Mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws are family partners fused together by circumstance and law. To be thrown into a close family relationship without giving consent or being consulted is a daunting challenge. But it’s a challenge that can be overcome.
In the first part of my article (Getting Along With Your Other Mother), I mentioned how the book “The Mother-in-Law dance” by Annie Chapman has taught me a lot of good values and wisdom in managing with the relationship I have with my in-laws. One of the pointers mentioned was ‘Mending the bridge‘, where we try not to let “little things” build up in a clothes dryer can have devastating consequences.
But what if the bridges have already been burnt and the conflicts are hard to rectify?
In her book, Annie suggests a few methods to overcome conflict:
Key 1: Keep your distance
As much as we desire for our mother-in-laws to be a part of the family and to know their grandchildren and enjoy her life, there are some people we will just have to keep at arms length so as to preserve the relationship. Setting appropriate boundaries so that the relationship can continue to exist and be preserved. This first step is not to give us an excuse to stop trying to show love towards a disagreeable in-law, but if the other person refuses to receive the love that is presented at a continuous effort, there is a limit to what can be done to reach her heart.
We could invest in efforts to bridge the in-law gap such as sending cards on their birthday, gifts for the holidays and calling her on a regular basis. “Keeping distance” physically doesn’t necessarily mean cutting the in-law off from their love.
Key 2: Keep your tongue
Along with keeping a safe distance, taking extra effort to ensure that the time spent together is a pleasant one is as equally important. As much as there are moments where we wanted to blast right back at them when they say things to us that hurt our feelings, know that what is said in anger may not be wise and advisable. When we are caught in a situation like this, we have two options: to speak out revengeful, cutting words which may add oil to fire, or be the cooler headed person and know that what is mentioned may not be true, and we need not speak out harsh words.
Key 3: Keep Smiling
When it comes to family relationships though often the most challenging, we can either choose to laugh at the unpleasant situation or mourn at our circumstances. Though it can be challenging, we can aim to find lighter moments in the relationship with the in-laws such as laughing over a television comedy or over funny stories in the newspapers or magazines. By doing so, the heaviness of the tension can be somewhat relieved.
I hope this article has helped you as it has helped me as I process on them and move a step ahead in perfecting the dance with our in-laws. Hang in there! You are not alone.
By Yvonne Chee
This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine