Understanding the Mother-in-Law/Daughter-in-Law Relationship Part 3
The mamor (mother-in-law) and damor (daughter-in-law) relationship is meant to be beautiful and strong. In parts 1 and 2 of our series we learned why women in these roles might have certain feelings in their new family dynamics. Once we learned the “why” we then explored practical steps we can take to strengthen these special bonds. As we bring our series to a close, I want to impart some words of wisdom we all need to hear, and be reminded of, to ensure we create a healthy, life-long bond between the mamor/damor.
Words of Wisdom for Mamors and Damors:
1. In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People one trait most successful people have in common is they “seek to understand.” In your relationship with your mamor/damor, do not make assumptions. Always look at her heart for the true meaning of what is being communicated. If she hurt you, know it was not intentional. We are all imperfect women, and we will fail each day.
2. Remember that different personalities see things differently.
3. Mamors/damors, share experiences together, and tell each other stories. This is how friendships and bonds are formed.
4. Acknowledge that you will step on each other’s toes. This is no different than any other relationship.
5. Bride and groom, learn to leave and cleave. Mamors, remember we raised our sons in such a way that when the time came, they could stand on their own in partnership with their covenant bride. There are only three people in a covenant, the bride, the groom, and God. Mamor, let your son go. (With our young married couples, we see many problems when the son leaves and cleaves but the wife does not do the same, but that is for another topic).
6. Remember, it makes a son happy when his wife and mom are great friends.
Cecelia and I show up to places often dressed alike.
7. Mamors/damors, get to know each other as individual women, and not just as “wife to my son” or “mother to my husband.” Early in my son’s relationship with Cecelia, I knew she and I had crossed an important threshold when she said to me over coffee, “You know what would upset me most if Christopher and I broke up? That I would lose you!” As you can imagine, my eyes teared up and we could not stop hugging! I knew it was at that point she loved me for me, not just as the mother of the man she loved.
8. Good moms want their sons to have good marriages. If a mother ever wishes ill for her child’s healthy marriage, there is something wrong inside the mom’s heart. The first thing I do in the morning when I have my quiet time is pray for Caz and Cecelia’s marriage. Each prayer might change based on specific circumstances, but I always ask God to put a hedge of protection around their union. I ask that they each become more Christlike every day, and I pray they will honor Him through their covenant relationship.
9. Mamors, if you are having trouble letting go, ask God to help you. This is what He wants, so you can be confident that He will guide you. And as you take on your knew role, remember you are not losing your son. I hate the saying, “Sons are sons until they find a wife; daughters are daughters for life.” Why do I dislike this quote? Because it is not true. These words just feed into a negative stereotype and can also fuel a mamor’s preconceived idea about her damor. In an earlier blog I mentioned our old mother/son relationship is fading, but what I did not mention was that a new connection is blooming, and it is beautiful! Moms, you do not lose your son, the dynamics just change, and if the two of you have a healthy connection, it will change for the better. I can tell you from personal experience, I love this stage of life with my son. We are having a blast! As a mom, we may no longer have control, but we do have influence. Our sons will still look to us for guidance. We are also now free to have a deep friendship that we could not have when we had to mother them. I can testify that this is the best time in my life with Caz, and I say this as a mother that has always had a great relationship with her son. Because he was an only child, we spent a great deal of time together. Our home was full of love and laughter, and the memories we share will last a lifetime. With that said, I am spending MORE time with my son now that he is married than I did when he was a single adult. We double date, and he calls us more often. I love where we are in this stage! And if he does something crazy, I can look at Cecelia and say, “Hey, God gave him to me, but you chose him.” All in jest, of course. I would not trade Caz for the world! Moms, if you make the transition from hovering mother to guiding mentor with your son, the two of you might just find yourselves in a relationship that is closer than it has ever been.
10. A good mamor encourages, accepts, and loves unconditionally. A damor might do things differently than you did. She may cook differently, clean differently, and her goals in life may not be what you envisioned. That is alright! She and your son will figure it out.
11. Damors, recognize there is actual pain involved when a mother lets go of her son. She is leaving a special relationship behind and being forced into something new, even if she is not ready.
12. Mamor, your son and damor may have different dreams than what you desire. So, be it. Embrace and support them! It is not your life to live.
13. Remember we are both daughters of God. Satan wants to destroy anything God has created, which means he wants to destroy the mamor/damor bond. Why would we let him? If there is conflict, work it out. Respect each other’s boundaries. Communicate. Cecelia and I welcome each other with open arms, and we try to accommodate each other when at all possible. But we also have no problem saying no, and we respect the “no.” We are secure in our relationship because we both go out of our way to serve the other. So, when we must say no, we both understand it is for a good reason.
14. Mamors, pray for your son’s future spouse. We began praying for Cecelia two years before she was born! And pray God prepares you to embrace your new role when that time comes.
