Yes, you made it! You finally tied the knot with the man of your dreams! You did not envision thorns along the marriage path but here you are, getting pricked every now and then, no matter how cautiously you tread. Will I survive these thorns, you may ask? These thorns of rift between my in-laws and I, especially my mother-in-law!
The mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is one of the most complicated human connections where a man is viewed by two women in different lights. One woman will always see him first as a man whilst the other sees him first as her child.
However, mothers-in-law can be a blessing to their daughters-in-law by offering love, wisdom and encouragement. The Bible makes note of several supportive in-law relationships and one of such is what existed between Ruth and Naomi. Theirs was indeed, one of a kind and it is obvious Naomi had planted seeds of faith during the years that Ruth was married to her son. This actually influenced Ruth’s decision to follow Naomi back home when her husband died. She had absolute confidence in her mother-in-law and knew she would be safe with her. Emulating this, mothers-in-law can step up to be there for their sons’ wives in every needed aspect of their marriage.
These lovely women should not be seen as “Women from Hell” but rather be viewed as “The Guardian Angels” of the family. They must be encouraged to give spiritual guidance to the family, respect the space of the married couple and show real love to their sons’ wives. Often times, the mother-in-law rarely believes she is meddling in her son’s business but many daughters-in-law feel that without firm boundaries, their husbands’ mothers can actually destroy their marriage. Some mothers-in-law also feel their years of experience can help the family to succeed and will therefore offer advice or help in situations where unfortunately, it could be unwanted. These situations could be in the areas of homemaking and parenting. Friction can develop into huge feuds, leading to long-term unhappiness and stress, consequently, affecting the quality of the marriage. Other reasons for unpleasant relations between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law include the pressure to have children, personality clashes and sheer dislike for one another.
One cause of unrest on the part of the mother-in-law is her fear of being “dethroned” from the hierarchy as queen by another woman in the “family monarchy”. This is power play at work and that is, having two women fighting for supremacy in the eyes of one man! This rivalry can give rise to a long-term hatred between these women if not addressed appropriately. Here, the man’s role is crucial; he can head off problems if he reassures his mother that she is an important part of his life and that he still feels connected to her. He must go on to profess his love and show respect to her while at the same time, demonstrating to her that his primary connection now, is with his wife.
It is also important for daughters-in-law to do some self-inventory, questioning their part in contributing to the strained relationship just as we are told in the Good Book to deal with our own actions before helping others correct theirs. Since these women are going to be in each other’s lives for many years, it will be right for the daughter-in-law to treat her husband’s mother with respect and also show gratitude for raising the special man she is married to.
It is, indeed, possible for the two women to foster harmonious living for a healthy marriage and like Naomi, it is important for all mothers-in-law to set the right tone for the relationship with their daughters-in-law. In solidarity with women all over the world, let us not be driven to despise each other but join hands in perfecting the very essence of marriage by being instruments of peace.
By Ayesha-Andrea Apedoe