Last week’s post centred mainly on some of the reasons why there might be hostility towards a daughter or sister in law from her husband’s parents, siblings and relatives. While the reasons may be countless, there are certain key fundamentals that will go a long way in ensuring civility and maybe a restoration of cordiality in situations where hostility has been established. I will attempt a discussion of these key fundamentals.
The good book says in Romans 12:18 that as much as it lies with us, we should live peaceably with all men. This tells me it will not always be our sole responsibility to maintain cordiality. You can not make decisions for others. While you may not be able to decide for your in laws the choices they make, you may be able to influence them to become better people if you are willing to pay the price. How? You may be wondering.
Laying the right foundations
- The first Foundation you need to lay is that of a good relationship with your husband, the major bridge between you and your in laws. Be deliberate about cultivating a deep friendship with him. This should start right from when you are dating or in courtship. Both of you need to be a team. TEAM in this situation stands for Together Evading All Missiles. This friendship aids trust and good communication. Misconceptions and assumptions that generate negative vibes will be greatly reduced when you relate as friends and teammates. Every veiled or direct attack against one will be seen as an attack against the whole ie the two of you. Rational analysis and discussion will be easier and a better understanding of underlying issues achieved.Operating as a team means gifts given are jointly done and in the name of you both. This makes them realise you are an active contributor and not just a locust sent from hell to devour their son’s resources.
- Another very important foundation is that of trust especially in the area of in law relations. You need to establish ahead of time the fact that you love or like your in laws. Remember these people are the family your husband has related with all his life and it is only normal that he loves and respects them the way you must also love and respect yours. It will therefore be to your advantage that you go the extra mile in demonstrating love, acceptance and respect towards them.If you therefore start out singing the out of tune song of wanting to maintain a distance, not wanting to relate with them or incessantly being critical and cold towards them, then you would have succeeded in telling him you can’t be trusted with his family and he is most likely to rise to defend them whenever there is a clash of interest.Show genuine care and concern about their well being. Give him suggestions on what can be done to help or assist those that are deserving. Don’t grumble or complain when he renders some form of assistance to them. Even if you think he is being taken for granted, don’t be too quick to point it out so that your intention isn’t misunderstood.
- Be careful to analyse and understand your spouse’s background. This will give you a clear picture of what to expect and an understanding of his actions and reactions where his family is concerned. From my experience in counselling, there are always root causes as to why some men are unapologetically biased towards their parents or siblings. Some get so emotional when having to deal with issues that come up between their wives and parents and or siblings and these emotions can be pretty intense. Many times, it could be that the man’s family had been through very hard times in the past and he saw first hand the sacrifices his parents or older siblings made on his behalf and has vowed to pay back…imagine a recent addition to his life by way of a wife complaining about the little he is doing, while he is feeling bad about not being able to do more. Imagine a man that was single handedly brought up by a mum who squatted from place to place. His wife may not fully understand why he is hellbent on building a house for his mum in the village while they don’t have a single square meter of bare land to their name in the city. You may not fully understand why he has a soft spot for that particular sister and why he is hardly ever able to say no to her many demands. Before you start complaining and carrying a placard, why don’t you settle down and get to know him and his circumstances in full? Ask questions, dig a little deeper and just for a few hours, put yourself in his shoes and imagine you are him. As soon as you decide to marry your Prince Charming, then make it a point of duty to extend an arm of fellowship to your prospective in laws. Get to know them and ask questions about who they are and their past and current circumstances from your guy. That way, you will understand their insecurities (if any) and idiosyncrasies. This will help you understand what to expect and how to reach them after marriage.
- While it is important not to be forward or being too much in their faces, it is also important that you extend a warm hand of fellowship towards them, by yourself. Don’t always hide behind the skirts (or do I say trousers) of your husband. Build a bridge by yourself, one that can endure, for the one being built by your husband will not endure for too long after your nuptials. Make phone calls, give compliments, show concern, send the occasional gifts. Remember the debt you owe humanity is love and in laws are no exception. It was Victor Hugo who said “no army can withstand the force of an idea whose time has come”. I will like to say “few in-laws can withstand the force of love”.
And just in case your in laws are an exception to the general rule, we will discuss further in my next post where we will tackle how to handle unrepentantly hostile in laws. Before then, please feel free to share experience and discuss your perspectives even if different from the ones expressed in this write up.