Mother-in-laws were quite the topic at my bachelorette weekend. Everyone has a mother-in-law story, good or not-so-good. I’ve been extremely lucky in inheriting Jimmy’s mother, who is a strong and wonderful woman (not to mention, she’s welcomed me wholeheartedly into her family).
However, I think the issue for many women comes with that word–mother. It’s too big of an expectation to think someone is going to be similar to YOUR mother. So many people marry into families thinking their spouse’s family is going to somehow resemble their own or that their relationship with their partner’s family is going to be similar to their own relationship with their parents, be it functional or dysfunctional, and we’re all dysfunctional. Individuals are so different, how could we even think for a moment that an entire family would even remotely resemble our own?
I think the important idea to go into marriage with is that your partner’s family will never be your family. They have different traditions, ways of communicating, expressing their love, and being dysfunctional. It’s okay, really. Try to appreciate the differences. For instance, my fiance’s family likes to go to the mall on Christmas Eve. I think this is absolutely insane. My mom and I have always stayed as far away from the mall as possible when it gets close to Christmas. I couldn’t understand this tradition for quite some time, but I think I am starting to get it. Chaos brings people together, especially families. It’s fun to “get out in it” as Jimmy says. In a sea of frenzied shoppers, your family has to become concrete and familiar, kind of like how we feel walking around in this frantic world at times. His mother, my soon-to-be mother-in-law, also likes to say, “just making memories” whenever something doesn’t go as planned. Going to malls on Christmas Eve is almost like planning for the unplanned–something unpredictable will happen, and a memory will be made.
Any family (biological or other) that accepts and loves us also brings joy and stress to our lives, but isn’t it worth it? As with everything and everybody, there’s a bright side and an underbelly, both sides of the coin.
Above all else, your in-laws helped make, create, and raise the person whom you love the most. I think that counts for a whole heck of a lot. So next time you want to complain about your in-laws: pause, look at your partner, and try to thank them. Stop comparing because it’s never going to add up. Families are messy businesses, and you’ve just got to wade in and get dirty.