Funke realised that her husband was a good man. He was nice to her and communicated his love in so many different ways. The only snag was his inability to stand up to his mum or correct her whenever she was being over bearing and mean to Funke. Coming from a family where it was normal to disagree with her mum and even correct her in some instances without bad blood being generated made the situation at hand much more incomprehensible to her…
Whenever Funke attempted bringing this up with her husband, he recoiled into a shell that became a type of quiet hostility. Funke was at a loss as to what to do and was fast losing patience. Being a well brought up girl, she couldn’t imagine being rude to her mother in law or exchanging words with her. She knew too well that with her husband, that was the definition of an unpardonable sin. She was however fast losing patience and beginning to feel like giving vent to her frustrations.
The more she contemplated lashing out at her mother in law, the more she felt a tug at her heart, a mild restraining voice, telling her to calm down and receive insight, wisdom and practical understanding of the course of action to take in tackling the issues at hand…that still small voice had never failed her and she realised from experience she was better off calming down and receiving direction…
It suddenly came to Funke, striking her like a thunderbolt that in order to understand what to do, there was a need to understand the why…the root issues and the reason for this huge handicap her husband had. The longer she sat ruminating, the clearer the picture became. She decided to tackle them one after the other…
Background & Upbringing
She realised that background in this situation had nothing to do with education. Her parents in law were educated and widely travelled but were shackled by a culture that believes a wife should serve her in laws dutifully and cannot hope or expect to be treated like the sons and daughters of the family, even though they pay lip service to equality of daughters in law with their biological children and love for them. They were cultural and had brought their children up to be so.
Closely related to that was the fact that they had brought all their children up to have the same cultural expectations. Upbringing can be likened to indoctrination and brainwashing. They had been programmed to see wives as being “less” and to obtain a measure of relevance from how well their wives served them and their families. Funke realised with a pang that if all that had been inculcated into him all his life, it was going to take much more than some tantrums and malice keeping to get it out of his system…
Funke realised what she was up against apart from it being cultural, was also a mind set and personal philosophy. Personal because her husband had imbibed it. He saw his mum living it out. Even he as a silly big headed little boy had an aunt in law fawning over him, addressing him in the plural, a sign of respect in their culture. Truth be told. In a corner of his heart, he sees no big deal in her complaints. He even thinks education and exposure earned her a better deal and expects her to bear and cope cheerfully with his mother’s excesses.
Funke’s husband was brought up to revere his parents. Children in his family of origin were never expected to disagree with their parents let alone, express a divergent opinion, irrespective of age. She noticed it while they were courting, but noted it as a positive signal, scoring him high for being respectful. The down side to that quality was staring her in the face.
Armed with theses unusual insights into her husband’s background and upbringing, Funke realised it was no time for pity parties. She had work to do and she realised without being told that it was not going to be a stroll in the park, neither was it going to be a hundred meter dash…
What she did will interest you:
a. She called herself to a conference and told herself she was going to change his mindset. She acknowledged that having been the way he had been all his life, it would take him some time to unlearn the old and to imbibe a new culture and mind set.
What that did for her was to immediately stretch her capabilities. She no longer ranted about Mama’s actions and inactions whenever they visited or she came calling. Her husband noticed and the air around them became lighter and cheery.
Funke noticed with a start that it appeared as if it was her own mind set that was getting refurbished! She was getting less and less cranky around her mother in law and words that would have formerly hit her below the belt started losing their power over her moods and her reactions became less predictable. She surprisingly caught herself feeling some pity for mama and wondering how difficult life must have been for her as a younger woman.
Her husband did not fully understand the change but for the first time in a long time, he felt like life was good and of course Funke was the direct beneficiary of that goodness.
b. Funke did not rest on her oars. She decided to start speaking the language of her husband by being intentional about respecting her mother in law and showing her love and honour in small ways.
She took it further by suggesting to her husband little ways in which they could make life more comfortable for her. She took the trouble to discover her mother in law’s love language was words of affirmation and she wasted no time in showering her with accolades for the fine job she did raising her nine children, for indeed, she brought up responsible children.
Even though the irritating in law expectations had not disappeared, Funke kept her own irritation in check, allowing very little or no distractions from the project she had committed herself to.
Almost magically, she observed her husband became freer with her especially as regards intimating her with his frustrations with some of his siblings and even his mum. He once in a while would complain about his mum’s excesses and she even found herself defending her and telling him old age may be responsible for some of his complaints against her.
By this time, Funke had noticed a considerable improvement but she realised that what she set out to achieve was a replacement of a limiting mindset with an empowering one.
c. Funke moved in for the kill by intentionally and stylishly infusing into their lives relationships that challenged them into aspiring to be better, believing for more, reviewing their dreams and vision and determining to be all they can be. She identified people who had achieved and whose accomplishments would inspire her husband to emerge from the cocoon of limiting cultural mindsets to embrace value adding beliefs that recognise the need to give women wings to fly and that emphasise and celebrate the power of spousal synergy, and gradually eased him into worthwhile mentoring, social and spiritual relationships with them.
Funke looks back today and realises that her in laws were not her problem. They were just being who they were and had been programmed to be. They were lemons thrown at her and from which she succeeded in making lemonade and is currently taking a good and long sip.
If your circumstances are similar to Funke’s, I urge you to try her formula. Don’t throw the baby away with the bath water. Negative In law relations does not have to ruin your marriage. The ball may just be in your court, waiting to be played the way you choose.
There are other causes of in law palavers apart from background and upbringing and we shall be discussing them in subsequent posts.
Please add your friends, particularly single and newly married ladies.
Feel free to share your perspectives, experience and stories. You can also ask questions or seek counsel on any issue even if unrelated to this post.