CAZ and Cecelia on their Honeymoon
15. A great question to ask yourself each Monday, “How can I bless my mamor/damor this week?”
We have outlined what a healthy relationship looks like, but I fully recognize not all mamor/damor situations are good. To have a strong connection, both women need to be emotionally healthy. This is true in any relationship. Authors and marriage experts Leslie and Les Parrott have a book titled Healthy Me/Healthy Us, and it revolves around the premise that someone’s relationships are only as strong as the strength level of their own emotional health. If I am emotionally unhealthy, if I carry a lot of baggage, then any relationship I touch will potentially be unhealthy. An example. If either a damor or mamor came from a dysfunctional family growing up, each woman might feel threatened and unsafe in their new roles. Due to their own dysfunction, they might try to compensate by controlling everything and everyone in their lives, and a person like this will almost always feel threatened by their mamor/damor. In some situations, a trained counselor may be needed to help with healing.
Healthy relationships start with us. We cannot fix other people, but we can correct our own behavior. If you are in a tumultuous situation, whether you started the battle or not, you need to be the one to stop it. This may mean swallowing your pride, but it is the right thing to do. “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9 NIV).
Ladies, if you have a negative preconceived idea of what the mamor/damor relationship will look like, then this is exactly what you will get. Maybe your mom had a toxic situation with her mamor. If so you grew up thinking this was normal and expected. Do not make this a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is not how God created it to be. You each would give your life for the man that connects you. This gives you both a common bond that should be so strong no one can break it.
The Man in the Middle:
I would like to briefly turn my attention to the man that brought you together. Mamors/damors, help him become the leader God created him to be. We spend so much time focusing on the mamor/damor relationship, we forget that the son/husband is also entering a different role. He, too, is adjusting to a new relationship with his mom, as well as learning how to be a godly husband. He may not know how to navigate the new waters he finds himself in. He will make mistakes along the way, and both women should help him with gentleness, kindness, and a lot of patience.
Mamors, help your son learn to leave and cleave. In the early years of marriage, it is not uncommon for the newlywed couple to turn to their parents as the first call they make when seeking answers to a question, or guidance for a problem, or comfort when they are sick. This is normal. Afterall, Mom and Dad were the people who met all their needs for the last 20 plus years. But once that covenant marriage is sealed, to build a strong foundation the couple needs to follow God’s command to leave and cleave.
I am often asked by the newlywed couples we mentor how to put “leaving and cleaving” into practice. It is an area where we see a lot of pain and difficulty in the first couple years of marriage. All aspects of the family are trying to figure out their new roles, and change is hard. To put it simply, leaving means you are leaving your parents and your old ways of doing things behind. Cleaving means you now turn towards your spouse as the first person you seek in all things. The visual representation for cleaving is two people holding each other so tightly that nothing can come in between their embrace.
Mamors, when we help our sons learn to cleave to their wives, we are supporting them as they build a solid marital foundation. Sons, are you seeking guidance on an issue? First, ask your wife for her counsel. Are you sick? Let your wife take care of you. Need to vent about a bad day? Seek out your wife. I want to be clear on this. I am not saying do not call Mom and Dad for advice and counsel, or to vent. You should always seek guidance from those that are older and hopefully wiser, and parents can be great listeners. What I am saying is you should turn to your wife, first.
Mamors, a strong family unit is important in life, and I am not suggesting you should avoid helping your infirmed son. If my son is sick, you can bet your bottom dollar I will bring him his favorite soup. But before I do that, I will ask his wife what I can do to help. Maybe she has a favorite food she grew up with that she wants to use to nurture her husband back to health. For me to rob her of this opportunity to learn to become his caretaker is for me to dishonor their covenant. This young couple swore a promise to each other that usually sounds like this, “In the name of God, I take you, to have and to hold…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part.”
Part of learning to love and cherish is made real when a husband and wife are given the opportunities to fulfill promises they made to each other in their wedding vows. Celebrations and good times build memories for your son and damor, but it is through the trials, through the holding, where their marriages will be strengthened. Mamors, our hearts may be in the right place, but we should never take away opportunities for our children to strengthen their foundation as a couple, to grow closer, to practice love, and to learn to cherish through the act of cleaving.
Mamors, if we do not help our grown children learn to hold tight to their covenant partner, we potentially become an obstacle that can damage the marriage. And sometimes this damage can be so subtle it does not emerge until years down the road when cracks begin to form in a foundation that was not properly poured. Our days of “momma knows best” and “call me first” must now take a back seat to the husband and wife saying, “My spouse comes first, and I will honor and cherish her (or him) by fulfilling my vows to love and to hold.”
Damors, help your husbands step into their leadership role by allowing them to be number one in your life. If a husband feels he is always playing second fiddle to another family member, that you do not seek his counsel first, that you do not seek his comfort first, then he may never fully step into the role God created for him to fill. Guide your husband as he seeks to honor you and help him fulfill the promises he made to you. Lastly, help your husband obey God’s command to honor his mother and father.
Mamors and damors, if you both accept God’s word as truth in your life, then you realize the mamor/damor relationship should be beautiful! God has brought you ALL together for a reason, and it may not only be about a new marriage. It might be God has something big planned for the entire new unit of the family He just created. We do not know, and it does not matter. All we are called to do is be obedient to Him, and when we are, we will become the person God created us to be. When we earnestly seek to become more Christlike every day, the mamor and damor relationship will not just survive, it will thrive!
Together with you,