i am a daughter-in-law

Written by J. K. McGuire

J. a wife, mother and Christ-follower attempting to find the sacred in the ordinary.

July 25, 2011

{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.

22 Comments

  1. Megan Willome

    It used to be. Both she and I had to change. At the end of a multi-year fight, she gave me the best apology ever: “It was my first time to be a grandma,” she said. I replied, “It was my first time to be a mom.”

    Reply
    • Jezamama

      @twitter-85690294:disqus Bringing grandbabies into the picture… complicates things. Doesn’t it? “Change”… and recognizing that you need to change, that is the key.

      Reply
  2. Nikole Hahn

    Great followup! Everything you said I went through (though not with an in-law), and the doubts you experienced my husband did when he saw my family. I’m so glad I went through the tough stuff and learned how to better stand up for my husband. We have always had a great relationship and he was so patient with me.

    Reply
    • Jezamama

      @nikole hahn… family relationships are messy. Ugh. It is little wonder that parent drama is one of the top reasons people divorce. I am grateful for the difficult places and grateful for Mr. Hubby’s love. We have both been patient in the midst of weirdness. I am glad that even in the midst of pain we walk together. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Joy Messimer

    I understand this so much. Unfortunately with the years and as (grand) children, the controlling, manipulating, and shaming has only gotten worse. We now have to walk the fine line between allowing our children to have a relationship with their grandparents and protecting them from the toxicity of the relationship between their grandparents and their father (it is not unusual for them to badmouth my husband- their son) to our older sons.

    It is one of my greatest sorrows- I used to be angry and many other things- and now? I am so sad for what cannot be, and for the deepest pain they have caused their son. If ever there were echoes of the Fall, it is in family relationships. I used to think that I could never forgive them, because it hurt so much- now, his father is dying, and so much is dying with him. Now there is only sadness. I would gladly take ‘the blame’ now, if it meant there could be healing. I used to resent it. I don’t discredit that last ten years and how deep the wound has been driven in both my husbands’ and my soul; but at the same time, how I pray that healing would fall down like rain.

    Reply
    • Jezamama

      @google-dbe042d31e3dcb7c34e45104955af768:disqus Thank you for sharing this. One common thread we often have as women is relationship difficulties. While we may speak up when face to face and share where we have been hurt, often we don’t write it.

      I pray often for healing. I pray often for hope in the midst of what seems hopeless. I pray for a “guarded heart” and I pray for change.

      I can only pray these things because of the grace of God and forgiveness. What comes or changes or doesn’t, I give to Him.

      Blessings to you and your hubby.
      J.

      Reply
      • Joy Messimer

        James and I often look at each other and go ‘why does it have to be like this?’. I’ve never understood the cruelty that has come at the hand of his parents. I don’t understand how anyone who confesses to love his or her son (or daughter) could do some of the things they have done- but yet it is there- and the question- which you have so well encapsulated here- is what now? “guarded heart”. that is a good way to put it…how to be open to peace and forgiveness, yet not unnecessarily open to hurt and wounding. And all this in light of our faith. It is not an easy question to answer. I don’t mean to be morbid; it’s just that with his father close to death, I am finding new questions to contemplate, and I am surprised at how the grace and peace of Christ is infusing something I once considered hopeless. It still feels hopeless in many ways. And yet…that I can even consider the situation without rancor or malice at this point truly amazes me. It was so much easier to be angry. 

        I do wonder though, why of all the relationships in our lives, the family issues are usually the worst? And the hardest to discern? 

        Reply
        • Nikole Hahn

          Maybe it’s because we’re too close to the relationships. I can understand your situation a bit because I have a similar situation. The article I wrote about in a previous posting resonated with me because I experienced the blame through others, too. People automatically sided with my mother. It was tough.

          Reply
          • Jezamama

            It is difficult when others just assume that the one who is speaking is speaking truth and they don’t ask any questions to learn the whole story. There are always two truths to a situation, Two truths to a relationship. What you bring. What they bring.
            It is very difficult to navigate.

            I think one of the reasons it is so difficult to discern is because with family… we assume we know. We assume that they are like us because we raised them or that they would react like us or believe like us. It isn’t a possibility that maybe they are very different.
            And what we “discern” can be way off. Is it more about being right or being heard or being love?

            Family expectations make it even harded.

            So many good thoughts, Nikole.
            Thank you for posting that article.

