Wednesday, 25 July 2012

In-laws Can Redefine Dysfunctionality

I am quickly coming to the conclusion that we all emanate from a dysfunctional family of sorts, even if only mildly so.  I am also becoming painfully aware of how a somewhat toxic environment can indelibly etch its mark on us.

We get married and realize that our in-laws redefine dysfunctional.  This can cause some significant problems either in terms of the long-term effect it has had on your spouse and/or on your ability to relate to them.

In spite of their bizarreness it is important that you do whatever you can to fit in.

Amy Morin, LCSW offered the following basic suggestions in her recent blog.

1.    Participate in family functions – From reunions to backyard barbeques, your willingness to attend family functions shows your interest in getting to know your spouse’s family better.

2.    Be open to new traditions – Be willing to learn about your spouse’s traditions it is important. You don’t have to embrace them all as your own. You and your spouse can discuss which traditions you want to carry on and which ones you might choose to leave behind. Your spouse may be more willing to leave some of them behind if you’ve shown you are open to learning about them.

3.    Don’t complain to your in-laws about your spouse - Sometimes people go to their in-laws to complain about their spouse in hopes it will help create some change. However, if you think your husband is lazy, telling his mother about it isn’t likely to help. If you think your wife spends too much money her mother may not have a sympathetic ear.  Remember, your in-laws raised your spouse. They will likely be offended by your complaints.

4.    Set healthy boundaries - You don’t have to be a doormat to your in-laws. If your mother-in-law comes to your house every day and criticizes your housekeeping; or your father-in-law seems keeps hinting that you are not doing enough to provide for your family, you need to set boundaries.  If you say nothing, you’ll likely grow resentful.

If you decide to set some boundaries talk to your spouse about it first. Then present a united front in explaining your request to your in-laws. It’s healthy to set some reasonable expectations, especially about your own house or your children.  It is the responsibility of the child to take up the issue with his or her parents not that of the daughter-in-law or son-in-law, i.e. deal with your own parents.

5.    Don’t compete - If your mother-in-law brags that her pecan pie is award winning, let her brag. Or if your father-in-law claims to be the best fisherman in the land, don’t respond by telling him about the fish you caught last weekend.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Wash Your Mouth Out with Soap

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  Ephesians 4:29

When I was a child one of the weapons wielded by some parents was the threat of washing one’s mouth out with soap.  Triggering events could be talking back to parents, being disrespectful or using vulgar language, etc.  I have not heard that expression used in years.  Of course now you would have to text the message to your child.

I started to think that I never heard that expression applied to an adult.  I could never imagine my mother saying to my father “if you speak to me in that tone again I’m going to wash your mouth out with soap,” not that my father would have ever warranted such a warning.

But maybe we should consider instituting such a penalty.  First of all God would not have given us this command in Ephesians 4:29 if all of our speech were wholesome.  Consider the following:

James 3:3-12 in The Message says

3-5A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!

 5-6It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.

 7-10This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can't tame a tongue—it's never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!

 10-12My friends, this can't go on. A spring doesn't gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don't bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don't bear apples, do they? You're not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?

John Gottman
John Gottman, noted clinical psychologist specializing in marriage, has identified criticism and contempt as two relationship killers. There are no erase buttons, no rewind buttons and no judge to tell the jury to disregard that last comment.  If this blog convicted you go chew on a bar of soap.