Jen Jeffrey Billington: MIL's And Dil's

Monday, October 22, 2018 - by Jen Jeffrey Billington
Jen Jeffrey Billington
Jen Jeffrey Billington

Last year, I dealt with something somewhat hurtful and I felt like there was nothing I could do, but give it to the Lord. I couldn’t fix it with kindness, I couldn’t fix it with advice. I just had to leave it in God’s hands and trust. Even for the most devout Christian, that takes some effort while feeling attacked or treated unfairly.

Meanwhile, searching for a little empathy from cyber space, I typed in these keywords, “Trouble with Daughter in-law” and, “My Daughter in-law hates me” to see if there were any other people out there with the same problem I was having and to see how they handled it.

I did not find one article from a mother in-laws perspective, but oh boy, there were several ‘nasty’ articles written by the Daughter in-laws. I went ahead and read those anyway, to see if perhaps God had something for me to understand and He may want me to check my own heart, seeing it from the daughter in-law’s point of view.

But what I read, was full of the same disrespect and hate that my (at the time) soon-to-be-Daughter in-law seemed to have for me for me and so I felt the ‘mother perspective’ had to be written.

We wiser, experienced mothers dare not ‘rock the boat’ to say anything to a new DIL because we know what can happen with young tempers in regards to us being a part of our son’s lives (and our grandchildren). And that is a shame for a young lady to use this as leverage.

My son was about to marry this woman who we prayed about (and I have been praying for all three of my son’s wives since they were little boys) and we were so very happy for him.

At first, she seemed sweet and loving toward us, but the moment she knew she was marrying our son, she changed, or should I say, her real personality showed. She made no effort to communicate with us or see us.

And though I think this subject needs to be talked about, I will not say anything against her, but only acknowledge the fact that she had a much different perspective and lifestyle than my son. And that’s okay – but to marry into that difference, I think you both need to be very sure this union is from God and that you both are searching for God’s heart and His plan in your marriage.

For the moments where my “DIL” took all of my son’s time with her own agenda and plans, I had prepared to ‘lose him’ to her because that is what scripture teaches us. A man is to leave his mother and cleave to his wife – I get that. But she is not to be a ‘wedge’ between the families. She is not to keep the family from being family. So when I started seeing her do this, I prayed about it hoping for her to see that I am no threat as her mother in-law and she does not have to ‘let me know that my son belongs to her’.

Wisdom comes with age, and unfortunately, we cannot always impart that wisdom to the younger generations as they must learn from their own pain and mistakes the same as we did. The few enlightened young people who listen to their parents or elders, and receive wisdom earlier than others, that in itself is a blessing.

But because I was one of those hard-headed young people who had to learn from my own mistakes, I have learned in my older age to ‘give grace’ to young people trying to find their way.

And, with this daughter in-law I gave her grace when my family would talk to me about their concerns with what they were seeing from her. I would understand things from her point of view and take up for her all the while trusting God to ‘mature her’ or ‘enlighten her’.

But, with only a few months into marriage and almost no communication from her, our son told me that she was seeking annulment. When he told me the reasons she gave, they were unfounded reasons, yet my son and I both gave her understanding, knowing that sometimes we just make a wrong choice and it is what it is – however, she would not even discuss it any further and she had already made up her mind. He was willing for them to counsel, he was willing to give her time. He really loved her, but she made the decision for the both of them and she left.

At first we were all heartbroken, but as I kept praying for my son and for her, I was so very glad that my son would not have ‘years’ of pain to deal with while this young lady was seemingly going through her troubles and issues.

The thing is, I totally understood her in making that mistake. I did the same thing. When I turned 18, I married for the sake of being married. I was in love with the idea of marriage rather than being in love with the man I married. He and I both were so young, I doubt we really understood what true love was. But of course we thought we were in love and through our divorce, we learned those hard lessons early in life. There didn’t need to be blame – we just were not who God had intended for the other.

