His momma don’t like me.
But she really doesn’t like anyone. Really, it’s nothing new, certainly not to me. As of February 14th, my husband and I have been together 24 years. My mother-in-law has not liked me since 1992.
When we first met, he was in a very dysfunctional relationship. His mom told me that she and his dad had been praying for someone to come along and change his mind about that relationship. I can imagine the look on my face when she was saying this. **smile**sweetly tilts head** She proceeds to say, “but we had hoped it would be a male friend or a pastor. Not another woman.” I guess that should be a lesson in being careful what we pray for.
It has never been healthy for us to go visit. Even before we were married there were snide remarks and inappropriate actions. I’ve heard stories of mother-in-laws who were hateful because they felt like the wife “stole” their little boy. Thankfully, it’s not like that. It’s more about attention. But what she does is just crazy stuff. Hateful stuff.
After being in the “family” a while, it did not take long to realize how destructive my mother-in-law really was. I got to know my sister-in-law well, and could see how the atmosphere in which she and my husband grew up directly related to who they were, how they thought, how they acted and reacted, and how they related to people. It has often been a reminder to me of how our environment can screw us up.
There were times she would try, in her own way, she would try. She would send things or write in cards “Daughter-in-love” and sign it “Mom.” But I never felt like she loved me. Her kids never really felt loved, and I know she doesn’t even like who she is, she can’t love others. Additionally, I have an amazing mom, who has earned the name “Mom” by loving me unconditionally my whole life. Using that term with my mother-in-law just seemed to cheapen it and I was never willing to do that to my mom.
For a long time I felt hurt. That no matter what I did, I would never be good enough. Finally, fairly recently, I learned that it’s not my issue. My mother-in-law ’s identity is not in who she is as a child of God. My mother-in-law has her identity based on who she thinks she is. It is based on appearances and possessions and status, and half-a-dozen other things that don’t matter. And as long as she doesn’t know who she really is, she will never be able to know who God created me to be.
Over the years it has become apparent that she has a mental health issue, and is not just a witch. She has seen medical professionals about it. They have gone as far as to prescribe medications and she will even take the medications. For a little while. But then, when things have been going smoothly for a while, something in her says, “Hey. I haven’t had a fight with anyone lately. I must be being taken advantage of. I have to get these people who are taking advantage of me.”
I feel pretty certain that is what happened the last time we saw them. Only that time, instead of walking on eggshells like we have done in the past, I didn’t. I asked her to stop, and she didn’t. Then I told her to stop, and she didn’t. Then I told her to leave. That was 15 months ago. We have not seen them since.
Of course things slowly blew over, and life moved on. I have talked to her on the phone a few times. The conversations are awkward, but they always have been. I am the only one that will talk to her. Everyone else scatters like flies when she calls. They have chosen not to come see just us, and their only three grandchildren, in over a year. The whole relationship makes me sad.
I’m sad for my kids who are old enough, and intuitive enough, to know that they are not a priority to their grandparents. They have noticed that they have never come to see them compete in a sports events or to perform at school. And they are old enough to know that this is not the relationship that any of us had hoped for with their grandparents. It has become our job to make sure they understand that they had nothing to do with it though. And that this is in no way representative of what we want our relationship with their kids to be like.
Through this, I can totally see how these behaviors are passed down through generations. Like a generational curse, if you will. We often think of the effects of parent’s behaviors being passed down from one generation to the next in situations of abuse or addiction. When a father has a sinful lifestyle, the chances of his children practicing that same sinful lifestyle increase. This is not a new concept.
Being aware of how we can screw up our kids because we are screwed up, can also be a great tool. Awareness of the behaviors, be it depression, addiction, anxiety, oppositional behaviors, or a number of different dysfunctional behaviors, that we accepted as life when we were children can be addressed, and sometimes stopped, and don’t have to be passed on to our kids. We have to be aware, and call upon God for help as work through the unhealthy and aim for the healthy. We don’t have be the same people our parents were.
I’m sad that this is not the relationship I wanted with my in-laws. And even though society sets us up for failing relationships with them, I never expected, or wanted something so non-existent and empty. I have to remind myself that her relationship with her mother-in-law, albeit by her choosing, was also empty. And she is not ok – emotionally, physically, relationally or spiritually.
I’m sad for my in-laws. They raised three kids who are good people, but all have some big issues because of things that went down when they were young and still at home. This is not the relationship I wanted for my kids and their paternal grandparents. I really hoped that they would be able to redeem their selves in the eyes of their children with this “second chance.” And my in-laws are missing out on knowing some of the greatest people they will ever meet. These kids are smart and respectful. They are funny and caring. They are loyal and would do anything for their friends and family. And they love the Lord with all their hearts.
There is good that can and will come out of this dysfunctional relationship. I have learned tons of “What Not To Dos.” We are real with our kids about mental illness and their potential to experience depression and addiction. And I have already started to pray for my daughters-in-law. One day, Lord willing, I will have three! I pray that I never break her heart with my words or actions. I pray that we have relationships that their friends are jealous of. I pray we have a friendship that defies what society says it is going to be. I pray that I never make her feel like an outsider, but like she is one of my own.
What about your relationship with your in-laws? How do you deal with the complications, and what are some good things that come out of your relationship with them?