Understanding the Mother-in-Law/Daughter-in-Law Relationship Part 2
Watch the MILDIL Video
In part one of our series on the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship we learned why the women who find themselves in these roles often experience emotions ranging from pure joy to hurt and sadness. Once we discovered the answers, our understanding of this special relationship came into focus. We had an “aha” moment which makes our path forward easier to navigate.
Yet, knowing the “why” is only half the battle. Now we need to learn practical application to help all women walk this new path they find themselves on. As a reminder, at Lisa Lou’s we prefer the words Mamor and Damor to describe these special ladies (an adaptation of the Spanish word for love [amor] with an M or a D to designate mother or daughter).
At Caz and Cecelia's engagement party
Let’s talk about a few things a mamor must learn if she wants a healthy relationship with her damor and her son. These may be difficult, but they are necessary.
1. A mamor must accept her son is now a man. She no longer has authority over his life.
2. Relationships take time to build, and the basis of all relationships is love. How do we love? We practice the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:22-26 NIV).
3. Look at the words preceding verse 22 in Galatians. The acts of sin (of flesh) are revealed before the acts of love. “The acts of the flesh are obvious: …hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions… I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21 NIV). Ask yourself, are you practicing the acts of love or the acts of the flesh in your relationship with your damor?
4. A mamor should never speak ill of her damor.
5. A mamor must never guilt her son into having a relationship with her that takes higher priority than his wife. This goes against God’s plan for marriage. Moms, you are not in a covenant with your son. Only wives are included in this covenant.
6. God calls older women to become mentors to younger women, and these are beautiful relationships. Mamors, if you start looking at yourself as a mentor it might change the way you view your damor. Ask yourself, “Would I be her mentor if she had never met my son?” The answer is probably yes. If you view yourself in this way, it will take the competition out of the relationship. Take an “I’m here to help but not interfere” approach.
7. Show respect for your damor. Sometimes she feels as though you think she does not measure up. Our sons only remember what we were like after we had years of experience “adulting.” They do not remember the many times we messed up.
8. Compliment your damor, do not criticize her. Tell her she is a good wife and mom.
9. Do not give unsolicited advice. That ship has sailed. Now is the time for you to be an encourager and a cheerleader.
10. Ask your damor to be a part of your life. Show her that her opinion matters to you. Having raised a male only-child, I love having a daughter around who I know will help me with fashion advice, entertaining ideas, and so on. Embrace her strengths and talents!
11. Pass traditions down to your damor that your family enjoyed when your son was growing up. But mamors, also begin creating new traditions of your own. Forcing all branches of your growing family to stick with old traditions is not worth hurting relationships.
12. Mamors, we now have a new role. Our focus needs to change. This does not mean we stop being mothers, but we need to start looking for our purpose and meaning outside the lives of our children. God does have a next chapter for us, but we need to figure out what that is. If we continue to put our sons as our top priority, and we do not learn to shift roles, we run a great risk of losing them. When a mom continues to control her adult child, it is usually out of fear. Fear that she will no longer have value or meaning in life. Our purpose comes from God. He must be our focus. A season of life that seems to bring about more divorce than other seasons is at the beginning of the empty nest. This often stems from the fact one or both parents put the children as their focus, instead of their marriage. The union between husband and wife must take top priority. Having a healthy marriage does not mean there is no pain when the children leave home and when they marry, but your world will not be turned upside down as it will be if your entire life revolves around your child.
CAZ and Cecelia on their first date!
Here are some tips for the damor that will help her transition into a new family go more smoothly.
1. Show respect for your mamor. Do not treat her like a second-class citizen by making her feel you are telling her, “Go away. He’s mine, now.”
2. God commands us to love our neighbors. This includes your mamor. God has placed her in your life for a reason. Even if you do not see things eye-to-eye, you are called to love her, and you have an opportunity to let her see Christ in you. Demonstrate love to her because it is important to your husband, and it sets the example for your children how you are to love. Remember what God says love is: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV).
3. Do not live under the lie that she is “out to get you.” Turning small things into big things is not healthy in any relationship. Always look at the heart. You may interpret her words one way, but what is her heart really saying?
4. Honor your mamor. She created and raised the man that will be yours for life. Thank her for this gift she has now entrusted to you.
5. Learn to be patient. Recognize that this transition from one role to another can be very painful for the mamor, and understand it has nothing to do with you. She may love you endlessly, but she will still have pain when you marry her son, because there is a shift taking place in a special relationship in her life.
6. Seek out your mamor as a true mentor in your life. Do not look at her as competition. Use this opportunity to learn from her. The mamor knows the dynamics of the family. She can be a great resource and guide, and she just might become your best girlfriend!
7. Include the mamor in your stories. Let her be part of the family and keep her involved in her son’s life. Invite her to events. Share photos with her. The job will fall on you to keep your mamor as involved as possible in the lives of grandchildren. Call her when you need help with babysitting. Be mindful sons are typically not the initiators of social events, which means the damor must step into the role of event planner for both sides of her family. If she does not, this often means the paternal grandparents are left out. It is painful for the mamor when she is cut off and left in the dark, even if unintentional.
8. The mamor loves to be asked her opinion. She wants to help but does not always know what to do. Sometimes it is because she is trying not to step over any boundaries. Some damors misinterpret a mamor offering to help as a sign the mamor is criticizing her. To avoid this, be proactive by asking your mamor for her advice, counsel, and help.
9. Do not compare parents. We are all different which is what created two beautiful people that are also different, and now married. Do not make fun of, or look down on, the differences. It is the good and bad traits of the parents that made the man you fell in love with. Instead, celebrate them!! My husband and I used to mentor newly married couples in a Bible study class, and during one of the lessons the teacher would have each couple look at each other and say, “You came from aliens.” This was always met with laughter, because we have all felt this way at some point in our marriage!
10. Encourage your husband to stay connected to his parents and interact regularly. As mentioned above, men are usually not the social instigators in a marriage. He may not think to always reach out to his parents, and if this happens invitations begin to fall through the cracks and a divide in the family will start to occur. Sons want their parents included in family activities, just as much as daughters desire their parents to be included, but the son may not always vocalize this as much as his wife might. He may even take an “I don’t care” attitude when it comes to planning social events with the family. Therefore, it falls on the damor to make sure the paternal side is included.
11. Respect the traditions of the family from which your husband came, while at the same time build new traditions of your own with your spouse.
Join us next week for Part 3 of our series as we tie everything together and bring to a close what we have learned in our study of the mamor/damor relationship. Until then…
Together with you,