So, I understood my DIL and felt for her. I prayed for her even though I realized it was best that they never ‘became one’ and the marriage was annulled.

Now they both had a fresh start. But, I think instead of chalking it up to a mistake, my DIL felt she had to justify her reasons and ‘save face’ with her peers. She told the attorney things that were not true and she posted on social media which made her sound like a victim – as if she had no part in making the choice to marry. What was hurtful, was that she did not have to do this. It would have been okay to say, “We made a mistake” and move on.

Her victim mentality was something I also understood. When I was young, I felt that I had no voice or that I had to do everything that everyone else wanted. 

I had to learn to respect myself even though I ‘said’ I did, I had to learn to own my mistakes even thought I had thought it was someone else’s fault, and I had to let my walls down that I had been building for protection from being hurt (which only led to more hurt). 

Yes, I felt for her and I still pray for her and wish her well. I want her to get through her issues so that one day she will find the man God has for her and I still pray for the woman God may have for my son in the future.

I am proud of the way he handled this. No, he was not happy to find out what she said about him, but he knows who he is in the Lord and he behaved very Christianly toward her. The Lord has brought healing and he has moved on with his life.

So what about my relationship with my other DILs? I have a former DIL who was divorced from my oldest son years ago and she and I get along well. There have been times when there were a few upsets between us, but we both are good to work together regarding the grandchildren.

Our grandchildren live with their dad who lives here in Kentucky, so we see them every day. Maybe you would think I could just do my thing, see my grandkids whenever I want and not think twice about her, but that is not my heart. Of course I hate that there was a divorce for my son and that he went through hurt, but people are people and we are to give grace just as God has given us grace. My twin sons are open to the Lord’s guidance and they acknowledge their part in a situation that may not go as they planned and I see them grow and mature and be better men.

So, even if she and I may not be MIL/DIL anymore, she is still family. She is my grandchildren’s mother and that means something to me. They love their mom and I want to encourage that love, I want to care about my former DIL’s heart and how she feels.

Whenever I can help the kids shop for a gift for their mom or to think to do something for her, or for me to send her pictures of them periodically between her visits; I do these things because it is the right thing to do.

And, I’m a firm believer that whatever we dish out – we get back in return.

How I treat my own Mother in-law is how I would want to be treated. How I treat my Daughter in-laws is how I want to be treated.

My youngest son was in a relationship with our current and only Daughter in-law when he was young. She is older than him and she already had lived as an adult with a family of her own when he was just getting started. It wasn’t the ideal we think about for our children, but they were in love and as I matured and realized God’s plan was not always the ‘ideal’ we humans put on ourselves,  I accepted her into our family.

She has been with my son for about twelve years. After they married and had a daughter together (and giving us bonus granddaughters) we have had our ups and our downs in the whole MIL/DIL relationship.

But, I know we are truly family, because that is true of any family – to have those ups and downs and still love each other. I know I truly love my only DIL I have right now. She has stuck by my son even during hard times, she loves him and she is a good mother.

Sometimes I wonder if she only tolerates me, but for the most part, I think she does love me. She tells me she does and she has behaved kindly toward me. There are just a few things that puzzle me and this may be a ‘generation’ thing over a daughter in-law thing.

Communication.

It seems the millennial generation has a hard time understanding ‘communication etiquette’. In this day of texting and messaging on social media, we barely call people anymore. Even so, I still respond to every person who calls, texts, or messages and emails me. It may not be right away because we have made ourselves a busy people in this day and age, but I do respond. It’s just what you do.

Yet, even while this article is about the daughters in-law, my own millennial son is the same way and actually communicates a lot less than my DIL. That is why I think it may be a generation thing. But my bonus granddaughters (from this DIL) are actually very courteous to respond to me. They understand about cultivating relationships and how family is important. Their hearts are so good and they truly care about people. I am very proud of them.

When we parents don’t get the interaction we would like from our children or in laws, it does hurt.

