Mother/Daughter-in-Law Survival Guide | Part 1

 

Annie and Lilian Chapman

Annie and Lillian Chapman

Steve and I returned home from spending Thanksgiving weekend with his parents, my in-laws, P.J. and Lillian Chapman.  As we drove the eight-hour trek from West Virginia back to Tennessee, I was reminded, once again of how truly blessed I am to have a wonderful relationship with my mother-in-law.  Sadly enough, I know this advantage is not true for everyone.

Some of you are facing the possibility of many hours together with your in-laws.  In a nutshell, you dread being with people you are supposed to love but really don’t like all that much.

In the book, The Mother-in-Law Dance, I offer some practical ways to build a mutually satisfying and lasting relationship between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law.

This week I will offer three things a mother-in-law can do that will help avoid discord between her daughter-in-law and her son’s family. The insights below are adapted from my book, “The Mother-in-Law Dance / Can Two Women Love The Same Man and Still Get Along” available in the book section at this website.

(Next week, I will share three things the daughter-in-law can do to honor her husband’s mother and help keep Harmony in the Home.)

 For the mother-in-law…

  • Be flexible, not pitiful

There are a lot of demands on our adult children’s time.   While I value being with my children as much as any mother, I’ve decided I will not put additional pressure on them by requiring them to fit into my plans.   What does that look like?  It means the Chapman Thanksgiving dinner, for example, may be the week before the actual holiday or even the first week of December.  Or it may mean that our Christmas celebration is on the 18th instead of the 25th.

While this may seem unfair, and sometimes it feels that way, my ultimate goal is to make life for my children easier and less stressful.  Of all the people and situations in their lives that make it difficult, I don’t want to be one of them.

So, may I be so bold as to offer some of you moms a gift idea for your adult children?  How about giving your kids a guilt-free holiday?  If you are like me, it will cost you a lot to do it, but it may be just the gift they were hoping for.

  • Be careful to stay inside your boundaries

Like a beautiful river that gives pleasure and joy to a community, the same water source can bring destruction and sorrow when it leaves it bank and encroaches on the surrounding areas.

In a similar way, a mother-in-law is a wonderful asset to a family.  She can bring wisdom and help that is beneficial to her son’s family like no one else can.  However, when she steps over the line by interjecting her thoughts, opinions and presence without an invitation to do so she can do great harm.

Keep in mind, the same expressions of love that make an incredible mother to small children (the desire to nurture, guide, instruct and carefully watch over her young) are the same actions and attitudes that make a terrible mother to adult children.

  • Be encouraging with your words

Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” The truth of this proverb is especially applicable when it comes to the Mother-in-law/Daughter-in-law relationship.  Affirming your daughter-in-law with positive words and an encouraging attitude will go along way to helping your son and his family to want to be around you.  The old adage, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is true, but of course who wants to catch flies.  Also keep in mind that honey also attracts bears.  But I digress.

If you are ever tempted to have a heart to heart talk with your daughter-in-law in order to point out her faults or to correct something you find unacceptable…Please don’t do it!!  As a rule, the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is such that no good can come out of that kind of conversation. If you must express yourself, then tell your son and let him deal with it.  The following poem says it very well…

Power of Words

A careless word may kindle strife

A cruel word may wreck a life

A bitter word may hate instill

A brutal word may smite and kill

 

A gracious word may smooth the way

A joyous word may light the way

A timely word may lessen stress

A loving word may heal and bless

(Author unknown)

 

Do you have any practical advice you can share that has helped you in your relationship with your in-laws?  Feel free to leave a comment or prayer request so other’s can share in your wisdom or your burden.

If you know someone who could benefit from this information please share this web page with them. Thanks!

Annie Chapman

Mother/Daughter-in-Law Survival Guide/ Part 2

Last week I shared three things a mother-in-law can do to keep harmony with her daughter-in-law.  Now, let’s look at what the daughter-in-law can do to promote peace and good-will in the relationship.

Acknowledge Her Sacrifice

Years ago, Steve wrote a song that captured the unspoken feelings of a groom’s mother following her son’s wedding. The chorus says…

But of all the words that were spoken on this his wedding day

No one thought about asking her, “Who gives this man away?”

