She peeked through their kitchen window, and all you could see as you looked through the blinds were her beady little eyes and the top of her head. It was annoying just to watch; I can’t imagine living that way.
At times they were in their living room watching TV as a family, and she would barge through the backdoor unannounced. It was as if she owned the place and didn’t need to ask permission to invade their space.
The son was caught in the middle of his wife and mom’s disputes. The poor guy seemed miserable. His wife and his mom were either at odds with each other because of the meddling in-laws, or unified for brief moments as they ganged up on him.
True story? Maybe for some, but the people I just described are fictional characters in a syndicated TV show. I used to watch the show here and there, and every time I did the mother-in-law gave me anxiety. I would roll my eyes. I yelled at the TV. I wanted to kick her out of the house! I wanted to put a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign on the backdoor, although I don’t think it would have worked. She was overbearing and annoying!
In-laws! A tricky and somewhat complicated relationship.
I can’t think of a TV show these days that portray mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationships in a positive light. When you think about it, I’m not sure I hear too many women speak positively about their mother-in-law.
It seems to be a normal assumption that most people don’t really care for their in-laws. It’s so ingrained in us that we won’t like our in-laws that maybe we have resolved to dislike them, or at least tolerate them and then complain to our husbands later.
I can’t speak from a mother-in law’s perspective right now, but I hope to someday. For now, I can only speak from my experience as a daughter-in-law.
I am truly blessed and realize my relationship with my mother-in-law is not what you see in the movies. Debi is one of the most selfless people I know. She likes to do things I detest … like organizing my junk drawers. This lady likes to come over and help me organize stuff (insert bug-eyed emoji here).
I have confided in her about things no one else knows. Sometimes I complain to her about her son, my husband, and she lets me. You know what, let’s throw in another bug-eyed emoji for that one!
I cannot tell you the countless times I forget my lunch, food for a potluck and volleyball jerseys for the team I coach at school. Without complaint she brings them to me. I trust her with the lives of my three boys and she loves them with her whole heart.
O’kay, that’s the good stuff that will not help you deal with a monster of a mother-in-law. So, how do we do it?
Well, don’t think for one second mine and Debi’s relationship does not have it’s ups and downs. I get annoyed with her (sorry, Debi). And she gets annoyed with me. It’s a relationship; it happens. There are times when I have had hard conversations with her about overstepping her bounds with my boys.
No relationship is perfect, but the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship in our culture is flawed. So, the question remains. How do we get along with our mother-in-law?
If you’ve read any of my blogs long enough, you know I take everything back to Scripture. If you go to the book of Ruth, (which I highly recommend you read the entire book. It’s only four chapters and reads like a story) you will read about a mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship that puts ALL relationships to shame.
Naomi had two daughters-in-law. One was Orpah and the other was Ruth. They both loved Naomi, but after the death of Noami’s husband and two sons, Orpah was persuaded to go back to her people. Ruth, on the other hand, loved Naomi and would not leave her.
If we listen to the reasons Ruth gave as to why she wouldn’t leave Naomi, we find the key factors needed to make an in-law relationship work.
Before we talk about it, let’s look at Ruth’s very poetic declaration to Naomi:
“Do not urge me to turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17).
Have you ever said those words to your mother-in-law? Forget about your mother-in-law, have you said those words to anyone? Your husband? Your best friend? Your sibling? Those are some powerful words, but if you look closely you will see the obvious requirements to make great relationships work and stand the test of time.
First, Ruth was committed. The Bible says Ruth clung to Naomi. That is the same Hebrew word used in marriage when a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife; total commitment.
When we marry our spouses and make a commitment to him, we must see it as a commitment to his family as well. His mother was the first woman in his life; the first woman he ever loved. We must be as committed to making our relationship work with her as we are to making it work in our marriage to him.
Second, Ruth was determined to make Naomi her family. She knew that to stay with Naomi meant she had to accept her entire family as her own. She said, “Your people will be my people.” Have you ever thought of it that way?
We must determine in our hearts that our husband’s family is our family. There should be no distinction. I have seen many daughters-in-law treat their husband’s family as the tag-alongs or second rate, but that is not the way it should be.
When my husband comes to me and wants to do something for his family that I’m not sure I want to do, I have a question I ask myself for such occasions: “Would I do this for my parents?” If I would do what he is requesting for my parents, then I must do it for his parents because they are now my family. He loves his parents as much as I love mine. The treatment should be equal.
And finally, Ruth moved forward. Don’t forget … there was death. There was tragedy. But Ruth moved forward and she told Naomi, “Don’t ask me to go back … Where you go, I will go.”
We must remember there will be hard times in the in-law relationship. There are hard times in any relationship. There will be times that test our commitment and determination to make things work with these relatives that are not blood. But we have to move forward. Bury the past, and move on!
God Is The Foundation
And, I want to add this … let’s not be foolish and skip over the most important factor of a successful relationship, regardless of in-law, out-law or blood. God has to be at the center or we just won’t make it! These kinds of relationships can be HARD, so why do we think we can do it without the Lord?
Ruth knew God was the answer because she said, “Your God will be my God.” Ruth was from Moab. They were a polytheistic people. She had many gods to choose from and she chose Naomi’s God. He was the reason she loved Naomi so much.
As we close today, I want to extend a challenge to you. If you are a daughter-in-law like me, do not forget that one day you will be a mother-in-law.
I remind myself that I need to treat my mother-in-law the way I want my daughters-in-law to treat me. Be the kind of daughter-in-law you hope to have. Whoa! Does that sound difficult? I got you! I know. But, pray now. Be aware of your commitment to this relationship. Be determined to take out the words in-law and insert the word family. And don’t do it without God being at the center of every get-together and every action you take with your in-laws. You can change the course of your relationship. It begins with you!
I’m praying for you! You got this!