Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dear Mother-In-Law

I'm sure being a mother in law is hard. One day I hope to be one, and of course both my mom and my husband's mom fill this role in different forms.

I was blessed to enter into marriage with a great relationship with my mother. We had our fights when I was in college, for sure! After college as I developed my independence, my mom came to respect my decisions even when she didn't agree with them, and I also learned to appreciate and seek her advice. We became good friends. I text her weekly and even though she has a busy work schedule, a husband of her own, and a plethora of grandchildren, I usually manage to see her once a month! 

Having a mother in law, however, is new experience for me. I kind of made the mistake of thinking she would be like my mother, who is blunt, very talkative, and very introspective (like myself, sort of). I pictured someone I could have long talks about doctrine with, or the bible, like I do with my mom. Of course my mother in law isn't like my mom, and I shouldn't think that in the least bit!

My mother in law is very black and white on matters of the bible. Questions are met with incredulous looks and stern lectures. She is also very conservative. I didn't know until recently that she thought the hat I wear (the kitty one, in pink) was, in fact, devils horns. Nor did I know she took great offense that I would wear such a garment! She also holds very complementarian views on marriage-- her ideas of what a wife should and should not do and the roles of men and women are fixed. I remember one time when I announced to her our weekend plans to redo the upstairs loft into a studio for me and remake it into a space where I could knit and sew and spread out. I was so excited, talking about what I was going to do and all my plans. To my surprise, she was upset and told me that I should never make my husband move his stuff and that I wasn't submitting to my husband correctly. She automatically assumed I'd demanded that my husband move his things-- when I told her it had originally been my husband's idea, I was met with skepticism and told that I must have tricked him into it. I think she thought I was kicking him out of what she considered his space. A good wife would work around her husband, and never request something like her own space in his house, I was told.

Needless to say, we got off to a rocky start probably due to unmet expectations on both sides. She and her husband didn't come to our wedding. She told me point blank that they didn't think we should get married, that she thought I was immodest. We got married anyway, a decision I don't regret, but one that caused a lot of hurt feelings across both our families.

our wedding day!
In the second year of our marriage my mother in law lost her husband to cancer. So in two years I'm sure it feels like she has lost both her only son to me, and her husband as well. I didn't understand her pain at the time, all I saw was how she was treating me and labeling me without, I felt, getting to know me at all.

She's said some very mean and hurtful things to me in the past that I have struggled with a lot, not knowing how to respond.

I know that everything is not her fault, of course. I'm obviously not the woman she pictured for her son, and I'm sure I have made mistakes in our relationship as well. I speak my mind without thought, and I don't understand the world she was raised in. She is 14 years older then my mom, and was raised in a different era altogether. I'm also very strong willed and argumentative, two traits that I feel she thinks are very unfeminine. 

It's very frustrating, navigating this rocky relationship and a delicate topic, of course. One that not only involves complex family dynamics and everyone's personal emotions and expectations, but also both mine and her different upbringings. I just hope and pray God is teaching both me and my mother in law in His ways and directing both our paths--and that we are both listening to Him and that we can eventually grow to respect each other.

We do have a good relationship now. It's a rocky one, but I think both of us don't quite understand each other yet. One post that was super helpful to me was this one, written about how to better your relationship with your mother in law. It has some great advice, and also pointed out a lot of things I had never thought of before!

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