I am so grateful for my husband. We’re that typical high school sweetheart couple that were dopey love birds in our teen years, went to college together, got engaged, married, started a family and have never been with another person. Yes, I can see some of the eye rolls now. We know how cliché and boring it sounds.
What made our relationship a success for us is our value and belief system aligns with one another. We share the same political, religious, and family views. Sure, we may differ on small details of those bigger beliefs, but those little differences help us grow together, rather than the big differences that can tear us apart.
His family, though? That’s not the quite the same experience. When I first met my now in-laws, I adored them. I grew up constantly fighting with my own parents that their home became like a second home for me. My mother-in-law was warm, compassionate, and those in the community that knew her personally always called her a “saint”. My father-in-law was sarcastic and witty and made the room fill with laughter. I thought they were amazing.
Over the years, new sides of them started to emerge. When political news came on the TV, snide, bigoted comments would pop out of their mouth, shocking me. Before a ban on gay marriage was deemed unconstitutional, my father-in-law with his brother next to him used several slurs to describe homosexual men and women. Any news of Islamic terrorism always deemed the comment, “We need to ship all them Muslims all out.” When kids would act out in public, they would comment how the kid needed the belt. All of which, my husband and I hold the opposite beliefs.
At first, I kept my mouth shut. How could I speak against my husband’s parents? Everyone loved them, and I would just be that annoying daughter-in-law that no one in the family would want to interact with. I would tell myself, “Things were great with them before. Maybe it was just me.” But over the years, the comments became worse. Eventually I felt as though the comments were directed toward my husband and I because they knew our thoughts on these views didn’t match their own.
The tipping point was the result of my son’s birth. Both my parents and my in-laws were ecstatic. My goofy, blonde-hair, sweet boy was the first grandchild on both sides. I had a pretty typical labor of 16 hours, but had a rough post-labor recovery due to tearing and exhaustion.
The day after his birth, we chose to not have visitors (minus one friend who was traveling through town who we see once a year). My mother-in-law rage texted my mom and my husband, saying that I was keeping my son to myself and away from his family and that they have a right to see him as his grandparents.
I was upset and hurt beyond anything they had ever said before that I didn’t agree with. I could handle their remarks about politics or social issues, but this crossed a line. I chose to take that day for myself and my family to grown and bond. It was a wonderful day of rest, relaxation and enjoying our new baby boy. That memory was shattered by the thought that I was being selfish for not sharing that day.
Since then I decided I wouldn’t keep my mouth shut when it comes to their hurtful and slighted comments. In just the last month, I have debated with them about law enforcement, politics, physical punishment for children and religion.
And guess what—it was actually productive. There were a few times when tensions would raise (when my husband was usually involved because as much as I love that guy, he doesn’t keep a cool head debating), but we actually have come to understand each other more. We aren’t going to be changing each other’s minds anytime soon, but through our conversations we’ve been able to see one another’s point of view, reasoning and have just a little bit more understanding and empathy.
I still choose my battles, but I will show my point of view (and usually empirical evidence) to support my claim with my husband’s family. In doing so, I hope that they will open up their minds just a little bit more to the other side of an issue, just as I hope they do that for me.