Jokes and stories would have you believe that all parents-in-law are dreadful creatures. Although that’s not the case, a poor relationship with a child’s spouse can separate that child from the whole family.
I decided, then and there, to be the best mother-in-law in the world — or as close as I could become. So I checked with people who knew: people who have warm and loving relationships with their parents-in-law. How do these folks do it?
I asked lots of people and received many answers. One thing that continually came up: “Good in-laws don’t cramp your style. They give lots of room.”
Room to grow
“I’m not the same person I was when I married,” Susan told me. “I’ve spent years growing and changing into the person I am today. My in-laws didn’t hold my mistakes against me. They gave me time to grow up.”
I agree. I said and did lots of foolish things when I first married. I’m glad my in-laws gave me room to grow and didn’t allow those early blunders to color their opinion of me.
I will remember this when my daughters- and sons-in-law make mistakes. Because God is in the business of changing people, I can give Him time to work on them. I also will remember He doesn’t need my help!
Room in the family
“There was no ‘in-law’ about my relationship with Janice’s mother,” Bill said. “Her sons-in-law were her sons as far as she was concerned. She treated us as if we were born into the family.”
The sovereign God who put our children in our family gave us our in-law children, too. They are part of our family for a purpose. Accepting them as “one of us” and looking for ways to be a blessing to them will make them feel at home in the family and will strengthen the bonds with our own children.
Room in our lives
“My mother-in-law was always there for me,” Mary Ann said. “She came to help with the kids when I was ill and stayed by my side when I lost my own mother.”
Making space in your life to help your children-in-law can foster a special relationship. Just be sure they want the help! There’s a fine line between lending a hand and interfering. Let them call the shots, but be willing to assist.
Room to breathe
“I always had a close relationship with my daughter,” Debbie said. “It still seemed natural to want to spend my spare time with her. When she married, I had to realize that her first priority was her husband.”
The kids have a new family now. They need to establish their own traditions, their own way of doing things. It may be different from yours, but they need room to build a family on their own.
Room to trust
“My son-in-law was a real challenge to love,” Karen said. “His mother was abusive to him as he grew up, and his bad relationship with his first mother-in-law had a part in ending his first marriage. He automatically looked at me as the enemy. It took time and patience to break down those barriers and earn his trust.”
Even the most heartily welcomed in-law children need room to become acquainted with the family and accustomed to its ways. Don’t expect immediate devotion. Give time for them to get used to the new family dynamics. We can’t demand love. We can just love our in-law children and give opportunities for their love for us to grow.
The trip down the aisle doesn’t have to mean a trip away from the parents. Give the new couple room, and you’ll find them crowding close to your heart.
This article appeared in Focus on the Family magazine.
Copyright © 2005 Focus on the Family.
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