Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My in-laws are driving me crazy! A must read for ALL in-laws

Hehe, I got you with this title. This is not a rant about my in-laws.

I have stumbled across a book that I would like to recommend to the entire world. Ok, just people who are or have ever been married, or related to someone who is or has been married, have kids who are or have been married or parents who are or have been married. That is probably 92.8% of the world's population, taking into account that that statistic is totally made up.

It's called Don't Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws into Family by Ruth Nemzoff. As people who know me or read this blog know, I'm in a cross-cultural marriage, so my in-laws have a different culture than I do. Before we got married, perhaps the number one question I heard was "How do you get along with his family?" accompanied by a cringe from the questioner. Turkish (and Greek, and Italian, and maybe all) mother-in-laws have a really bad reputation. Even Turkish daughter-in-laws rarely get along with their mother-in-laws, so throw in the cultural difference and people figured I was toast. And I have to say honestly, it has been a bumpy road so far for all of us. I'm not going to go into details because that won't be helpful. Reading Moonpie's birth story might give you an idea. But what is helpful is this book I'm reading. And she points out what I pointed out in my previous blog post - ALL marriages are cross-cultural. ALL marriages are the coming together of people from different backgrounds, and the coming together of two different, sometimes VERY different, families. It was really nice to read that and confirm what I had suspected.

This book is just so, so helpful. She addresses each chapter to different relationships, first parents in relating to their children's spouses, then adult children relating to their spouse's parents, then siblings relating to their sibling's spouses, then both sets of parents relating to each other, etc. She gives lots of examples, which won't ring true for everyone, but demonstrate principles to live by. Her main point, if I may summarize it, is that we are all different, and that is not a bad thing. Especially in in-law relationships we need to leave room for difference while giving each other the benefit of the doubt, and we need to turn the other cheek. A lot.

This book is by no means written from a Christian perspective, but it honestly gives better practical advice that I've read in any "Christian" book or website, which usually mention Ruth and Naomi. I wonder how many situations that story actually applies to in terms of losing all male relatives, converting to your mother-in-law's beliefs and moving with her back to her hometown where you marry one of her relatives and become an ancestor to the Savior of the world. I also wonder if the story of Ruth and Naomi was meant to be a model for in-law relationships, or rather a demonstration of God's generous redeeming grace. Anyway, I digress...

Another of her main assumptions is that you can't change other people, but you can change your attitudes and responses. If you really want to change your in-laws, you probably won't like this book, and if you just want to rant and rave about how crazy they are (I have been guilty of this), it also won't be your favorite book. It is a really challenging, but really rewarding book.

I think even people who think they have a great relationship with their in-laws should read this book. As she pointed out, big life events in a family like marriage, birth, illness, death, and divorce all ripple through a family and can change dynamics, possibly souring what was a great relationship if unspoken expectations aren't met. I wish someone had given me this book before we got married.

All this to say, I won't force you or twist your arm, but seriously, read this book.


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