Marriage And The In Laws
( Originally Published 1918 )
ONE of the biggest problems that the two ONE people have to meet may be de-scribed in the words of the title of this chapter.
His family are her "in-laws," and her family are his "in-laws," and it is quite a question whether or not they are all going to be able to get along harmoniously together.
It may help the wife a little in solving this problem if she will take a little time to consider just what a mother probably feels when her son or daughter has reamed the age of marriage. Up to this time the mother has, in all probability, reigned supreme in the heart of her son or her daughter.. Not only has her will been law, but her slightest suggestion has carried the greatest possible amount of weight. Now she finds her place pre-empted by another. As the bride herself discovers later on in life, one of the most difficult things in the world, to do is to retire gracefully into the background after having for many years occupied the place of supremacy.
Let her remember all this in considering the actions of her mother-in-law. Let her remember, also, that the time will come when she will be filling that unenviable position herself, and so let her consider carefully that priceless admonition, "Do unto others as you would be done by."
Sometimes, out of the goodness of her heart, the young bride will offer to take her husband's father or mother, or even both, into her home. This is being generous to a fault. Beautiful as the impulse may be, it will lead to a situation so full of difficulties that the probability is that, in the end, she will deeply regret her rash impulse.
If it is a possible thing, the parents of neither one should attempt to live with the young couple. The bride may think it would be most delightful to have her own mother in the home, to carry some of its responsibilities for her and to give that sympathetic understanding which she has al-ways received from that unfailing source of comfort. She must remember, however, that her mother is her husband's mother-in-law, and it will probably be just as difficult for him to adjust himself to this new relationship as it is for her. For both their sakes, therefore, they should start their united life with no one else in the home.
If the constant and intimate association with the in-laws in the home is avoided, there is a greater likelihood that an harmonious relation-ship may be gradually evolved. It may be necessary for the bride to exercise a little tactful reserve, in order to keep the mothers on either side. of the family from interfering, from the best of motives, in the little details of every-day life. It will not be easy to do this, but if the bride has only love in her heart, if she resolutely refuses to let any irritation creep in, she will be able to explain very frankly, yet sweetly, to both mothers, that she thinks it best for her and her husband to manage their own lives in their own way. They probably will make mistakes, but they will learn through their mistakes. No one really learns from the mistakes of others, and that is the reason that it is not advisable for any one to be too ready to follow the well-meaning advice of other people.
Long years of observation have convinced me that most of the friction in life comes from trying to maintain too close a relationship between people who were not meant to be thus associated together. It is possible to treat the "in-laws" with courtesy and kindness and love, and yet make them realize that the life of the wedded pair is something so intimate that they have no right to intrude upon it. It is much better to cause a little comment upon one's standoffishness at first, and gradually grow into a cordial relationship, than it is to try to enter at once into the intimacy of a family life and find one's self in the unpleasantness of a family quarrel.
The bride will need to exert herself, it may be, to resist the temptation to confide too much in her own mother. If things go wrong, she is tempted to run home to mother and tell her all about it. By so doing, however, she will lose the opportunity of developing her individuality and independence, and she will be in danger, as was suggested in regard to her intimate friends, of having mole-hills made into mountains, through her own unconscious exaggeration in talking to a sympathetic listener.
The two young people are starting out upon a new life, a life together. And they should feel that now, for them, the family unity is just they two alone, to be increased later on by the welcome addition of children. Great as are the obligations of parents to children, they must take second place after the children have married. Parents should realize this from the very beginning, and train their offspring accordingly. Parents and children now have the opportunity of entering into a new relationship, the friend-ship of equals.