I heard a story about a lady who separated her mother-in-law’s food every time the woman visited. The lady in question didn’t eat pepper but MIL does and so when mama visits, the lady would bring out mama’s cooking pots and utensils and leave the kitchen. She never offered to cook mama meals and I’m not sure mama wanted her to, anyway.
This went on for years until the lady’s husband and children stopped eating her food and began to ask mama to cook for them especially when mama visits. They preferred mama’s meals. The lady discovered that her meals aren’t as tasty as mama’s meals. Rather than continue to get angry at the intruding MIL and in order to win back her husband and kids who openly confessed to preferring mama’s meals to hers, the lady swallowed her pride and asked mama to teach her to cook.
Since then, her relationship with mama not only improved, the lady saw she had made her family suffer unnecessarily over the years because of her unwillingness to give mama a chance as her MIL.
For the most part, especially in African setting, in-laws are meant to be respected, honoured in fact; these days, in-laws are vilified, they are regarded as evil, they are no-gooders who think their brother / sister married down by marrying you.
So we hate them.
Mothers-in-law are the most hated among in-laws. Young women go into marriages expecting their mothers-in-law to be a thorn in their flesh. They see their mothers–in-law as competing for their husband’s affection. Incidentally, daughters- in-law and their fathers-in law, more often than not, get on relatively well.
There’s an explanation to why MIL and DIL don’t get on well.
Experts believe sons are their mother’s true love, especially the first sons, so relinquishing a love so devout is often difficult for most mothers, when their sons get married. They struggle to hold on to a love they think has been diluted and had become tainted with the coming of a wife. Fathers on the other hand have a special bond with their daughters, which they sometimes transfer to their son’s wife and so, the amicable relationship between FIL and DIL.
There’s this popular joke about a woman and her daughter in-law fighting over who loves the man the most.
MIL says, ‘…he sucked these breasts for 9 months and I carried him for three years.’
Wife responds; ‘He’s been sucking mine for more than 10 years and my hands have held him for even longer.’
Back in the day, it would have been a taboo to raise a voice against one’s mother-in-law or any in-law for that matter; these days, nobody cares who the in-law is. We hear of MIL fighting their sons-in-in law; one man even took his mother-in law to court in Kaduna last week, there are all kinds of nasty stuff between in-laws out there.
In Yorubaland and I am sure in several parts of the country, in-laws were treated with some measure of respect. A man, for instance is expected to treat his wife’s family with quiet respect from a distance. He doesn’t want to get too close and he doesn’t want to become too distant. He is expected to see his wife’s family as his people he shouldn’t offend.
The wife on the other hand must show obvious respect towards her husband’s people; she must woo them and strive to be close to them as they have become her new family, she must be accepting of her husband’s people and welcoming no matter what, in short, as far as her in-laws are concerned, it is see no evil, hear no evil! That is the mark of a good wife.
It was thought that being in the good books of her in-laws guaranteed the wife a peaceful existence and stability in the marriage. She gains the “our wife” title from her in laws when they see her fit to truly be a wife; meaning, she has been accepted by her husband’s family. She is wife to all and expected to do her “husbands’” bidding. Her “husbands” become her husband’s siblings and his relatives She calls her husband’s siblings, young and old, male and female, “my husband,” and addresses them with tonal respect even if they are much younger than her.
Meaning she s expected to treat them with the same form of respect she accords her husband. She must ensure she remains in their good books or else, she’s out of her matrimonial home
But is that really true?
Does being in one’s in-law’s good books ensure a sustained, even a happy marriage?
Does being called “our wife” guarantee a fruitful marriage?
Do in-laws wield so much power as to determine if a wife stays married to their relation or not?
I agree that to some extent, this may be true. If the husband is influenced by the words of his family, it could determine if she is worth keeping but things have changed, who says it’s the man who determines who leaves the marriage and when?
Women walk out of marriages they no longer wish to be in.
I have seen homes where the wife and her in-laws don’t see eye to eye and yet, she remains the queen of her home, her husband stands by her no matter what, against his own family!
And in other bizarre situations, I’ve seen wives who are absolutely at peace and even friendly with their in-laws and yet the men walked out of the marriage.
So are in-laws truly the problems here?
I think, not entirely!
They may be a part, an insignificant part but the true participants are the two people who started the marriage. But we are talking about in-laws here, not the spouses.
Who are these in-laws?
The best way to see a good or bad in-law is to look in the mirror!
Who do you see?
Like it or not, everyone is someone’s in-law.
The daughter-in-law whining about her mean mother –in-law will end up being a mother-in-law herself…except of course she has no plans to have children…what sort will she be?
The mother-in-law whining about her disrespectful daughter-in-law was once someone’s daughter-in-law, mama, what manner of daughter –in-law were you? Why make another person’s daughter miserable?
The brother-in-law or sister–in-law thumping their noses at their sibling’s spouses are also in-laws to some others, who knows, what manner of in-law they are to them?
The matter of in-laws, is a matter of self; we just need to be the in-law we wish to meet.