Someone has said…
Marriage is like twirling a baton, turning handsprings or eating with chopsticks. It looks easy until you try it.
A huge part of the difficulty that can come to a marriage is dealing with the In-laws. You see, when a girl says, “I do,” to a man she loves, she is also saying “I do” to receiving his family. She takes them on as her own family, and of course, he takes hers as well. But that isn’t always the easiest job in the world. There are so many variables as to why that’s the case, but I’d like to address what to do in order to make those relationships better.
I’ve been both a daughter-in-law and am now a mother-in-law, so I can speak a little to the female side of these relationships. Tomorrow I’m going to speak to the mothers-in-law. But we’ll look today at being a daughter-in-law that would honor the Lord and also be a blessing to the other side of her family.
- Give your in-law’s names – When I was newly married, I had a sweet father-in-law who oddly enough had been (and still was) my boss at the school where I taught. He was also my pastor. Now all of the sudden, we were related! That was a strange transition to make! My mom gave me good advice before my wedding. She said, “Start calling your in-law’s by the name you choose right after you’re married. It will sound like it’s bouncing off the walls when you first say it, but keep on saying it. It will get easier.”
My husband and I had decided to call one another’s parents as we do our own, Mom and Dad. When you have parents of your own that you treasure and love, it’s hard to throw that title to someone else, but these people were parents to the man I’d given my life to! Could I not “adopt” them as my second set of parents? So, after the honeymoon, I needed my mother-in-law’s attention and I had no choice but to say it – “Mom…” It was just like my own mother had warned me. It seemed like I had shouted it into a megaphone! But I kept on saying it until it became as natural saying my own name.
It can be so difficult to give your in-law’s a name that instead, you refer to them as only pronouns. Love them enough to give them a name – Mom and Dad, Bob and RuthAnn, Mom C., something! It’s so much kinder than “her” or “him!”
- Give your in-law’s the benefit of the doubt. If you’re questioning their actions, their absence, or their words to you or your husband, just step back and don’t assume anything but the best. Instead of asking, Why does your mother only call you and ask about the holidays? Don’t I count? Assume that he is the one who could answer her questions. Then you make an attempt at saying, Hey, I hear you’re wondering about us coming for Thanksgiving. We’re looking forward to it. Do you have a minute that we could talk about what you’d like me to bring?
It’s a tendency to get offended, but sometimes if we build a bridge for communication, it will make things easier the next time.
- Give your in-law’s time to be with their son without you. Don’t feel offended that your MIL would love to spend time with your husband. Instead, help that to happen. When my in-law’s came to visit us for Christmas, I always tried to encourage my husband to take his mom out for breakfast one morning. They could talk and spend time together, and I know she appreciated having her son to himself for a couple hours.
(Tomorrow we’ll discuss what happens if this need becomes obsessive for her!)
- Give your in-law’s time with your whole family. Holidays can be downright dreadful if there are not wise decisions about where and when the holidays will be spent. Going back and forth to both families is exhausting and sharing that holiday with only one side of the family can be hurtful.
Our solution to that is to spend Thanksgiving with one side and Christmas the other. Then the next year do the opposite. Birthday’s, Mother’s Day and so on can be handled in the same way – back and forth.
- Give your in-law’s the same kindness you’d give your own parents. Most husbands aren’t good at remembering to buy gifts and cards for their mom once they’re married. Why not consider it your duty as his wife to remind your fella to buy a card for his mom for Mother’s Day? Or you pick out the card and gift for her birthday and let him sign it for both of you. She’ll recognize his handwriting and will be elated that he remembered. Only you will be the wiser! The point is, be sure to do the same kind acts for your in-law’s as you do for your family.
In the book of Ruth, we hear Naomi saying to her two daughters-in-law:
Go, return each to her mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.
Both Ruth and Orpah had shown kindness to their mother-in-law and she was fully aware of it!
Could that be said of you and me? Take the high road and show kindness. Be first to do it. Do it even if it’s not returned. What to do?
- Call them.
- Send a text to check on them.
- Send them pictures of your children.
- Send them pictures of your husband!
- Pray for them.
- Love them with words
- Love them with your time.
- Love them with actions. A card, a gift, a loving gift of your time.
It would be hard not to love a daughter-in-law who responds with those kind of actions. I didn’t always do that. I struggled, especially in our early years. But I thank the Lord for the good relationship he gave me with my in-law’s over time. Ladies, sometimes the hardship in the in-law relations can make them look like outlaw’s, but if we make the effort, we could very easily turn things around for God’s glory and we daughters-in-law could be remembered as favorably as Ruth was.
What’s your best tip for responding as a daughter-in-law? Who has a great daughter-in-law that you’d like to brag about?
Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for tips for the Mothers-in-law!