Without question, the emotional impact of releasing a son to “another woman” can be painful. However, it’s a pain that can be healed with some understanding words. I know this from experience because my daughter-in-law of eleven years has said to me, and more than once, how much she appreciated the fact that I had invested lots of years into raising our son then graciously gave him up to be her husband.

Dealing with a Difficult Mother-in-Law

The reality is some mothers-in-law make it very hard to accept them because they are simply difficult people.

Romans 12:18 gives us the best advice when it comes to “getting along” with others.  “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”   Even the Lord knows there are some people who refuse to allow love to permeate their hearts.

In the book, The Mother-in-law Dance (in the chapter, Boxers Dance, Too) a daughter-in-law shared what she did to help build a bridge instead of erecting a wall between them.

  • “I kept my distance.”  Instead of going to visit my mother-in-law in her home, we met at a restaurant or park.  That way, neither of us had to worry about the children making a mess or breaking a valued treasure.
  • “I kept my tongue.”  Making sure my words were kind and respectful made it possible to live a life free of regret.  After my mother-in-law died, it helped knowing I had not let her bad behavior change me and make me into someone I could not be proud of.
  • “I kept smiling.”  From time to time I sent humorous quips and jokes along with funny cards to my mother-in-law.  Little by little, the bricks of resentment began to come down.  I learned that returning good for evil and a blessing instead of an insult kept life more pleasant for our family and I was able to maintain a clear conscience before God.

Show Affection 

Every person longs to be loved, including mother-in-laws. If you’d like to express your affection for her, here’s a wonderful old poem you could either copy and give or read to her.

Mother-in-Law

“Mother-in-law” they say, and yet somehow I simply can’t forget

‘Twas you who watched his baby ways, who taught him his first hymn of praise

Who smiled on him with loving pride when he first toddled by your side

“Mother-in-law” but oh, ‘twas you who taught him to be kind and true

When he was tired, almost asleep, ‘twas to your arms he used to creep

And when he bruised his tiny knee, ‘twas you who kissed it tenderly

“Mother-in-law” they say, and yet somehow I never shall forget

How much I owe to you, who taught him how to grow

You trained your son to look above; you made of him the man I love

And so I think of that today when with thankful heart I’ll say

“Our Mother”

(Author Unknown)

 

   If you have additional suggestions on how others can strengthen their relationship with a mother-in-law, please feel free to share them with us.

Blessings on you and yours

Annie Chapman

 

Incompatibility…The Spice in Marriage

 

In the Chapman household it was a ‘silent night’ and I’m not talking about the classic Christmas song!

Earlier in the day, Eb Scrooge and Mrs. Claus had tried to have Christmas with their children.  But along with opening the gifts, we also “unwrapped” our opposing opinions about the Holiday. What could have been the most wonderful time of the year turned out to be a “bah humbug” event…again.

Huggin’ around the Christmas tree

James 4:1-3 isn’t typically used as part of the Christmas narrative. In our case, however, it was more appropriate than the Luke 2 story.  Brother James asked, “What causes fights and quarrel among you?”  He answered his own question by saying that we get angry because we don’t get our waySimply stated, anger is what happens when “my way is the only way” fails to happen.   

Gratefully, Steve and I have learned that having differing opinions is not necessarily a bad thing.  We also realize that we can disagree without being disagreeable.  In the “Christmas situation,” I wanted to overspend and overindulge our children with more gifts than they needed.  Steve, on the other hand, thought the children already had enough toys and didn’t need anything else

If I’d had my way, we would have been in debt from one January to the next.  If Steve had his way our children would have written a scathing book about him entitled, “Daddy, Dearest.”  The good news is, by compromising and learning to see the other’s opinion as valid, we learned to enjoy a wonderfully, debt-free, non-spoiled-children-Christmas with great memories.

As of this writing Steve and I have had the privilege of thirty-eight chances to celebrate Christmas together.  As the years have gone by, we have done much better at achieving “peace on earth,” or at least, “peace in Tennessee.” We finally realized that our differences are really like spice in chili. Without it, chili would be bland and lacking taste. With spice, however, chili is an exciting dish…so is marriage!

