{This is a follow up to Nikole Hahn’s Post, “it’s not always the daughter’s fault”… questioning why the daughter is often blamed for relationship issues.}

It’s the age old story. We have seen the movies, watched the TV shows dedicated to the difficult meanderings of a woman marrying a son. This woman is labeled so many things as she lives in the midst of a family she is supposed to call her own. When it is done right it can be a source of love and support to everyone involved. When it is done wrong it can leave hearts broken and relationships shattered. It’s the age old story that has come to rest in my home and heart for more than eleven years. This is what I have felt, my perceptions and experiences as…

The daughter-in-law.

We were just kids when we got married. While we may not have understood the depths of those vows at that time, we learned with time like most couples. It took the day to day of living life together in what I call, “Married Chaos,” to bring us to a better understanding of what marriage really is, what God intended it to be. To say we had an easy start would be false. As soon as that ring was on my finger and I said, “Yes” to the reality of becoming his wife, the in-law drama came rushing in.

Maybe the family weirdness was always there hiding beneath the surface? Maybe I just did not see it? Or maybe it was the pressure of planning and organizing and dreaming about not just our wedding day, but the rest of our lives? For some reason this time period of engagement and early marriage can make some types of parents even more overbearing and difficult. Never in my whole young life had I felt so much pressure, so much loss of who I was, and lack of validity in my opinions. It was like I was no longer allowed to be me… without someone being mad.

The Panic
During the two months before our wedding I had a massive panic attack. The pain in my chest was so severe that I could not breath; I could barely drive myself to the doctor. I thought I was having a heart attack. As I lay in the exam room scared out of my wits, as they hooked me up to an EKG machine and I tried not to sob at the fear and the pain, I wondered if it was worth it. I loved this man. I could see the big picture of what our life would be together. But was marrying into this type of family worth it? Was the condemnation, misunderstanding, controlling and heartache…worth it?

Two months later as I stood in that bridal room and waited with my dad for our turn to walk down the aisle, he asked if I was sure. Was I sure that this was what I wanted to do? A brave question asked to my face. It was all I could do to hold back the tears because I knew I was walking into difficult places. But I loved that man waiting for me. He was worth the stepping, the panic attacks, and the pain of being misunderstood. He has always been worth the risk. I walked down that aisle even though there were many in that chapel who were taking bets against us; I stood on those steps and pledged my faithfulness and commitment before God to this one man. I trusted God to stand with us for all of our lives.

She’s to Blame
Since that day many moments have not been ok. Parental pressure has not changed with time. Often it has been worse. Many things have been pushed too far. I’ve spent time living in fear that we would fold under their pressure. I have lived under the burden of our never being good enough. Sometimes it is easier for parents to blame someone else for the way things turn out in their relationships with their grown children. The wife, the daughter-in-law is often the easiest target. She’s accused of being manipulative, controlling and unforgiving (that’s the short list).

The truth is that if you find yourself blaming your son’s wife for all the reasons your relationship with him stinks, then perhaps it is about time you took a long look at what your relationship was like before he got married. Because that relationship was there or not long before he took a wife.

Ask yourself the tough questions: Did he live with you in truth? Do you respect his decisions? Do you really listen to him or just need to be heard, have an opinion and control? What does/did he feel about your relationship? Was there one? Did you encourage and instill independence as he matured? Are you living in denial of the past’s truths?

There are so many questions that we should be asking, instead of assuming and pointing fingers.

Just because you raise a boy…does not mean that you know the man.

Has the in-law or parent relationship been a difficult place for you?


Image by Kelly Sauer. Used with permission.

i am a daughter-in-law

by J. K. McGuire time to read: 4 min