Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Of mother-in-law and daughter-in-law

I think of all the relationships... the relationship between a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law is the stickiest. Generally a man has 2 women in his life... straight relationship, I mean. But then also, in a gay relationship there is a dominant partner too (pseudo woman, perhaps???). The world is getting a little crazy these days what with a gay pastor getting 'married'. Where did he find in the Bible that God condones such a relationship?

Anyway, the marriage of the son brings in the second woman in his life. MIL and DIL relationships have always been a brunt for jokes. The acronym M-I-L has also come to stand for Monster-In-Law. In days of old, when the son marries, the wife becomes part of his household... Many MILs impose their will on their new DIL because in the Chinese culture, a woman marries into the family of her husband. If we keep to this old system of thinking, I think the wife's family gets a raw deal out of this arrangement these days cos they spent small fortunes too educating their daughters. But new financial independence and education has also changed the mechanics of this.

Early on in the marriage, the DIL is in need of the MIL's approval and friendship. But if the MIL fails to 'capitalize' on that, and continues to feel that the DIL must follow her way, then in the later years when the need is reversed, then the MIL stands to lose out. We all grow old. With the failing of our bodies with age, it helps a lot when there is genuine affection shared. But sadly, many MIL fail to see that.... partly because they love their son too much that they think no woman can measure up.

MIL tends to measure up 'the new woman' in her son's life with her standards, and usually those standards are high. The MIL will usually feel that the DIL falls short in executing her wifely duties in taking care of her son. No woman is good enough for her son. Can't blame that sort of thinking. But I think we forget that mothering ends once a kid grows up. The MIL should cut some slack actually, cos being young, the DIL is on a learning curve. But the MIL expects the DIL to be on a steep learning curve, which creates undue stress and strains. Many young couple's relationship suffers as a result not forgetting, mother-son's too.

In the mean time, the poor son gets torn.... between his 'old' and new love. It's a Catch-22 situation. Taking sides puts him in the line of fire either way. So, men being men.... they shut it out, deal with it only when necessary; which is easier cos the 2 women love him equally. And so whatever that troubles continue to simmer, with everything taking a subtle form.... till it explodes.

I think things have improved a lot today. Education, lesser children, a generation of mothers who worked while raising their kids, financial independence, better living standards and so on contribute to it. But the old ways are still there. It's hard to be rid of what has been passed down for generations.... and not all that has been passed down are bad. There is a need for MIL to let go of their sons. But there is also an equal need for the DIL to let the MIL feel that her son will always be her son. Her task is to make sure that her husband treats his mother the way she treats hers. Men tend to fail in seeing to their mother's emotional affirmation from them. Instead of drawing her son away, as what usually happens in the battle of 2 women for 1 man, she should also give the MIL the assurance that it will not happen.

Being newly minted, there's always an urge to stamp one's ownership (and this works both ways) on her husband. It is not necessary where the MIL is concerned. Cos the man she marries won't even be there if not for his mother. The DIL owes her MIL that. MIL on the other hand should not feel threaten by the presence of this new woman; one that she wants her son to have but at the same time torn by that sense of 'loss'. And of course, the son has a role to play too! One which many sons fail to see!

So the tale of the Monster-In-Law, there's more than what meets the eye. Cos the monster that we see, if we do see it, usually is a culmination of acts from many parties.


Thomas C B Chua said...

AJ 7, sometimes the "Ah Boy" in the husband never grows up in his mother's eyes so the wife has a hard time allowing some space in the husband's life for the MIL. Well, the in-and-out law things can be difficult, especially for the DIL, especially if it is an extended family. Some MILs are like "lawyers" really hard to live with. My wife is blessed, we started as a nuclear family and remains so.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting points. Thanks!

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