How did this accomplishment happen? We decided to embrace each other’s idea of what Christmas is supposed to be. While it wasn’t easy, nor comfortable, we’re happy to report that our decision to do so really did work. It not only helped us get along much better during the Advent Season, our relationship has grown stronger since then.

The song, Incompatibility, highlights many of the differences we have recognized in our relationship yet have chosen to embrace. Perhaps some of the items on our lyrical list might sound familiar to you. If so, you’ll know you’re not alone in the challenge to get along as a couple… even with opposing views. Remember, chili is much better with spice!

Incompatibility

Him:  I like a little mayo

Her:  Mustard is my thing

Him:  Make my bread as white as cotton

Her:  I’ll have wheat with seven grains

Her:  And a little candle glowing when we eat is what I like

Him:  I need to see what I’m consuming, so please turn on the lights

 

Her:  I go to bed before the news

Him:  I’m still awake at two A.M.

Her:  I’m up before the chickens

Him:  If I can, I’m sleeping in

Him:  I like wearing huntin’ clothes

Her:  I like huntin’ clothes to wear

Her:  I’ll always ask directions

Him:  I’ll find my own way there

 

We’ve got incompatibility everywhere we turn

But still we stay together cause there’s a lesson we have learned

That if this man and woman were in every way the same

One of us would not be needed, and wouldn’t that be a shame

 

Her:  I like a walk in the park

Him:  And I would rather run

Him:  How far can we go on empty

Her:  I’ve never seen as fun

Him:  I like talking to my buddy’s when we’re teeing off at ten

Her:  My greens and conversation are a salad bar with friends

 

Her:  My feet are like December

His:  And mine are like July

Her:  While I’m piling on the blankets

Him:  I lay there and fry

Her:  I married Ebenezer Scrooge

Him:  I married Mrs. Claus

Her:  While I’m watching Casablanca

Him:  I’d rather be watching football

 

We’ve got incompatibility everywhere we turn

But still we stay together cause there’s a lesson we have learned

That if this man and woman were in every way the same

One of us would not be needed, and wouldn’t that be a shame

 

(“Incompatibility,” lyrics by Steve and Annie Chapman, Times and Seasons Music, BMI; available on the  Love Was Spoken CD.)

 

    Would you briefly share something you and your spouse do that helps to keep    disagreements from turning into a disaster for your marriage? 

 

Feel free to use the comment spot to share a prayer request for your marriage.  Here’s a chance for you to share your need and allow others to join with you in prayer.

 

Blessings on you and yours!

Annie Chapman

 

The Ring Story

We recently did an event for married couples and included our “ring story” along with the song “Not the Ring.” Someone requested that we feature this post again…thanks for asking!!!


From Green to Gold

       It is amazing to us how much emphasis is put these days on wedding rings. If we had a dollar for every commercial about them that we hear everyday on our favorite radio station, we’d have enough money to buy a flashy set… plus a new house, a boat, and a BMW. But, the truth is, we don’t need new rings for two good reasons.

One, our premarital poverty in 1975 helped us figure out that true love is not measured by the size and cost of an engagement or wedding ring. Its measured by something far more important… commitment. The fact is, we got married with neither band. Though there was no precious metal to exchange during our springtime wedding ceremony, we did exchange some extremely valuable vows. It wouldn’t be until later in the summer of that year that we would be able to get wedding rings.

While we were at the Tennessee State Fair, we came across a glass encased display of “golden” wedding bands. The set put us back…$4.
That’s right…our wedding rings cost $2 a piece. We proudly put on our rings and went home.

A few days later we discovered something that was both humorous and sad. The skin around our newly acquired symbols of love had turned our fingers a dull green. We considered throwing them away but couldn’t afford an upgraded set. So, we kept cleaning our ring fingers and continued wearing the cheap bands. Little did we know we would be rewarded for our frugal decision.

