Mother-In-Law Relationships: Sour or Sweet?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

*Take the Boxing Gloves Off
I've been avoiding a post about my mother-in-law (MIL) for obvious reasons. I haven't written a post about her (positive or negative) since this blog started. Why wait until now? I wanted to make sure I was free from hurt. I wanted to make sure I was respectful. I also wanted it to be special. 

I met my MIL right before I started dating my husband. Zeke and I had a long-distance relationship. He was 1 hour and a half away in school and I lived around 30 miles away from his parents. It was common for me to visit their house on occasion. I remember sitting in her kitchen just talking to her and my late father-in-law. We had a great relationship until the Christmas eve Zeke and I got engaged. 
I will not bother to tell you why things changed or list different situations from my perspective. What I can tell you is that my MIL is one of the sweetest persons you will ever meet. The fact is, sometimes relationships just go sour. Ours was not great for 6 years. During that time there were ups and downs that taught me a lot about navigating through in-law relationships. Most of the lessons I learned came with a pre-requisite: take the boxing gloves off. It was not easy but glory be to God, our relationship is different today. I did 3 things to encourage me along the way:

1. Prayer. I believe in the power of it. After my heart was not hurting so much I started to pray for my MIL. I'd pray that God would bless her and give her great health. I went a step further and started using positive confessions daily. I used so say something like "my in-laws and I love each other as real family do." I also asked for a few friends to pray for me every time I saw her so that my actions and reactions would be nothing but loving and kind. 

2. Counseling. Talking to Christian counselors about my issues made a world of difference. What you don't want to do is talk to people who are going to throw gas in the fire. I went to counselors who encouraged me to walk towards healing and reconciliation. Those women prayed with me and gave me encouragement as well as practical steps to take. One of the things they told me to do took a lot of courage but proved to be helpful. 

3. Serving. I thought I already knew how to serve my MIL. Doing little things around the house is different from serving her well. You have to know a person in order to give that which will make an impact. I had to find out what her love language was in order to be more effective in serving. The Bible teaches us to serve others wholeheartedly as if we were serving the Lord Jesus. Taking my boxing gloves off were surely required in this situation. Can you picture a waiter trying to serve you a glass of water with boxing gloves? What about bringing you another serving of bread? He or she would make a mess. Clean hands and pure heart are needed when serving. Knowing more means serving with greater impact.

I prayed every step of the way. I asked God for an opportunity to learn more about my MIL (the love language deal) and He granted me that. I often prayed about reconciliation, even when my mind couldn't see an end to years of strife.
I stand in a place of healing looking forward to building a strong friendship with one of the best women I've ever met, the woman who birthed and raised my husband. He learned many great things from her and she deserves to be praised for that. 
I don't know where you stand in your relationship with your in-laws. Look at my story as witness of reconciliation through healing, forgiveness and serving. 
I know how it feels to be so hurt that you think things will never get better. I also have tasted and saw the goodness of God restoring a sour relationship. 
I encourage you to seek healing. It might take time but it's worth the effort.
* Illustration credits here and here
Part 2: Mother-in-Law Relationships: Building Bridges
Part 3: Mother-in-Law Relationships: Forgiveness
Jen Newsham said...

Thanks for such a great post. I have been praying and seeking reconciliation with my mother-in-law too! God has put that on my heart and I am excited to see how He works through our relationship. Thanks again for the great tips.

Cintia Listenbee said...

@LivingaChangedLife I'm so honored you had a chance to read. I pray that you keep praying and doing the hard work of reconciliation. God is faithful and He will give you restoration. Keep me posted.

Ak said...

I can relate to this post. I pray about this myself. I pray to be able to handle these situations in more of a christlike manner. But what I have learned through praying is that we can't change other people- but praying can change us and make experiences easier for us to handle- even though it doesn't change the experience or the person we have issues with. And isn't that what it's all about? It helps me, but I do hope things get better.

Cintia Listenbee said...

@Mae I've heard people say that prayer changes things but the reality is, prayer changes me! You are right my friend. Keep praying!

Karen said...

This is an excellent post. The steps you took are a wonderful map to reconciliation in any situation. Glad to hear you had good, Godly counselors. You and your little family will enjoy the fruit of your brave steps. blessings, k