August 15, 2010
Rage is never pretty
– not in you, me, nor in the man in the moon. It has no upside. It produces nothing worth having. It reduces everyone in its environment to a victim. It scares children. There’s nothing redeeming about rage. It causes physiological distress, psychological pain, and accelerates physical exhaustion. It hurts relationships. Rage is always ugly, always destructive.
Rage is never helpful
I’ve witnessed rage erupt in clients during therapy where there’s a sudden burst of rage over a matter that might appear inconsequential to the observer. I’ve seen it while I am engaged in the give and take of life – a woman loses it with her child in public, a man yells uncontrollably in the traffic, a teenager storms off from a parent in the mall.
Regretfully, I’ve felt it in me. Forces collide, my world feels out of control, I resort to blaming others for whatever I perceive as having gone wrong. Something primal snaps. I’m momentarily blind, deaf to reason. Then, I breathe deeply. I hold onto myself. Reason returns. Logic prevails. I get my focus off others. I look at myself. I take responsibility for myself. Do I always catch it? Handle it well? Of course not.
How is a person to handle a moment of rage in a loved one? Keep a level head. Walk away. Try not to react. Don’t personalize it. It’s not about you. You may participate in the precipitating event, but you don’t cause the outburst. In the moment of his or her fury don’t try to reason, negotiate, or restrain.
This too shall pass.
August 8, 2010
My mother-in-law is very subtle in the way she puts me down. I am just not good enough and she lets me know it through looks, gestures, and laced comments. I know you will tell me to talk to her about this face-to-face and not to triangle my husband into it. Well I don’t expect my husband to intervene and I have tried to talk to her and the conversation went nowhere. She was super-nice when we met face-to-face and it was impossible to bring up anything negative. It was as if she fought off what I wanted to say with being overly nice. We are both very strong women. It feels like a competition without anyone knowing what the prize is. My children love her and she is wonderful with them. I only get strong negative feelings about her relationship with the children is when I feel she is putting me down. I am a stay-at-home mother while she has always had a successful career. (Situation synthesized from conversation and used with permission)
Apparently the helpful, positive material between you outweighs the unhelpful. I’d suggest you embrace her and consider the “looks, gestures, and laced comments” a worthy price to pay for a wonderful grandmother’s involvement in your children’s lives.
August 11, 2008
How one daughter-in-law chose to treat her husband’s parents…
“I knew that how a man treats his parents is generally how he will treat you. Remember who raised him. Did you think that this wonderful man came full-grown out of the sea? No, that mother and father were the ones who made him that wonderful, so give them a break. Make friends with them and you will never regret it. I had a lot of questions for them before I got married but now I feel like I am their daughter. They include me in everything. But, I made a point to make friends with them both. Without my husband I would call them and do things with them. Doing this once in awhile made my husband relax that he was not the only one ‘responsible’ for his parents. It made them like me so that if he showed up at their house without me they would either call me to come over also or shoo him home! The house next door to us was for sale last year and I begged them to buy it to live even closer. I love them dearly!” (Edited for space)
August 3, 2008
“My brother-in-law orders my sister around as if she’s his servant. He talks down to her. He demands his own way and he tells her she’s useless. My sister never complains but I can see it hurts her. Once or twice she’s started to open up to me about the way things are in her marriage but she usually clams up as if she’s being disloyal or something. Should I say anything to him? He is very nice in public but I have seen how he is in private.”
I’d suggest you continue to give your sister opportunities to talk with you. If you approach your brother-in-law directly, about his relationship with your sister, it is unlikely you will receive a listening ear. Difficult men do not like to be exposed. Your approach could serve as a catalyst for your sister to go even more deeply into her shell.
Be your sister’s friend. Be a listening ear. Ask your sister if her marriage is what she’d hoped it would be. Ask her what she intends to do to get the kind of marriage she wanted. Your love and support will be helpful. Addressing him will be taking on something that is hers and hers alone to address.
October 23, 2007
“My husband and my parents just do not get along. They seem to be fighting about everything and anything. My husband says he’s not at fault and my parents say they are not at fault. But I feel trapped in the middle. How do I deal with both without hurting or betraying the other.”
Get out of the middle. Leave the room when their conflicts surface. Laugh uproariously at their childish ways. Find the humor in their absurd inability to co-exist as adults.
But, do not carry messages between the “warring” groups. Say things like, “He’s your son-in-law, talk to him yourself,” and, “My parents can hear this from you as much as they can from me. You talk to them.”
It is possible for you to love and honor both of these intense relationships without their divide severing you in two.
Remember, you are powerless over relationhips that do not involve you. These relationships impact you, yes, but they do not involve you.
November 30, 2006
“My mother-in-law spoils our children and my wife won’t tell her to stop. We have been married for seven years and I am tired of her mother interfering in our lives and especially with spoiling the children. What should I do?”
When, Sir, did you lose the ability to speak for yourself? I trust you know that your mother-in-law’s power within your family might be a direct result of your unwillingness or inability to speak up for yourself.
Your wife’s mother is your mother-in-law: speak to her yourself.
I’d suggest that since you perceive your wife as the spokesperson for matters relating to your mother-in-law, that your assessment of how she treats your children might not be fair or accurate.
Before you launch into addressing this matter that is causing you distress, I’d suggest you get several opinions from friends who are men enough to have a mutual, respectful, and equal relationships with the mothers of their brides and the grandmothers of their children.
There are such men? Yes. I have met them in every culture I’ve had the joy of visiting.