One day Steve had a dental emergency that couldn’t be ignored. While we were at Dr. Underwood’s office he noticed the discoloration of the skin around our rings. Evidently, feeling pity for us he asked if he could borrow our bands for a few days so he could “clean” them. We had no idea what he meant by “clean” them but we removed our rings and left them in his care.

True to his word, a few days later at church he gave our rings back to us. We smiled as we saw how completely different they looked. Polished dental gold covered the cheap metal that had left the greenish stains. Dr. Underwood had transformed our $2 bands into priceless treasures that we wear to this day.

Our “green to gold” memory remains one of our favorites in our nearly 40 years. If you had a similar start in your marriage, its likely that you too can testify that a big pricey ring is not a prequisite for an enduring love. Maybe like us, you waited until the purchase of a nice set of bands didn’t bust your bank. We waited 25 years for that moment. But we still wear our “dental gold rings” pictured below.

If you’re heading toward an engagement, maybe our story will help you focus on what’s really valuable. Or, perhaps the story in the song featured with this post will help you remember where the real treasure is in your relationship.

 

Not the Ring

The Dollar Store took over, the Murphy’s five and dime

But Bobby’s wage was not affected by the changing of the times

So he gave up his old Malibu, he got three fifty dollar bills

Then he walked downtown to buy the ring that would show the love he feels

 

The change was seven dollars and he headed to the door

And he rehearsed the words he’d say to her when his knee was on the floor

But some girls have expectations they have diamonds in their eyes

Sometimes they measure love by the rule of cost and size

 

They can’t see that…

Diamonds can be stolen, silver can be broken

The treasure that’s worth more than anything is in the promise

Not the ring

 

When she looked into the little white box that was shaking in his hand

She laughed as if she’d heard a joke she didn’t understand

Well, Bobby drives that old Malibu again, took four fifty dollar bills

And there’s a girl who’ll never know the wealth in the love that Bobby feels

 

Diamonds can be stolen, silver can be broken

The treasure that’s worth more than anything is in the promise

Not the ring

 

(Words and Music; Steve Chapman/Times & Seasons Music/BMI

From the CD by S&A Chapman, “The Miles“)

 

This House Still Stands


This House Still Stands

 

    One evening on the 6 o’clock news I saw a house that narrowly escaped the ravages of a severe storm that passed through our area.  The scene of a structure that had stood strong in the face of nature’s wrath reminded me of how my parent’s marriage survived other types of weather that threaten to devastate their home.

Ney and Sylvia Williamson got married on a cold December day in 1943.  Dad was going to be a hog farmer and had great hopes of building a business and growing a family.  On their wedding night, before they went to bed, dad went out to check on the hogs.  As he entered the hog pen, he walked straight into a fierce storm.  Some wild dogs had dragged diseased meat in amongst dad’s herd of swine and they were infected with cholera.  Mom and dad spent their wedding night killing and burning the only source of income they had.  Mom said she thought they were going to starve to death that winter… but they made it.

That wasn’t the only time they would face a flood of sorrow.  Raising six children on their dairy farm was anything but easy.  Mom and dad lost their parents and buried a twelve year old granddaughter.  At age 50, dad had a massive heart attack and mom battled cancer for ten years.  After mom died dad lived alone, remembering their 52 years together.

My parents understood well the truth in John 16:33. “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” They taught their children what it meant to lean on God for the grace and protection from even the worst of life’s storms.

This House Still Stands is not a song about man-made buildings and storms of nature. Instead, it is about two spirits that have been united into one by the bonds of matrimony, and how an unseen house can remain in tact in the face of spiritual and emotional storms and floods of life.

 

 

This House Still Stands

 

It started as a rumble

Turned into a roar

Do you remember how that wind

Pounded on our door

We lost some shingles

We lost a window pane

But when that storm had passed us

This old house remained

 

This house still stands

This house still stands

We built it on The Rock

We didn’t build it on the sand

This house still stands

 

It started as a teardrop

And turned it into a flood

When troubles came to wash away

These walls these hold our love

But babe do you remember

How we called on Jesus’ name

And when that flood was over

This old house remained

 

Chorus:

 

Words and Music:  Steve Chapman/Times & Seasons Music/BMI

Song recorded on the CD, “This House Still Stands