The In-laws love tug of war – part 1
It has been a very long time since our last communication, many have been wondering what happened to our weekly empowerment, we are glad to be back, and here is this week’s instalment.
The in-laws love tug of war part 1
The issues related to the in-laws relationships are broad and we are not going to be able to address all of them in this one instalment. So we’ll have part 2 or even part 3 under this theme.
Let’s commence by saying there is something amazing, something miraculous, and something marvellous about the relationship called marriage. It is different from any other relationship that we can ever have in this world. Marriage is the coming together of two people, often unrelated, coming from different backgrounds, different upbringing, sometimes different cultures, coming together to become one flesh , resulting in a special relationship that is more important than any other relationship they might ever have, even with their blood relatives.
Let’s look at this typical example. Here is a young man who has being raised by a loving mother, she did her best to make him what his is today, and throughout the years she was the most important person in his life, and she knew that she was special to him. Then, one day this young man meets some “strange” girl (from wherever) and after a year or two he decides to marry her. This “strange” girl (now the wife) becomes the most important person in the young man’s life. She comes from nowhere and jumps to the front of the queue of relationships and importance in his life. When she does this she displaces his mother, his sisters and all other close relatives. Not only does she displace them, but she also has great influence over him. He does no longer make decisions independently but he always consults his wife which might be viewed as been controlled by his wife. In Africa, the wife might even be accused of having given him or made him eat “something”.
Now, the fact of the matter is that each family would like to see their children progress in life, they would love to see them get marriage and settle down, however, this growth or transition often poses a challenge and may even lead to conflict with the in-laws. The families are not necessarily opposed to the idea of the two getting married, but it is the apparent displacement that seems to create conflicts. It is the love tug of war. As a result the same people who were celebrating when the person was getting married turnaround to become the worst enemies. Of course there are cases where there are in-laws who are just unhappy with the choice of the spouse that their son/daughter has made, sometimes because they preferred someone else, an ex-girlfriend, some girl down the street, a song leader in their church, etc.
Secondly, many conflicts are as a result of unmet expectations. Now, when two people get married there are expectations that they have about marriage; it is these expectations that often create conflicts if they are not properly communicated before married and not met in marriage. Many have been disappointed and some opted to divorce when they realise that the marriage that they have is far from the one they expected. In the same way, in-laws do have their own expectations, they might expect, for example, that their son-in-law would behave just like their other sons, call them “daddy” and “mommy” and always come around every month for a weekend visit, etc. On the other side, they might also be an expectation that they will get a super Makoti (daughter-in-law), one who will come and cook, clean and take care of them. In many cases these expectations are never fulfiled, in fact in some cases the direct opposite is what happens. And all this often leads to negative attitude and resentment.
Thirdly, what we need to realise is that marriage (and the in-laws relationship that results from it) has a way of unsettling the status quo in any family. Therefore we can’t just ignore it and assume that it will sort itself out; there is a need to intentionally address the challenges around the in-law issues. If this tug of war is not addressed, it will have a strain in the marriage that can make the marriage unliveable and can eventually lead to divorce. Communications is the key to addressing this challenge; unfortunately the only time that we communicate is when there is already a crisis. In all families, couples need to hold a special “in-laws indaba” to discuss issues related to the in-laws, issues like: how to relate with them, how often to visit them, how to call them (“daddy”, etc), how to assist them when they are in need, if and how to request assistance from them, etc.
Fourthly, conflicts are common in all kinds of relationships, we have conflicts at work, at church and in every other aspect of our lives, even among siblings and blood relatives there are often many conflicts. Therefore in-laws conflicts should not be viewed differently. It is unfortunate that conflicts that we have with regard to in-laws are often viewed in a way that suggests that marriage or marrying a particular person was a mistake. When these conflicts are viewed in this manner, divorce is often encouraged or seen as an option.
And lastly, love is the answer to in-laws conflict. It might be true that there are some mother/father-in-law from a very hot place (far from heaven), those that hate you and despise for no apparent reason. If that is true it should also be true that there are some son/daughter-in law from the same place, therefore, the solution to in-laws problems is not in fighting back, as has been the reaction of many, unfortunately that has only served to make things worse. The solution is in giving them something that they don’t deserve, and that’s unconditional love. The Bible says love your enemies, therefore if you don’t like your in-laws just declare them enemies, and do what you have to do (according to the Bible), which is to love them. There is power in love; power to transform enemies to friends. Conduct yourself in a way that they will realise that instead of losing a son/daughter they have gained a loving daughter/son.
To be continued…