gone. Rushing to her husband, she insisted on them both trying to find her mother.
The hunter picked up his rifle, took a swig of whiskey, and started to look for her. In a clearing not far from the camp, they came upon a chilling sight: the mother-in-law was backed up against a thick, impenetrable bush, and a large male lion stood facing her. The wife cried, “What are we going to do?”
“Nothing,” said the hunter husband. “The lion got himself into this mess, let him get himself out of it.”
When I started working on this subject and saw that it is an issue with many women and now that I am one, I understand both sides. I have a daughter-in-law who is married to my oldest son, and a daughter married to my son-in-law, both children have been married almost 4 years now. This is a struggle all of us had in one way, shape or form. I noticed some blog titles which I shared with some of the women at our church when I spoke on grandparenting and in-laws, they were:
Blog search terms….
How to deal with monter in law
Christian woman and my husband annoy me
mother in law against my religious views
Responsibilities of a daughter in law
How to be a great mother in law
Wife’s responsibilities to inlaws
Christian mother in law
Christian ways to deal with mother in law from hell
American wives and mothers
Daughter in law problems
Christian ways to deal with mother in law
keys to being a great mother in law
Christian wives trouble with mother in law
my daughter, and son in law are not Christian
my daughter in law and son keep distance
daughter in law and mommy problems
what are my responsibilities as a Christian daughter in law
This list tells me that there are women seeking on how to deal with in-law issues that come naturally along with the separation and marriage to a son or a daughter….
The subject of in-laws is not discussed to often and these relationships can create serious problems in marriages if not dealt with biblically and carefully.There was a report released in 2001 by Iowa University that assessed the connection between in laws relations and the future success of the marriage.
There are 4 in law relations that were addressed in this research. What they found was that each of the in law combinations not just the famous mother-in-law relationship played significant roles and actually Father in law relations were the most challenging.
Most people believe it is just for newly and young married couples but the in law relationships can create hostility and stress for many married couples, young and old alike.
Biblical Examples of in law relationships
In Genesis 26:34-35 we have Isaac and Rebecca struggling with the wives of Esau. It says this, “ When Esau was forty years old, he took as wives Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. 35 And they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah.” In Genesis 31, Laban the father in law of Jacob becomes accusatory in Gen 31:1, then Jacob notices the countenance….the Lord tells him to flee but in Laban’s blessing, he basically is implying for Jacob to not come back.
In Judges 15:1-8 tells us that Samson had trouble with his father in law giving Samson’s wife to another man then Samson’s vengeance upon that conflict. King David had conflict with his father in law. Saul wanted to kill him, so David had to flee for his life in 1 Samuel 18:20-30. Lot and his sons in law in Gen 19:14. Judah and Tamar in Gen 38:11. Naomi, Ruth and Orpah had a great relationship…they became supports to one another after Naomi’s sons died in Ruth 1:6-1. How about Peter and his mother-in-law. She was sick, then was healed in Mark 1:30-31, then started to take care of those in the house by waiting on them.
If we are going to address this issue biblically, then that is where we need to start. In Galatians 6 :2 we are to bear one another’s burdens to fulfill the law of Christ. As we marry, we will have problems with in-laws. However, the marriage relationship is priority over any other relationship outside of our personal relationship with Christ. Marriage creates a new family unit and we are to cleave or join to our spouse. Mathew 19:3-9 and Mal. 2:14-16, this is permanent and personal intimacy. Marriage first, children second and work is third on the priority list of a godly marriage. However, this does not mean This does not mean that adult children stop honoring their parents as it says in Proverbs 23:22, “Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old.” And it does not mean simply to move out of the parent’s home. This means certain things do change after we marry.
How can you walk this out practically as the adult child of the parent in law?
Children should not let the in-laws ever demean their spouse and wives as well as husbands should be careful not to complain to their parents about their spouses…
We should always look for ways to commend and build up our mate to our parents..
We should make an effort to be sure that our mate feels included in family discussions. The in-law can feel left out of some family discussions of things that went on in the past.
Wayne Mack’s “In-Laws, married with Parents.” is excellent. I suggest reading that.
Let’s personalize to Daughter in laws and mother in laws
What do our daughter in laws need? I asked Halannah, my daughter in law to personalize for me what her needs are….because I truly want to know and I believe her desire is for me to be honored by her like a mother as well.
She needs acceptance-whether or not she fails or does not do what I would do or how I might have done something or even what her husband might expect from her, she needs to feel accepted by me for her choices…the way she cooks, the way she cleans the way she takes care of her babies, the way she takes care of Taylor her thoughts for the future of her family.
She shared with me that although she is aware that she is the wife, in her mind she does not want Taylor to feel as if he has to choose. Yes, if the mother in law or father in law feels she or he has to right to tell you or your son what to do and how to live, there must come a separation for the saving of the newly formed family but if things are good, then what Halannah shared with me is that she does not want to cause her husband to be torn. As believers, this is correct and as a daughter in law, her perspective is right.
She wants to feel included-if we are having dinner or something is going on, she would like me to call and tell her personally. Some daughter in laws might not care or want to talk to their mother in law but for her, she likes and needs that. For those of us who are mother in laws, we need to know what our daughter or son in law prefers.
