It's a syndrome that we daughters-in-laws all suffer from at times. Disastrous is exactly what it is, for it obstructs peace and harmony in every family where the daughter-in-law manifests symptoms. For some of us it's a passing phase, like passing from adolescence to adulthood, while for others adulthood never comes, so the syndrome becomes chronic and general unhappiness is always the result thereof.
Because I received a fair amount of flak after publishing "Advice to the Mother-in-Law" last month and had a good many daughters-in-law smiling benignly at their mothers-in-law when they shrewdly showed them the article, I felt a crying need to explore the other side of the coin.
"My Parents Are Better than Yours"
And what exactly is this "Disastrous Daughter-in-Law Syndrome" that I have just referred to? It starts with a belief that your in-laws are never good. Quite honestly, there is nothing good in them at all. You're always comparing them to your own parents, loudly and always in the presence of their son, with the express purpose of showing him just how inadequate his parents really are. You make a huge fuss of anything your parents give to you or your children, and even though you never vocalize it, the underlying meaning is "See, my parents love the children more than yours do!" If your in-laws send a gift, your comments are usually anything but kind. You would gladly empty your entire house for your own parents, but if your in-laws request anything from their son, you get angry. It's an ongoing competition. My parents are better than yours; my brother is handsomer than yours; my sisters bake better than yours; my cousins are friendlier than yours; my mother's house is cleaner than your mother's house; our children love my parents more than they do yours; my mother's cat is prettier than your mother's cat, and so on."Annoying, isn't it?" That's probably what most husbands would say.
Depending on how fiercely loyal your husband is to his family, the results of this continuous battle will vary. Some men eventually succumb. They declare a cease-fire, promise never to mention anything good about their parents ever after, and are only too glad to spend every weekend thereafter at your parents' place, visiting their own parents only once every two months. For other men, such behavior becomes an open declaration of war. They begin to keep you and the children away from your parents and insist that you spend every weekend thereafter at their parents' place, much to your ire.
So is there a solution?
Well, this is my well-tried remedy that has worked for me. The rules are as follows:
1. Grow up. Such behavior is decidedly immature.
2. Accept your in-laws. You have them to thank for the wonderful man who has become your life partner.
3. Praise them often in the presence of your husband, family, and friends. For that which they deserve (no lies ofcourse). That way, even though you haven't grown to like them as of yet, you will in time.
4. Realize that they are also humans. They have their faults. You would never disown your parents for their flaws, so how can you expect the same from your husband's parents?
5. Lower your expectations. As much as you might feel that marriage is a huge adjustment for you, having their son married is an adjustment for them, too. Their son no longer belongs exclusively to them. You all will now have to learn to share.
6. Treat them respectfully. A bad word creates a permanent rift.
7. Be thankful, rather than jealous, when your children show them love. Would you deprive your own children of the love of their grandparents, confining them only to the love of your own parents because of jealousy? How would you feel if your brother's wife did the same with your own parents?
8. Do all you can to make them feel at home when they come by for a visit. You would do the same for your own parents, no doubt.
9. Never speak ill of them in the presence of your children. If they have overstepped their boundaries, discuss this in private with your husband.
10. Never drag your husband into an argument between your mother-in-law and yourself. By doing this, you place your husband in a very precarious position. Should you have any issue you need to address with your mother-in-law, do so in a respectful manner. By holding mature adult discussions, an amicable agreement can be reached.
11. Instead of demanding, be a giver. Always remember that it is sheer folly to always go around demanding that your rights be fulfilled. Rather, concentrate on fulfilling the rights of others. In so doing, you will find that those around you will automatically begin to fulfill your rights.
12. Recompense comes from Allah. Give and give and don't ever expect something in return. Always remember that the best recompense is always from Allah, the Almighty. Allah says, "And what is the reward of good except good?" (Ar-Rahmaan 55:60)
Now, mother-in-law, pick up that phone and call your daughter-in-law. It's time to get your own back. Provided, of course, that you took the advice for mothers-in-law given the last time around.