We’ve all heard the horror stories that come from having in-laws. Truth be told, I’ve lived them all. I’ve been called names by mine. They have told my child that I’m not his mom. They have lied about me and to me. They have told me that I wasn’t worth anything. In fact, to date, I haven’t spoken to my “mother-in-law” in over two years… and trust me, I sleep much better at night and so does my husband.
If you are struggling with your in-laws today, here are some pointers I’ve learned along the way.
**Side note: My husband has a step-dad (his mother and him have since divorced, but Michael is 100% credited for being the reason Keith is a decent man). They have been nothing but good to me and I consider them to be our family. They are loved and cherished but all three of us!**
Don’t make your spouse chose:
This one was the hardest for me to learn. It’s natural to want people to chose you… especially when it comes to your spouse. However, I can promise you (as my mom used to always say) if you make someone chose, they aren’t going to chose you.
A year of hell was well worth my husbands family digging their own graves. He sees them for who/what they are and I don’t have to be the bad guy taking the fall for it all, they did that all on their own.
If I had known then, what I know now, I would have stayed silent. I would have noted every hateful comment, rude text, abusive behavior, but I would have never stayed mad towards my husband about those moments. Instead, I would have realized that my husband saw/heard it (whether he admitted to it or not) and that would have been enough!
Forgive where you can:
This one was also hard for me! I held onto a lot of anger when it came to my in-laws. What I didn’t realize was, even though I had had enough of them, my husband still was being impacted by the hurt they had caused. He was the one who was and is stuck in the middle. So, I chose to forgive where I could. I started with my sister-in-law. It was possibly one of the most humbling decisions I had ever made, but it is also one I am most thankful for.
We (my SIL and I) have both grown tremendously since our falling out, and we both realize that while we are different in many ways, we are the same in one: we love the same guy.
I promise you, if you look for reasons to be angry, you’ll find them. If you look for common ground, you’ll find that too.
Let me be clear, at this point in time, I have no intentions of moving forward with my MIL. None. Simply because I don’t think she is capable of moving forward and admitting where she has caused damage.. not to me… I truly could care less about her excuses, but to her child and grandchild that she’s supposed to love more than herself. Until that day comes, I will happily enjoy the new relationship I have with my SIL and appreciate how far we have come, together, for our “boys” sake!
Protect… when necessary:
Protect is one thing I’m good at. It’s in my nature. The whole “when necessary” thing is where I struggle. However, there does come a point where you have to protect yourself, and your kids from toxic people… blood or not!
Our sweet B was put through the ringer because I was too scared to stand up against them sooner. I was worried about being over-protective (something I now laugh about but at the time I was young and dumb). I was worried about upsetting him and my husband. I was also worried about not having the “help” I thought I needed. And he paid the price for that. He paid the price by not having the correct car seat in her vehicle simply because she couldn’t stand that I bought her the one he needed. He paid the price by having her switch his clothes before school so he’d be in girl clothes three sizes to big… all for a good laugh. He was taught to act like he was high. He had his hair glued to his head so he could look like alfalfa. He was taught the “N” word and that it was funny.
Looking back at it, it makes me mad at myself that I didn’t do something sooner. That I allowed it to continue and get to that point. Momma’s, don’t ever let anyone else make you feel like you are “too much” for your child.
And for the record, MIL, I am his mom. Period.
Appreciate the good:
Guys. BIGGEST REGRET… I spent so much time being angry at the ones who treated me poorly, that I didn’t focus on the ones who appreciated me. I refused to go to any family function that involved any aspect of Keith’s family simply because of the way a few people treated me. Don’t misunderstand me, I still don’t go to places I know those two women (MIL and GIL) will be, but it no longer keeps me from going to spend time with Keith’s other family.
And side note: it feels so good to know that you are loved by at least one set of your in-laws. They have no blood to Keith, no blood to Bryson, but my gosh do they love them. They are so good to all of us and I regret not pouring myself and my family into their lives sooner. I regret not taking the time to go to their holiday parties simply because I wanted nothing to do with my SIL. I regret pushing them aside as if they were the ones who had hurt me, when all they ever were was good to me (I just didn’t take the time to notice).
Love your spouse:
Chances are, your in-laws behavior to you, isn’t new to your spouse. They might not understand your hurt or frustrations because to them, it’s “just the way they are”. Now that we are out of the Hurricane and I can see it for what it is, my heart hurts for my husband. It makes me sad that being made fun of, used, abused, lied to, etc. is considered normal to him. It saddens me that he doesn’t know how a mother should act, how she should treat her kids, and how she should behave towards others.
Choosing to love Keith in spite of his family, and throughout our journey breaking free from them has not come without it’s own set of challenges. However, I am so glad I made that chose. Your spouse is not responsible for your in-laws behavior. Try to be kind with them. Try and understand it from their point of view. And try to let them handle the situation and their family the way they feel comfortable doing so. For me, that’s confrontation. For Keith, it’s the opposite.
Know your worth:
If I could take 20-21 year old Sarah’s face in my hands and tell her one thing, it would be this: they do not define your worth. I allowed them to chew me down to nothing. I allowed their words and actions to cut me to the core. I allowed them to treat me like I was nobody and then I allowed myself to believe that it was okay. It wasn’t.
I am not who they think I am. They do not get to decide my worth. I am proud of myself for knowing that now, but oh how I wish I would have known it then. I wish I would have stood up to them when they told B “why are you looking at her. She ain’t your mom”. I wish I wouldn’t have carried that hurt the way I did because it wasn’t mine to carry. It was theirs.
If you have amazing in-laws (like my husband…) count your blessings. Take the time to tell your in-laws thank you for making you a part of your family. And if you’re where I was a few years ago, know that I see you. I understand the hurt, the frustrations. I too can remember the countless nights I stayed up wondering if the person next to me was worth the torment they were putting me through. For the record, he was and still is.
On the flip side, there is good that came from them. Because of them, I know who I am and what I’m worth. I know that my child and my husband are loved beyond a shadow of a doubt. I understand my husband more and I appreciate the man he is more. I know what kind of a mom I want to be, and what kind of a mom I will NEVER be. I know how I will treat any girl Bryson decides is worth bringing home, and I know how much I will cherish the girl he decides to spend forever on.
So, thank you, MIL. Thank you for the lessons you have taught me! And that son of yours that you threw away, thank you for him too. He (and his siblings) are by far the only good that will ever be from you. He is kind, and loving. He is funny and hard working. He spends quality time with his child (something Michael taught him to do). He knows how to stand up for himself now. And above all else, he’s learned what it means to be loved simply as he is.
And I couldn’t be more proud to be his.