She wants and needs me to support her authority specifically with her children. This is the key here, her children. They are not mine and they are not yours. It is easy for the grandmother to want to please the grandchildren but I know the right thing to do is to get the mom’s or son’s approval first. Sometimes this is a growing moment. Halannah has at times been hesitant to talk with me about things she would like me to do or not to do but for me it helps to know what her desires are for her children. To be quite honest she is all over Elizabeth in obeying and asking permission for things. She is two years old. I do not want to undermine Halannah and Taylor’s parenting for anything.
One of the main things our married adult children need is loyalty. We are to be loyal to the Lord and we are to be loyal to God’s plan for the family. We do not want to load them up with expectations or obligations. That makes us miserable and them miserable. Taylor and Ashley need us to not put expectations upon them that they cannot or will not be able to fulfill. Naomi, the mother in law to Ruth and Orpah, set them free, there was no guilt. One stayed with her and the other left. This relationship was characterized by love. We are to be loyal to our children but we cannot expect their loyalty to us, no strings, no guilt. Period! The principle here is to set them free. No strings, no guilt but an open door policy. This is easier said than done but for me personally, I talk to my kids to ask them what I can do to change. Eric said something that was outstanding, most don’t want to change. The mother’s in law or father in laws say things like, “that is just the way I am so they need to take me this way.” That is completely unbiblical and as believers, we should be constantly changing.
Service is the next thing our married adult children need. Service with no strings. In Mathew 8:14-15, she served them. In the gospel of Mark, serving is a sign of greatness. So we see Peter’s mother in law’s character. She served. You know what kind of servant you are when someone treats you like one. If Halannah is sick, her mom or I will go over and help her. If she is busy, needs a little break, we help them and they help us right back. They are always willing to help us too. Meals, financially with wisdom and any help they need. What does no strings attached mean? Open ended, you give a gift, you don’t expect anything from it. You can’t be bothered if they want to take it back, celebrations…the daughters and daughter in laws desperately need and want your approval as the mother in law. Do you tell her?….When was the last time you told your daughter in law how much you love her or love that she is raising your grandchildren or love the way she takes care of her husband your son? Or how about your son in law…my mom was frustrated when she heard about me homeschooling and even with my husband, Eric. But once her and my stepfather saw the lives of my children, they did not praise me (hello) but they praised him and to be honest, I loved it!
Let’s personalize to Daughter in laws and mother in laws
How about mother in laws…what do we need? Daughters in laws do not have the same flack surrounding them but they really should because this is not entirely just. When I went online and studied some of the comments and blogs I was saddened by what some daughter-in-laws said towards their mother in laws. It seemed as if nothing the mom in law did was right. I think it is time we discover what is right with being a mother in law don’t you?
Daughter in laws can actually make the relationship miserable or joyful and we can turn to the Gospels for the answers. Children are to honor their parents, whether in law or not this can cause tremendous trouble for the family if the daughter in law has a bad attitude towards the mom in law. Honor is important to the mother in law. A daughter should honor her parents and a daughter in law should to her husband’s as well. Not because she feels the same towards her as her own mother but because she is doing this unto the Lord. This means she should be kind, courteous and thoughtful towards her mother in law as she is to her own mother. Courtesy implies graciousness and politeness. This does not mean a superficial stiff politeness but a warm and genuine friendliness. How many of us know we can feel if someone dislikes us or is just tolerating us?
The way you talk to us or about us is important. Your husband will help in this. Ask him, do I talk kindly about your mother or do I put you on the defensive because I nit pick everything she is doing or tries to do? Ashley was struggling a little bit with her mother in law so I explained to her, Ashley, what you reap after you have sown unkindness to your mother in law will not be worth what you have sown. In other words, if you mistreat your mother in law, when you become one, be careful. God’s word is clear, God is not mocked, whatever a man sows that he shall reap. Your son or daughter will be married some day. God’s mercy lasts a lifetime but it does not always prevent consequences.
She needs kindness..phone calls, cards helping her if she needs it being sympathetic and tenderhearted as well as being quick to forgive. This includes the children if you have some. She needs to have time with the grand children. Adapt to your mother in laws styles.
Also, don’t forget that she raised the man you are married to. She is intelligent and has wisdom. Sometimes it can make the mother in law feel bad if the daughter in law is saying continually…well my mother says this or my mother says that when you forget the man you are married to was raised by this women who had to leave her family and take on a new name as well. She failed on occasion as much as they don’t want to admit it possibly, but her house had to be messy sometimes, she could have cleaned up after her boys so that you are frustrated the son might not clean up after himself…we tend to blame all the failures of our husbands on the mother when it is his sin nature we should be blaming.
Gather family recipes. Halannah did this a lot and still does. She comes over and cooks for me on occasion. Her Mexican food is outstanding! And her baking. She shares my recipes for her family.
Don’t compare your mother with your mother in law. You want to be thankful for who she is and her differences. Learn from her…listen to her too ask her what she thinks..that will go miles, ask her to tell you about raising her son, the man you are married too. Listening does not mean you have to agree but it is an honoring.
Pray for her. This is the most important part, then pray for you to be a blessing.
We are to be a blessing either way. A daughter, a grandmother, a daughter in law or a mother in law whether or not they are a delight or difficult but we should work together to give glory to the Lord and a source of blessing to others.