How to Deal with Mother in Law Stress


I often talk to young couples about the importance of "leaving and cleaving"--in other words, leaving home and joining to your new partner. Leaving and cleaving is how the Bible describes leaving home and getting married.

Making a clean break and building a separate space for the two of you is the main protection from intrusive or manipulative in-laws (especially parents).

If problems have already developed, the principles for dealing with any controlling people apply--namely, dropping resentment, speaking up calmly, and not getting into no-win arguments. However, I also need to add some extra help for the issue of nosy and manipulative in-laws.

Let's suppose, for example, that you are the fiancee who is feeling pressure from his parents. Once you have let go of resentment and spoken openly with your potential husband about your concerns-after that, I cannot tell you, for example, whether to proceed and get married or not. I am not in your shoes, nor do I know your boyfriend or his parents.

But with a clear unemotional perspective, unclouded by anger or resentment, you will be able to gather information, assess the situation, and do the right thing. Although I cannot give specific advice I can give you some guidelines.

I am addressing this article to young adults dealing with confusing, manipulative, controlling or even downright bossy parents. Other in-laws can make trouble for a marriage too, but let's be honest--the issue is most often with your partner's parents. Everything I have said about letting go of resentment obviously applies when dealing with your partner's parents.

In fact, if you resent your own mom or your dad, you will remain trapped in the conformity and rebellion mode. The past will keep cropping up in all your future relationships, especially with your spouse. Unless you forgive your parents, you are destined to become just like them or marry someone just like them and then be to your kids what they were to you.

The focus of this article is coping with manipulative or intrusive in-laws. So you need to know that if you resent your parents, you will not be able to deal in a mature way with your partner's parents either.

Please don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that all parents are confusing--just most of them. I'm not saying that all families are dysfunctional--just most of them. That's why many readers appreciate this article--because I am addressing issues that they are dealing with.

If you are like many people, you can relate to what I am saying because you know some parents or in-laws who are confusing, intrusive, or bossy. Besides, many of us have had parents who were good people and who did the best they could; yet they failed us in some way, and we resented them.

In fact, even if you had had saintly parents, you probably would have resented them anyway (for not letting you have your way, for example). So if they were decent but you judged them a bit harshly, then letting go of resentment still makes excellent sense.

By letting go of resentment, your relationship with your parents will improve and you will be able to deal gracefully and maturely with your new in-laws.

Now that I have covered the importance of letting go of resentment, let me lay down some more general guidelines. As a young person, it is good to start your own life. You can't remain dependent on your parents forever, nor can you remain tied to them forever. You won't grow.

To grow, you need to get out on your own, earn a living, build a career and one day a family, and develop your skills.

When I see grown kids and a parent who are too emotionally close, I suspect a co-dependent relationship based on resentment that has them both trapped by guilt.

The parent is guilty for manipulating and smothering the child. The adult child who has not left home is guilty for buried and suppressed resentment.

Neither is free to speak the truth, and neither has the love to set the other free. On the surface they are close, but it is out of guilt to cover layer upon layer of resentment.

This is not to say that a parent and child cannot be friends, respectful, and considerate of each other. Of course they can. It is a beautiful thing when an adult child has a noble and wise parent to whom he or she can turn for advice and counsel. But this is a far cry from guilt and dependency.

I am saying that when a young person who should be going out to start his or her life is hanging back and clinging to parents in an enmeshing or dependent way, and they are too emotionally close, it is not good, especially if you are engaged or a newlywed.

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Roland Trujillo, MS, D. Pastoral Psychology, is the author of 17 books.His radio advice program airs in Southern California and is now in its 25th year.








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