I recall the incident quite vividly as if it happened yesterday yet it was over 15 years ago. I attended an event with my aunt and on our way back, a few of her friends decided to ride back with us. There were four of us and I was the only one not married.
I’m not sure how the discussion veered into the ‘mother in law’ territory but somehow it did and I will never forget how scared I was on that ride home. Each of them shared stories of their experiences in the hands of in laws; whether it was sister in law, brother in law, father in law and of course most of it centered on the mother in law. It was as if they were trying to outdo each other as the stories only got worse. That night, all the romantic idealizations that I ever had about my future husband and his family disappeared. I was already engaged and looking forward to marriage but nowhere in my imagination or dreams was there a horror story about in laws. After that incident, I knew there was a lot of work to be done and it was mostly to pray as I could not control the future. I prayed to God that I would have a different experience and that after our wedding, that I would not have similar horror stories.
Today, I have stories to tell, from my experience with my mother, father and sisters in law and they are not ‘horror stories’ Challenging? Yes, Trying? Yes, but not horrific. So I can say God answered my prayers. There was actually a time that I became closer to my mother in law than my mother. So much so, that I would pray for God to help me keep a balance. Eventually some things happened that jolted me into reality and I now know for sure that my mother in law can never be my mother and vice versa. However, I love them both, in their individual capacities.
So with over 15 in marriage and still learning, here are here are some life lessons I would like to share:
1. Your mother in law is not your mother neither is she your friend. Love and respect her but remember there is an invisible line you should never cross. She will never love you more than her son.
2. You have the upper hand: No matter how much your mother in law tries, one thing is clear – she does not sleep with her son. You are the one who goes into the bedroom with him and that is a very powerful thing. You can settle a lot of things behind closed doors. A wise woman will use that power smartly. Not to manipulate or be conniving, but be aware of it and use it appropriately.
3. Pick your battles. Not everything demands a battle cry. Stop and reflect on the motive behind the action. Is she doing this to get at you or is she doing it because she loves her son? Don’t make everything a big deal otherwise your husband will get tired of coming to your defense all the time.
4. Your husband is not stupid. He sees how you treat your side of the family compared to his side. If you are obviously partial, he will try to get even with you. You cannot claim to love him yet hate his family.
5. If you love your husband, you will take ‘crap’. Suck it up; write it as the price for love and peace in your home. If you want your marriage to be a loving one, you will have an imaginary closet with nothing on the other side of it. When offense arises from your in laws, you open the closet and throw the offence away, never to be seen again. Tag the closet ‘because I love him’. It will give you peace and your husband will love you more for the sacrifices you make on his behalf.
6. Can you take the litmus test? The bible says you will reap what you sow. Another way of saying this is ‘what you put into it is what you will get out of it’ So what is the litmus test? Can you pray to God to give you a daughter / son in law like yourself? If you can truthfully say that prayer, then you know that you are on good grounds.
Let me know if you took the test and the outcome. Comments are welcome.
Photo Credit: essence.com
Bola O is a business executive. She lives happily with her husband and daughter.