Wednesday, June 26, 2013

When Your Children Marry

Since the last of our six children recently married, I have had a couple of inquiries from women who are soon to become mothers-in-law for the first time, on how to be a good mother-in-law. While I'm certainly no expert on being a mother-in-law, and, seriously doubt that I would be classified as a good one, I am willing to type out and share with you what I have read, and re-read, each and every time one of my children married (and still read). It is Chapter 11 of The Spirit-Controlled Woman by Beverly LaHaye, and the chapter is titled When Your Children Marry.

Chapter 11 - When Your Children Marry

The Challenge of Being a Mother-in-law

The Spirit-filled woman will be a Spirit-filled mother-in-law. There is something about being a mother-in-law that exposes the real traits within a woman. If she is naturally a selfish and possessive person, that is the kind of mother-in-law she will be. If she is a loving, gracious, and kind woman, it will be easy for her to be a Spirit-filled mother-in-law.

A well-known marriage counselor states that most mother-in-law problems stem from the conflict of two women who are both in love with and interested in the same man. One of the most important factors in a mother-in-law's ability to accept her son's new wife is her own relationship to her husband. If she has a wholesome love relationship with her husband, then it is easy for her to welcome her son's wife into her family as a daughter. If, however, she has had a poor love relationship with her partner and, as is often the case, has developed an inordinate and overly possessive love relationship with her son, it is almost certain she will have difficulty accepting his bride. In the instance where the mother-in-law has lived without a husband for many years, it is quite possible that the son has been a "stand-in" companion for her to lean on for comfort and advice. It may then be difficult for her to fade into the background and allow the new wife to be his companion.

A mother with such a smothering love is not aware of the problem until she finds herself competing with another woman for the love of her son. Whenever such competition occurs, the mother-in-law should realistically face the fact that she is 100 percent wrong, because the Bible says:

   "For this cause [marriage] shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife" (Mark 10:7).

Many a mother fails to realize that once her son and daughter-in-law leave the church as husband and wife, her role in her son's life will never again be the same. Previous to this time she has likely been the most dominant female figure in her son's life. Now the best thing she can do is to entrust him to his bride and both of them into the hands of God, while she studiously becomes less and less of a present influence on him. In fact, she should be advised to use her mature, womanly talents to support and exalt this young wife to her son.

We have a beautiful picture of the unselfish mother-in-law's attitude in the life of John the Baptist. When he met Christ he said, "He must increase and I must decrease." Williams' translation interprets it, "He must grow greater and greater and I less and less." Since a husband and wife, according to Ephesians 5, are a symbol of Christ and the church, it reasonably follows that a mother-in-law corresponds with the "friend of the bridegroom." The attitude of a mother toward the new woman in her son's life should be, in the words of John, "She must grow greater and greater (in the eyes of the son) and I (his mother) less and less."

Admittedly, this is hard for a mother at first, but it pays big dividends in the love relationship she builds between herself and those two young people. This investment will repay her with a continuing relationship with her son and gain for her the love of a daughter.

To accept her child's choice of partner is very important for a mother, even when she may not have approved of the marriage. She must be willing to forgive and forget and then to love and accept them both.

"Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you" 
(Ephesians 4:32).

The mother-in-law can add to the happiness and contentment of the young couple by being understanding and not demanding. One of the greatest problems in this area is how and where to spend holidays. The mother can cause undue hardship and turmoil in this new home by planning the holidays according to her own desires with little or no consideration for the son and daughter. In doing this, she risks ruining a good relationship with both of them. How much better it would be to make the times when they are together so enjoyable that the couple would desire to spend part of their holidays as she wishes. The fellowship on a particular holiday is not worth losing the relationship of two young people for life. There are bound to be some pressures that cause parents to be left out of the couple's plans on certain holidays, but parents should make it easy on the young people by joyfully accepting whatever opportunities they can to be together.

Begin Early To Avoid In-law Problems

A good foundation can be laid long before the wedding takes place. Both families can be brought together during the dating days and before the engagement. Planning the events of the wedding with both families will help to establish a basic foundation on which the young couple can begin their married life. Parents can help the adjustment period for this young couple by being understanding and thoughtful.

Six Steps for Happy Mothers-in-law

(1) Be honest and be yourself - There is no need to put on any front or false pretense. Your own child will certainly see through it and will wonder what has happened to mother! If "being yourself" is not good enough, then you need to work on improving yourself when you are alone. The Bible says to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). If the truth is always spoken, then you will not need to be concerned with what you have said before; it will be loving truth. In fact, during the writing of this book there have been times when I have had to speak the truth in love and tell my married children that I was unable to babysit. This did not cause resentment; they appreciated the truth.

(2) Be considerate of their rights and don't impose on them - Remember that they are a family unit now. The man is the head of his household; it is their home. They deserve the right of privacy, whether it be in their home or yours. Particularly if they are recently married, the deserve a time to adjust and acquaint themselves with married life. You may, in good faith, think you are helping by offering your services, but most young couples want to do things themselves. be sensitive to their desires and do not impose yourself upon them.

(3) Be sure to treat both partners equally - Marriage unites a husband and wife as one, and that is the way you should respond to them. Letters, gifts, and remembrances should be equally distributed. One young wife told me that her mother-in-law always addressed her letters to her son. Such a mother stands the chance of separating her own child from her when she does not equally treat and accept the other partner. My daughter is blessed with a mother-in-law who is a talented seamstress and delights in sewing for her. My daughter wears these outfits proudly, and they represent to her that she is loved equally and accepted.