    • Joy Ellis

      Joy, we also have to be careful and walk a fine line.  My m-i-l does the same thing.  Our older children have learned her ways and to this day hate when they have to visit.  I so understand what you have gone through.

      Reply
    • Nikole Hahn

      I am so sorry to hear that. :o( I will pray tonight for healing.

      Reply
  4. Joy Ellis

    wow.  It is almost like you have been looking at my life for the last 20 years.  Yes, we have lived like this for 20 years.  The only thing I can say is, it has made our love and our marriage stronger.  It has brought us both closer to God.  I could go on and on, but what’s done is done.  We are moving on with God.  Thank you for sharing your story.  It is wonderful to know that there are those who truly do understand.  Blessings.

    Reply
    • Jezamama

      So often couples allow this to tear them apart. We allow it to build up resentment and bitterness instead of allowing God to use the difficult places to bring us to Him first and then each other.
      I am grateful that our marriage is stronger. And I find hope in knowing that (unfortunately) this is one of those areas where we are not alone.
      Blessings to you and your hubby.

      Reply
  5. Melissa Brotherton

    My husband and I were just discussing this yesterday. Over our 10 years of marriage the in-law relationship has been turbulent. As we talked yesterday, I was able to share with him somethings that never could have been said in year 1 or 2. I loved the demonstration of our growth as a couple that revealed itself in our ability to share on this topic. Although my boys are only 7, 2-1/2, & 1-years-old I am already conscious of the decisions I make and the attitudes I adopt; I don’t want my future DILs to have to deal with the pressure and stresses I did.

    Reply
    • Jezamama

      When we were in this phase {that I describe in this post} I had a girlfriend who was going through some similiar things as she planned her wedding. I remember suggesting that we video tape ourselves and some of these interactions… so that we know what NOT to do to our own future DILs and daughters.

      Some parents try so hard that they do not even realize how far over the line they have gone. We were too young to know how to set good boundaries…and unfortunately we’ve lived the consequences of that. Trying to establish them a decade or more later is rough.

      Praying that you continue to have good, open communication with your husband. And that you find hope in the future whatever that looks like.

      Reply
  6. @bibledude

    I know that this is a female-dominated conversation, BUT… this post resonates with me for similar reasons, but a slightly different situation. i had a step-dad who was never really happy with me, and spent a lot of energy tearing me down. but one of the bright spots in my life was a wife who regularly worked hard to build me back up. 

    the love of a wife who is dedicated to stand by you no matter what (and sometimes because of what) anyone else says never ceases to amaze me. i am grateful that i have a strong relationship with a woman like her… 

    Reply
    • Nikole Hahn

      I love how God brings us together with spouses who offset the damage our family relationships can cause!

      Reply
    • Jezamama

      All I can say is thank you for adding a guy’s voice. So often (on this topic in particular) women have much to say and guys not so much. It doesn’t mean that they don’t feel or see the same things… they just have a different way of expressing it. And we women can be like mama bears when it comes to our husbands. It’s hard to be still and let them do what they need to do and encourage no matter what.

      To find a spouse that can encourage you and say, “You have what it takes” can make all the difference in the world.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts 🙂

      Reply
  7. Alida

    “Just because you raise a boy…does not mean that you know the man.”  This is so true!  We have two sons and neither one of them is married.  They are 24 & 21 and I am learning a lot about them and who they are as adults.  It is truly fascinating to me to see them from this perspective.

    Reply
    • Jezamama

      Oh the things we never tell our parents… or that they don’t find out till later, much later. I love the relationship that I have with my parents now and they do not assume they have me all figured out. They ask the right questions.
      It’s dangerous when we think we just know…
      to be willing to learn takes a lot as a parent.
      Thank you for adding this too.

      Reply
  8. Tiff

    Wow!! I’m glad to know I’m not alone, not glad others suffer from poor relationships with in-laws. My husband & my MIL recently had a ‘falling out.’ what started with my husband wanting to confront & talk about an issue he personally had with his mother, blew up into her blaming me for, well, EVERYTHING. She told him she resents his marrying me. Damage done. We pray God will help us find our way out if this mess..

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Top 11 Jezamama Posts of 2011 | - [...] I am a Daughter-in-Law  for Bible [...]
  2. I am the Daughter-in-Law | Jezamama - […] *this was originally published on Bibledude.net […]

Leave a Reply to Joy Messimer Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

i am a daughter-in-law

by J. K. McGuire time to read: 4 min
24