Let’s talk Mothers-in-Law. I know. Once this Pandora’s Box is open it is difficult to shut. All sorts of family secrets and taboo topics rise to the surface, and yes, I know that you either love your Mom-in-Law and are so sorry the military made you move far away from her, or you wish you could mail order a different one while trying to figure out if there’s a way for your family to get stationed on an entirely different planet.
It is also likely that this conversation is really a “no-win” conversation – but it must be had, because our Mother-in-Laws often hold the key to the mysteries in our relationships and they may actually be the ones more involved in helping out while our loved one is on a deployment.
“Mother-in-Laws are the keepers of family secrets and they fail to disclose fully the truth of their offspring.” So goes the quote of one individual I came across at an Army Marriage & Family Seminar down south. This guy was a true charmer and I’m certain his wife was thinking the same thing – but it sure did raise a question in my own mind, “what has my own Mother-in-Law failed to tell me and how can I break into this private gathering of Mother-in-Laws, this secret conclave, and leverage it to my advantage?”
I have a very active imagination.
First of all, I’ve learned that there is no secret gathering of Mother-in-Laws. I then set about my journey to determine how best to pin blame on my Mother-in-Law for all the “stuff” in my relationship. After all, the “dreaded Mother-in-Law” is the villain in practically every relationship movie made on the planet and makes for an easy scapegoat. (But for the record, I do like my Mother-in-Law, despite her association to the Mother-in-Law conclave.)
Here’s what I learned after a few moments of contemplation:
She failed to tell me that her daughter, my wife, would love me unconditionally despite my mistakes because that is how she and her husband raised their children: to forgive and to love unconditionally.
She failed to tell me that my wife would love me more when I chose to be vulnerable and stopped hiding behind my “I’ve got it all figured out” and worked through life with her.
She failed to tell me that my wife would love me for who I am, for my character, and wouldn’t get caught up in loving me because of my accomplishments.
She failed to tell me that I was the reason she became a Mother-in-Law (I just figured that out). I’m sure it was the happiest moment in her life (she failed to tell me that too by the way).
She failed to tell me that both her daughter and I would have to learn to be quick to listen and slow to speak as we navigated our relationship.
The biggest failure? She failed to tell me that her greatest gift to me, outside of her and my Father-in-Law’s blessing, was self discovery. That while she knew all these “secrets,” she knew the magic in every relationship is discovery.
I’m glad there are things my Mother-in-Law failed to tell me.
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and CEO of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He is the recipient of several local and national awards for patriotism and commitment to military families. You can reach Mike at here.