(4) Be careful not to criticize one partner to the other - Just good common sense tells you that this is unwise. One of the best ways to stop criticism is to reject it. Do not allow your son or daughter to criticize their partner to you. You should never negatively discuss one partner with the other. I overheard a mother-in-law criticize her daughter-in-law to her son regarding an unwise purchase she had made. She was planting a seed of discontent in the son's mind. In doing so, she was also driving a wedge between herself and her son.

(5) Be careful not to mind their business or give unsolicited advice - You may not like the way they spend their money or their time but do not tell them so. If it is serious, then discuss it with your Heavenly Father and leave it there! By no means should you advise them on how to raise their children. You have had your day; now give this couple their chance to instill their principles for living in their own offspring. If you have done a good job, then sit back and let them put into practice what you have taught them. Advice should only be given when it is specifically asked for, and then very carefully.

(6) Be sure that your attitude is controlled by the Holy Spirit - Your attitude toward them should be accepting them as one, loving them in the Spirit, and leaving them in the hands of the Lord. In doing this you will succeed in being a gracious, godly mother-in-law.

The Contentment of Being a Grandmother

The grandmother who lives a Christ-controlled life will be a gentle, loving, and gracious person who is able to accept the role of being a grandparent. The traditional picture of a grandmother is one who is wise and can do no wrong. For some reason, little children look to their grandparents as being special creatures who know everything about everything. One mother told me that whenever she ran into something that she wasn't sure about, her child would say, "Let's ask Grandma; she will know." Grandmothers are expected to be saintly women with a special straight line to Heaven. Now that I have become a grandmother, I realize that that just isn't so. I didn't suddenly become a super-wise woman with a special spiritual endowment on the day my first grandchild was born. I am today what I have been becoming, the product of Him who controls my life.

It is true that a grandmother can have a great influence on a child's early years. Many a child has been led to Christ at his grandmother's knee. Because she is not usually involved in the work and upkeep of a child, she is able to spend time talking, reading, and playing with him. Her influence can be toward spiritual things or just plain fun. When the grandchildren are left in her care, the secure and mature grandmother will have no problem with disciplining and training the children rather than spoiling them by letting wrong-doings go unnoticed. There is one area where I feel wiser as a grandmother than I did as a mother; I believe I was often too rigid, whereas now I am more relaxed in some areas. There are some things that are absolute "no-no's" for the good of the child's welfare and for the sake of others around him. But some things that I used to feel very strongly about, I now tolerate; a child needs a certain amount of freedom, provided he is not harmed and the rights of others are not imposed upon. It is very important to respect the rules and guidelines that your son and daughter have laid down for their children. When they say, "No candy before dinner, " then there should be no candy before dinner. The child needs to know that Grandma is in complete agreement with his parents When the mother or father disciplines the child, there is no need for Grandma to put in her "two-cents" worth" ; instead, it is better for her to fade into the woodwork.

The way sons or daughters raise their own family is a real test of how well the parents have trained them and instilled into their hearts the basic principles for living. This should be a challenge to young parents to train their children properly while they have the opportunity. The day will come when they will see their children training their grandchildren either with or without many of the same values and principles.

The contented grandmother will have much to praise the Lord for! Her attitudes toward life and her children will be Christ-controlled. She may have the privilege of seeing her children reproduce and then her grandchildren reproduce. The joy will come when she sees them all in the family of God and knows that it was the love which she and her husband shared with one another that started it all. Her children will rise up and call her blessed.

     Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her" (Proverbs 31:28).

(If anyone is interested in reading more of Mrs. LaHaye's book The Spirit-Controlled Woman, you can find it here on Amazon.)

I hope some of the advice that Mrs. LaHaye has offered here helps those of you who are becoming mothers-in-law for the first time, and for those of you that have been one for a while, but would like to be a better one, perhaps, there is something here for you, too.

And, while, Mrs. LaHaye focuses more on the relationship between a mother-in-law and her son, it has been our experience, that, sometimes, the son's mother-in-law (the wife's mother) can be just as jealous, possessive, controlling, and interfering...and, usually, this due to the fact that the mother-in-law herself is a product of her own environment, being raised in a home where the Bible was slack or missing completely, and a feministic worldview prevailed. I pray that the reading of this article would help some of those that seek a different direction to go, and gives those who have never thought about it, something to think on.

I would also like to add...that while some books offer good advice and practical ideas in the area of helps, THE BOOK (The Bible...God's Holy Word) should be the final authority on every subject. In its pages you will find even more good advice...THE best advice, in fact...on being a good and godly mother-in-law, mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, or whatever other role you might find yourself in. It is important to get into the Word and study it for yourself. Ask the Lord to open up it's pages to you, and allow the Spirit of Truth...the Holy lead you unto all truth.

God bless all here!

Love Always,

1 comment:

  1. Rebecca, Being a mother-in-law has certainly had some challenges. When one wants to be "liked" it can certainly bring some challenges. As I 'mature' leaning on the Lord and praying has had to be a reality.

    Enjoyed this read and glad that you shared. Good to know that there are some very helpful books.



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