Apparently the universe thought that I needed to have the complete Mother-in-law experience because I was given not one, but two. Mother-in-laws play a very interesting role in our lives by either teaching us how to behave,or how not to behave. I have experienced both sides with both of mine. Lately I have been thinking a lot about the fact that in eight short months I will actually be someones MIL. The only thing that worries me about this is the fact that we can never truly see ourselves through the eyes of another person. The margin for misinterpretation is wide.
After thirty-two years of marriage I can tell you that I am not 100% certain that I have always been on target when assessing my MIL’s intentions towards me, but I am 90% certain that my intentions were completely misunderstood. On one occasion when my children were still toddlers, and my Mil was visiting with us (we live in a different state) she was walking around holding our youngest smiling, chatting with my husband, and I as he got ready to leave for work. Then the moment he walked out the door her facial expression went from smiling to stern, and she said “We need to have a talk!”
My Mil is an incredibly large personality who is accustomed to having things done according to how she perceives they should be done. She was an excellent mother who always put her children first, and she raised my husband to be the kind of husband/father that most women dream of having. With that being said I would also like to point out that when she does not get her way she is prone to bullying tactics, and extreme bouts of pouting. Unfortunately for both of us I was raised by a very dominant father who also insisted on having things done his way, so I developed a strong aversion to having someone decide that they would be setting rules for me to follow as an adult person.
I was immediately put off by her sudden change in demeanor once my husband had left for work. So when she spoke to me in a rather demanding tone stating we needed to talk, my response was to pull out a chair at the kitchen table, and mocking her stern tone I replied “Yes we do!” She was caught off guard by my much less than submissive tone. I started the conversation by stating that I would listen to everything she had to say without interruption, and then I would expect the same courtesy when it was my turn to speak. At this point it was quite evident that she had been unaccustomed to having someone speak to her in the same way she had spoken to them. Then she began to speak.
She told me that she, and her daughter felt that I did not allow them to have a relationship with my husband or my children.She went further to say that she would like to be able to spend more time with her son, and her grandchildren. She did not like the way she felt her son had changed since our nine years of marriage began, and that she thought that we were always arguing. She even said that she thought her son was unhappy. I was then told that I needed to make some major changes. I listened carefully to every word she spoke without once interrupting. She then ended by saying she thought it would be best if we kept our little talk strictly between the two of us, no reason to involve her son.
Then it was my turn to speak. I began by saying that her very behavior this morning was one of the reasons I had not felt comfortable with pursuing a deeper relationship with her, or my sister-in-law. The whole fake smiling, and chatting in front of my husband, then the entire change in demeanor as soon as he walked out the door. I reminded her of the many invitations for them to come to our home for visits, and they’re constant refusal to accept them. I pointed out the fact that yes they had seen us argue, but the common bond to each of those arguments was their presence in our lives. I told her we rarely had disagreements when they were not present. I pointed out the fact that my sister-in-law did not like anyone who had entered any part of the family through marriage. I perceived her as emotionally stunted. I told her that for nine years you all have spoken about this behind my back, as well as, her own son’s, and asked her how she thought that behavior was even the slightest bit fair, or constructive in any way. I told her I understood they did not like me, and that was okay. I said that I wanted her to have a relationship with her son, and grandchildren in spite of that fact, but they could not expect me to be comfortable with leaving my children alone with people who had treated me in this way. Then I told her that as long as my husband was present they could see them as much as they liked.
Then I gave her a key to our home, and told her they always had an open invitation. If they would let me know a head of time I would even make plans not to be there so they could have their time together uninterrupted, and as often as they wished. I also told her that I did not keep secrets from her son, so I would be sharing our conversation with him. After all your intention is to open the lines of communication to ensure his happiness. Then I told her that when you come to our home you will remember that it is equally my home, and that you will show me the same respect that I show to you. It was the beginning of a different kind of Mother-in-law relationship. 😉