By Dr. Kim Logan-Nowlin & Arthur E. Nowlin, LMSW, CAADC
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Drama Files: Mother-In-Law Blues
This article was written by Dr. Kim Logan-Nowlin for Message Magazine : Drama Files
Gage and Terri have been married for a short time. Terri is a loving wife to her husband and Gage is very compassionate towards Terri.
From the very first day of her marriage to Gage, his mother Kelly constantly would say unpleasant things to Terri to upset her. Terri would constantly mention this to Gage, but he totally ignored her by saying “ Mom means no harm.”
This made Kelly very uncomfortable over time. Her mother in law would bring Gage his favorite dishes over to their home, and stay for hours talking to her son while Terri ate alone. She would buy him gifts and offered nothing to Terri. The coldness and meanness was taking its toll on Terri. Terri started experiencing anxiety and depression and contacted my office to discuss the possibility of family intervention.
Seek to Understand
As Terri’s therapist I shared with her the purpose of family intervention is to provide counseling in an objective manner to help guide the family to a resolution. I also shared with her I felt it would be a positive way to address her concerns about her mother-in-law and help Gage to understand the seriousness of the situation.
Terri asked Gage to please ask his mother to come, and she agreed. Terri led the session with my guidance and shared her feelings and concerns. Kelly said she didn’t see the harm in still caring for her son.
“That is my responsibility to care for him, and for us to love each other and care for our home,” countered Terri. You have to stay in your lane as a mother, she told her.
Terri began to lay down some ground rules. Kelly would always be welcomed, but, she needed to please call first out of respect. Kelly apologized to Terri and Gage for her negative behavior. Over the next few months Kelly would call and greet Terri with a sincere warm greeting.
One afternoon Kelly told Terri that “I feel I need to see Dr. Logan to help me with my fear of being alone and separation anxiety.” Terri told her that she would go with her to counseling if she would like. Kelly said “Thank you and I would appreciate that.”
Throughout the counseling process Terri and Kelly worked closely together and was able to learn coping skills to manage their concerns. Kelly had been suffering a long time since the passing of her husband and she began to lean on Gage for everything, even companionship.
Kelly developed realistic goals to engage in a healthier manner with Terri, also, intervention for her own healing and her only child getting married. She humbly apologized to Terri and made a commitment to follow-through with her counseling.
Now, That’s Progress
Terri and Gage are planning a vacation and asked Kelly to join them in Europe. Kelly has always wanted to go and she cried during the session when they told her. “I promise to stay in my lane,” Kelly said.
Tips from Dr. Kim
When the day comes to meet your future mother-in law it will mean making adjustments in the relationship. Be open minded to suggestions. Be willing to share quality time together, and be careful not to isolate yourselves. Remember your future spouse has a family who still wants to engage and be a part of both your lives. Treat your mother-in-law with respect and kindness. Involve your spouse, especially if there’s conflict. Get comfortable with compromising and being firm when necessary. Don’t be afraid to be transparent and honest with one another. It may be painful going in but the end result will be worth it to eliminate the mother- in- law blues
A soft answer turns away wrath. Proverbs 15:1
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