I have been praying for my son and his lack of communicating with me (and me not getting to interact with my youngest grandchild because of this) and I have realized while praying about it, that I have been so focused on the hurt I feel, rather than what God is busy doing -- and to trust Him.

Just like the grace I gave the DIL who only was a DIL for a few months, I must give grace to my own son and DIL who I love so very much and have had in my life for years. When I pray, I must already envision what God is doing.

Whatever it is we pray to the Lord that is a burdens for us, we need to see it ‘completed’ when we pray. Sure, God hears our ‘heartcry’. He cares about our tears, but He wants to see us come to him expectantly instead of saying “this is broken and I don’t know if it will ever be fixed!”

God is our Father who CAN and WILL fix it – it may not be right away or how we think it should be fixed, but He WILL fix it and it will be His best. If we say we trust God, we need to think about this as we pray.

Do we pray expectantly with joy knowing that God is working even if things still look bleak? Or do we pray burdened and disheartened thinking things will never change?

I tell you the truth – it feels better to pray joyously.

And when I began praying this way, I went about my business as if what I was praying for is ‘already so’ because God keeps His promises. So, I speak to my youngest son as if he and I have this awesome relationship, and I speak to my Daughter in-law as if she loves me as much as I love her.

I know ‘God’s time’ is important and there may be things that must transpire before I see the results of my prayer, so that is why I can have joy - even if things can be hurtful.

That "reaping what you sow" thing is true, so instead of praying that my son will begin to communicate with me knowing that would make me happy – I also pray that he will communicate with me ...so that my granddaughter learns that same behavior from him, so she will communicate with him when she is an adult and is living her own life.

I never want my son or my daughter in-law to experience the pain I have felt in not hearing from them or getting to talk with my granddaughter. As young parents, we sometimes don't think about this.

After reaching out to my son begging him to respond, and not hearing from him, I know there must be something else going on with him and I continue to pray about this. But now, I am praying with JOY, and I thankful that my DIL will still occasionally respond.

I have a precious mother in-law of my own and I love loving her!

I take her to lunch, include her in a ladies group I have, we go to her plays when she performs, I got her set up on Facebook so she could see things going on with her son and I and with her friends …and we take her to lunch every Sunday after church. I love giving her gifts and cherishing her. And, I never mind if my husband spends time with her or does things for his mother. I know that we are very blessed to have her.

After losing my own parents, my in-laws are the only parents I have left. It is truly a blessing to have our parents in our lives. We really enjoy being together.

Sure, I could be selfish and keep my husband to myself and my MIL is the type who would not fuss. She would not fight me on that if I were that type of person. Because her heart is so good and she wants her son happy. But I could never be that way. So I think God blessed me with a mother in-law with a like-heart. She thinks like me and just wants people to be happy – even if it means we get lonely. I hope she never feels lonely on my account. I hope she has never cried because of anything I have done - unless they are happy tears. I hope she always feels welcome in our home and I hope she feels so very loved and treasured, because she is!

I don’t have all the answers and I am sure my older twin sons may marry again and there may be more DIL relationships to figure out, but I choose to be the MIL I am supposed to be no matter what. I trust God to work the rest out. I hope I am the DIL my Mother in-law desires to have.

When your heart is full from the Love of Christ, there is enough Love to give to your own kids and their spouses. There is enough Love to give every person God brings in our lives through blood-relation and through marriage.

My daughter in-law and I have been through a lot of ‘feelings’ together and I am sure God has been using that to grow us and, as time goes on, she and I will not only have grown from the few upsets that will be forgotten, but we will have a testimony of Love that will trickle down into grandchildren and their grandchildren.

We call our in-laws “in” for a reason. God knows the reason and is busy doing something with it. Let’s not think of the “in” as “outs”. We are all family and we are family for God’s purpose. Aren’t you excited to find out what that purpose is?

For those of you who have MIL or DIL issues you are dealing with, I hope this encourages you when you pray. Pray ‘expecting’ God to answer.

jenjeffreybillington@gmail.com


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