When I was growing up, I always thought relationships had to be 50/50. Give and take needed to be equal or the relationship would not succeed.
In reality, what I discovered was that relationships almost always consist of an unequal number of contributions. If one person is having a great day, they might contribute 80%. If the other person was having a bad day or a troublesome day, their contribution might only be 20% or less. The goal was to have the total equal to 100%. Unfortunately, that didn’t always happen.
Here are six tips for having a good relationship with your mother-in-law.
Doris wasn’t just a mother-in-law, but a fabulous friend. Personally, I feel she had quite a bit more to overlook in me in the beginning as I was selfish, opinionated, and just plain stupid. Example – I had my second child and was not up to par. It was spring and, of course, flower planting time. I being the perfectionist (and this is where stupid and selfish comes in) did the unthinkable… To be nice she planted a peachy/pink bed of petunias in an area where I would usually put, I think, red. Would you believe that when I felt up to it, I actually replaced her petunias with my preferred color? When I think of that today I just cringe. She never said a word, but I’ll bet she was not impressed with me.
Tip 1 – Be thankful for the little things they do for you and be gracious
When my husband and I started going together we were of different religions. I was with a girlfriend that was Lutheran, the same as my mother-in-law, and she said to me. “Why doesn’t Art find a nice Lutheran girl to date?” At the time I was appalled. Today I think it is pretty funny as later in life I turned to Lutheran and she turned to the religion that I had been for her second husband.
Tip 2 – Don’t sweat the small stuff. There is always tomorrow and things change
The two of us came from entirely different backgrounds. She was a farm girl and I was a city brat. Her taste was totally different than mine and we had a good time teasing about my exotic, or just plain different taste than hers. One time after putting up a half-moon mirror in my family room I asked her what she thought and she replied, “I think it looks totally stupid.” O.K. then!!! I had grown up enough by this time to actually laugh it off and I still have that totally stupid mirror still hanging in my family room.
Tip 3 – Appreciate true honesty and don’t take it personally
She was always there when I needed her, or just a phone call away. She actually got a warning ticket for speeding on Center Street to come and wash my kitchen floor. I was getting ready for one of the girl’s weddings and she thought I could use some help. The officer asked her where she was going in such a hurry, 50 in a 25-speed zone, and she said to wash my daughter-in-law’s floor. He gave her a warning, but I’ll bet there were a few laughs down at the station after that. I hope none of them knew me so as to judge me, expecting this poor older lady to wash my kitchen floor?.
Tip 4 – Appreciate the things they do for you even if it is not necessary
When I planted my perennial garden I worked during the day and had to get my plants in after dark for some reason. My mother and mother-in-law sat on logs in my backyard with flashlights to help me see what I was doing. My backyard neighbor had to hang over the fence in the morning to see what the hell was going on.
Tip 5 – Appreciate the big things they do for you
I could go on and on. She has since passed on and I miss her terribly. I miss our late evening gab sessions on the phone. Her stories that went on and on, and her being there for me was so enjoyable. Sure, she made me a little crazy sometimes, but I learned to overlook her differences and she overlooked mine. When she told me that I was more like a daughter to her than a daughter-in-law that was the ultimate compliment.
Tip 6 – Enjoy their differences and learn from them
They seem to have a book of knowledge that they love to share. Remember that they also compete with your own mother on most occasions and also learn how not to tread on toes.
When I was a little girl, I always felt like I didn’t have any friends. I was raised in a neighborhood of all boys. Play revolved around playing cowboys and Indians and other games that involved me being the only girl. I must say since I was the only one with cowboy boots and a holster set, I often played a lead role. I would pretend to be Roy Rogers or The Lone Ranger. Most of the boys were younger and smaller than I was so they didn’t argue with me. They followed my lead.
This can come in many ways. It could be when you were asked to prom, homecoming, or more exciting a marriage proposal.
I think my best compliment was my wedding proposal. Even though, in my case, it was when we were very young, but, guess what it is still working. Sometimes I don’t know how, but it is still in the working. I often kid that I need a medal, but, in fact, we both probably do. We have figured how to make this union work.
I recently read the book “All About Love” and connected with the author, bell hooks, when she said that “Women believe it is a sign of commitment, an expression of love, to endure unkindness or cruelty, to forgive and forget”.
I was married during college to a bright and passionate young man. We were married for 12 tumultuous years. During that time, I believed that everything must be done to save the relationship.
Do I walk my talk? Do I follow through? Do my actions match my words? Do I do as I say? Sadly, in many cases, I would have to say NO…I feel kind of creepy admitting that because my intentions are always good. If I get down right honest, I often think out loud. I try out ideas like I try on clothes. When I speak my words and I look for reactions. My need to please is strong, so if the reactions to my thoughts out loud are too severe, I may go another direction.
I feel I definitely practice what I preach most of the time. For years and years, I’ve said I wanted a cottage on a lake. Now, it wasn’t just any lake or just any area, but I wanted it to be on South Lake Michigan Drive in Door County, WI, on Lake Michigan.
I always knew I was going to do this. We didn’t know how, didn’t know when, but it was going to happen. It had to. I put pictures up at work, constantly looked at the availability of properties and there was nothing… especially in our price range.
I wish kids today (including my own) wouldn’t use profanity as much as they do. I really feel that there are so many more productive ways to express oneself other than swearing. This is something I strongly believe, BUT…. do I follow thru myself? Not so much.
They DO. But…I’m very careful about what I say out loud. There’s a certain power that dreams–shared and spoken aloud–have in my life. A few of my biggies have been completing my master’s degree, adopting my kids, running a marathon. I committed and then took small, methodical steps to work toward the goal. I am slow and steady. I believe in planning your work and working your plan.
I love it when I am working toward a goal. Big goals public goals are easiest. It’s much harder for me to walk the walk in the little, more private, things. I believe in making my bed and walking Stella every morning, shining my kitchen sink reading to my kids every night. Many years ago I read an inspirational book called Living a Beautiful Life. I was inspired to do the little things that add up to the kind of life I want for myself.
Right now I’m struggling to incorporate…re-incorporate DAILY meditation into my life. I believe in the power and positive benefits of meditation. I love the calm I gain…the focus and the clarity that just IS when I am in a regular practice of meditation. I preach this to my kids. I read practical books to give me insights like Just Sit: A Meditation Guidebook for People Who Know They Should But Don’t. I have gone through months when I have regularly sat and gotten my zen on every day.
But then something happened. My routine changed…probably the school year stated and I fell into a new rhythm–one WITHOUT daily meditation. Starting a new school year doesn’t stop my other routines, I brush my teeth every day and make myself a protein shake for breakfast. I do lots of activities religiously and I don’t cycle on and off. What is different about mediation? Are the effects not as annoying as hunger, not as pathetic as Stella’s patient waiting, not as disgusting as rotten teeth? I love accomplishment and routine, maybe I haven’t linked my ability or inability to accomplish to my ability or inability to meditate. Maybe that is what is holding me back from the next series of goals that loom unfulfilled in my future?
I have this slow cycle of regular mediation practice followed by 0 practice. Whatever the excuse, its time to get back and practice what I preach. There. I think I’ve just said it out loud.