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Wednesday, 29 June 2011


Do you tolerate your in-laws or do you go out of your way to help them blend into your family?

I’m sure you’re asking why you have to make an effort. Put yourself in their shoes, all glossy eyed and fresh face in marriage to a whole bunch of strangers labelled ‘in-laws’. Normally as a newlywed, you try to be nice, to study each member of your new family and you hope and pray you get on with most if not all of them for peace sake if nothing else. But imagine having to be constantly on edge, watching what you say, and hating being with them because you think or perceive that you’re a little more than a pesky insect that flew into their expensive perfume. How would you feel if each time you step your nosy feet into their midst the temperature in the room dips to below zero? Or they carry on discussing topic after topic that they know excludes you because you’ve got no clue?

What you or your family are doing is ‘freezing’ out your in-law! Sometimes, it takes years for several families to fully integrate and accept their in-laws. Oh...the discrimination is often subtle (nuance), non-verbal...clever.

The new wife/husband may react in different ways depending on their upbringing, personal values, beliefs, tolerance level etc. The first category of wife/husband of this awful mistreatment from their in-laws bears the weight of this discrimination in their heart, feeling wretched, rejected, unloved and inferior. They end up resenting their in-laws. Over the years, they might remain unforgiving. But they keep their lips sealed. These are the ‘accepting’ group.

In other instances, another set of wife/husband may be intolerant of such crass rudeness and drift far away (as far as the east is from the west) from their in-laws. They drum up one excuse after another when they get invited to family events. They call only when something like a birth or death occurs. They silently ‘disown’ their in-laws. Their attitude is: better to stay away from the cold zone! The only time they get re-united with their in-laws is if they perceive a considerable shift from cold to hot (not warm!) in the relationship over time. I call this group the ‘visionary’ group.

A third cluster of wife/husband may decide to lash back at their in-laws, finding the emotional injustice unacceptable. They speak against the deliberate exclusion tactics in the family. Of course, the repercussion is that words are spoken in anger from both camps that may later be regretted, but for the time being, justice is seen to have been done. When this happens, there’s a huge outcry, a call for apology, bluffing, threats...a tearing apart of an already divided family. This feud can last anything from a day to years. This I call the ‘resisting’ camp.

In these situations, there’s a ripping apart of families, lingering hurt, feeling of rejection that leaves a vile taste in the mouth, a foul smell in the nostrils and a lumpy pain in the heart of many. Children get caught up in the cold war, sometimes married couples are forced to take sides and there’s no victory either way.

'What God has joined together let no one put asunder...'

So why can’t parents, siblings, aunts, uncles wish married couples well, pray for their growth and success, leave them to learn to be married and help them on their journey?

If you’re an in-law or you’re married, I’ve got a bit of advice for you. I’ve been married twelve years, thank God. But I tell you, I speak with authority on this subject.

Practical advice: Go out of your way to include your in-laws in your conversation. Stick to topics you know they can contribute to. This is good hosting attribute anyway and common sense. Make everyone in your home or at any event comfortable and welcome.

Treat your in-laws the way you would like to be treated or spoken to. Put yourself in their shoes. A little sensitivity and consideration goes a long way. This means no back stabbing and hypocrisy!

Show (keen) interest in their life, interest, work, and hobbies...just like you would your own flesh and blood! And be consistent. Let your love not be dependent on how well you receive (material or otherwise) from them.

Discuss their plans, dreams, and expectations with them just like you would your own loved ones. They will appreciate and speak well about you. It’s a two way street.
Let your concern, loyalty, love and attention never be called to question or found wanting. The years in which you were wonderful will be quickly forgotten. It’s human nature! And you’ll wonder how one bad seed sown can ruin the entire harvest.

And, bringing up stomach roiling topics like past partners in front of their spouse is not only disrespectful but it’s in bad taste! Of course, the spouse might not share your idea of a bad joke except if your intention was to alienate them.

When the family battle rages, what happens? The couple will choose to either stick together or fall apart, putting their blood ties first. Remember marriage was originally designed to be a life time commitment. Allowing your parents, pull you apart, instead of building you up is not only foolish but it shows your inability to live a life of total commitment.

‘A man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife...’

Your task is to reconcile all warring parties not abandon your marriage! Do you still need me to pronounce that your in-laws are your God-given family? Okay! Since you still don’t get it, I’m confirming it. They are your true family. Love them all and as much as it is in your power, live peaceably with them. Life is too short for acrimony.

Parents forget about the dreams you had about your child getting hooked to the royal prince or princess! This is reality. Your precious son/daughter has handpicked their partner. The WISE thing to do is to accept and love their choice except of course, if they’re unlovable! That’s another topic.

My hope is that you find joy and love in being married to the one you chose to be with for life.

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