Mother-in-laws. They’re the brunt of countless jokes and the subject of endless conflict. If you’re raising children, you know that the time will eventually come when your own offspring will “leave and cleave” and their spouse will become the #1 focus and priority. It’s natural. It’s healthy. And you, too, might eventually become that maligned or underappreciated mother-in-law.
If you are fortunate enough to have a mother-in-law, can you put yourself in her shoes? How often do you focus on her positive qualities? More importantly, how often do you make a conscious effort to encourage her?
What if this was the year when you were intentional about strengthening your relationship with your mother-in-law?
Where should you even begin?
First of all, start by realizing that you wouldn’t have your spouse without your mother-in-law! That alone is a reason for gratitude. Whatever kind, loving qualities your spouse possesses were likely nurtured by his or her mother. Thank her for that. Send a handwritten note expressing appreciation for the wonderful child she raised who is now your spouse. You really are the beneficiary of her years of love and sacrifice.
Spend some time thinking about your mother-in-law’s positive attributes. Write them down. Reflect on them. Thank God for them. Have you been so focused on what irritates you about her that you choke at this suggestion? (That’s probably the best indicator that you should heed this advice!)
Perhaps there are offenses you need to forgive. She may have hurt you with words or actions over the years. Continuing to reflect on those memories will only make you bitter. And bitterness eventually destroys the vessel that contains it! Ask God for the grace to forgive her. When the memories bubble up and you feel resentment building, ask Him again. Remember how much He has forgiven you.
Ask God to help you see your mother-in-law as He does. Pray that you can understand and value her at a deeper level. Commit to pray for her daily. And if you’ve fallen into the bad habit of complaining about her to your friends, just stop!
Yes, I realize that some women are overly controlling and don’t respect boundaries with their adult children. I’m not excusing that. But complaining to your friends is not the solution. Work with a trustworthy counselor to find a healthy way to navigate those challenges.
Sometime this year, write your mother-in-law a letter and tell her what she means to you. Affirm her greatest strengths and character qualities. Be sincere and encouraging. Thank her for the way she has blessed your life. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or her birthday are all great times to give such a letter. I can 100% guarantee that letter will be read and re-read.
Affirm her without expectation. Don’t offer empty praise with a desire to manipulate.
Appreciate the unique position you have to sincerely encourage your spouse’s mother.
Ultimately, loving and honoring your mother-in-law is one of the most meaningful ways you can love and respect your own spouse.
Before you know it, your vocabulary might just change and you will begin to see her and refer to her as your mother-in-love!
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12