Enjoying a Warm In-Law Relationship
FUJIKO, the anguished daughter-in-law mentioned in the opening article, finally pursuaded her husband to move out of his parents’ apartment and into one next door. But things did not improve much. Interference by her in-laws continued, and her gloom lingered on. Then one day a stranger called on her.
That visit started Fujiko on a course that resulted in a changed personality, and this improved her relationship with others. She began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. In time, her attitude changed so much that her father-in-law wanted to attend the studies to see for himself ‘what kind of religion it was that had so changed her personality.’
Recognizing the New Bond
The Bible gives a clear picture of the Scriptural marriage arrangement. After God created the first human pair and brought them together, he established the following principle: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) So the new couple must recognize that they have entered into a new bond. They must now stick to each other as an independent unit even though they may live with their in-laws.
Leaving father and mother, however, does not mean that children when they get married can turn their backs on their parents and that they no longer need to respect and honor them. “Do not despise your mother just because she has grown old,” admonishes the Bible. (Proverbs 23:22) Yet, with marriage, there is an adjustment in relationships. As long as each member of the family keeps this well in mind, the young couple can benefit from the experience and the wisdom of the parents.
Timothy, the reputable young man whom the apostle Paul took on his missionary journeys, was brought up by his Jewish mother, Eunice. However, his grandmother Lois evidently also had a hand in shaping his life. (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15) This is not to say that grandmothers have the right to interfere in child training and set up standards different from those of the parents. There is an appropriate manner in which the older generation can help the younger in training children.—Titus 2:3-5.
“The Truly Wise Woman”
If two generations are to cooperate in such a sensitive issue as child training, both must act in wisdom. “The truly wise woman has built up her house,” says a Bible proverb, “but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.” (Proverbs 14:1) How can a woman build up her house? Tomiko says that it was communication that helped her to mend her relationship with her daughter-in-law, Fujiko. “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk,” counsels the Bible.—Proverbs 15:22.
Communication does not mean blurting out everything on your mind without regard for the feelings of others. Here is where wisdom comes into play. “A wise person will listen” to what others have to say. Sometimes your in-laws may have something to say, but they hesitate to express themselves. Be discerning, and ‘draw their thoughts up.’ Then ‘meditate’ before you speak.—Proverbs 1:5; 15:28; 20:5.
Timing is very important. “As apples of gold in silver carvings is a word spoken at the right time for it,” says a Bible proverb. (Proverbs 25:11) Tokiko and her daughter-in-law say that they wait till the right time before they express opinions that may rub the other the wrong way. “I try to think before talking when I want to point out something to my daughter-in-law,” says Tokiko. “I keep the points in my mind and speak when she is in a good mood and is not hungry. You see, it is easy to get irritated when you are hungry.”
A wise woman will refrain from speaking ill of her in-laws. “Whether we are mothers-in-law or daughters-in-law, we should be aware that whatever ill we speak of the other party, it will eventually be known to them,” says Sumie Tanaka, a Japanese writer who lived with her mother-in-law for 30 years. Rather, she advocates speaking well of in-laws directly and indirectly.
What, though, if your in-laws do not respond to your efforts?
Serious problems between in-laws often result from things that would cause no problem if they were done or said by someone else. Since all of us are imperfect and “stumble in word,” at times we may ‘speak thoughtlessly as with the stabs of a sword.’ (James 3:2; Proverbs 12:18) Yet, it is wise not to get upset at every thoughtless word.
Those who have overcome in-law problems have heeded the Bible counsel: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another.” (Colossians 3:13) True, it may not be easy to put up with your in-laws and forgive them, especially when there is a cause for complaint. But a strong incentive for doing so is the assurance that we will thereby receive forgiveness from God himself for our mistakes.—Matthew 6:14, 15.
Even in Oriental lands, where people traditionally follow Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shinto, there are many who have studied the Bible and have come to appreciate the truth about the benevolent Creator. Such appreciation has helped them to overcome seemingly insurmountable feelings of bitterness.
“Love Never Fails”
A happy in-law relationship needs a sure foundation. Helping an aged or sick in-law out of a sense of obligation does not always make for the best relationship. Haruko learned this when her mother-in-law was dying of cancer. She spent most of her day in the hospital caring for her mother-in-law, and in addition, she took care of her own family. She was under so much stress that she eventually lost most of her hair.
One day while tending her mother-in-law’s nails, she unintentionally cut one to the quick. “You don’t really care about me!” snapped the mother-in-law.
Shocked by those unappreciative words, Haruko could not hold back her tears. Then she realized that the words hurt so much because she had been doing everything for her mother-in-law out of a sense of obligation. She decided to let the motivating force for her service be that of love. (Ephesians 5:1, 2) This enabled her to overcome her hurt feelings and resulted in a restored relationship with her mother-in-law until she died.
Indeed, love as defined in the Bible is the key to quieting family discord. Read what the apostle Paul said about it, and see if you do not agree. “Love is long-suffering and kind,” he wrote. “Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” No wonder Paul added: “Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) How can you cultivate such love?
The Bible lists “love” as part of “the fruitage” of God’s spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Thus, in addition to your own efforts, it is essential to have the spirit of God if you are to cultivate this kind of love. Further, you can ask Jehovah, the God of the Bible, to help you to add love like his to your personality. (1 John 4:8) All of this, of course, requires that you learn about him by studying his Word, the Bible. Jehovah’s Witnesses will be most happy to assist you, as they did Fujiko and many others.
As you apply what you learn from the Bible, you will find that not only will your relationship with God improve but so will your relationship with everyone around you, including your in-laws. You will experience what the Bible promises, namely, “the peace of God that excels all thought.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
Fujiko and others mentioned in these articles came to enjoy such peace—and so can you. Yes, by looking to Jehovah God and following the counsel of his Word, the Bible, you too can build and maintain a warm relationship with your in-laws.
[Box on page 8, 9]
The Husband—Peacemaker or Peacebreaker?
When two or three generations live under one roof, the role of the husband in maintaining family peace is not to be ignored. Concerning the typical husband who evades his responsibility, Professor Tohru Arichi of Kyushu University, a specialist in family sociology, writes:
“When the couple lives with [the mother], the mother senses the needs of her son, and she unintentionally cares for her son when she perceives such needs. The son accepts such care without any hesitation. If the son would think a little more of his wife’s situation and put his mother in her place concerning her intervention, the problem would be solved. Sadly and too often, the son does not realize that.”
How, then, can a husband take an active role in making peace in his family? Mitsuharu says that his applying Bible principles helped his family. “The bond between a mother and her son is very strong even though he has grown up to be an adult,” he admits, “so the son must make conscious effort to ‘leave his father and his mother and stick to his wife.’” He applied the principle by discussing matters concerning child care and training only with his wife, and he did not compare his wife to his mother when it came to housework. “Now,” he continues, “we and my parents respect one another. Each of us knows where intervention will be resented and where help and cooperation will be appreciated.”
In addition to ‘sticking to his wife,’ the husband must be a mediator between his mother and his wife. (Genesis 2:24) He needs to be a good listener and to let them pour out their hearts. (Proverbs 20:5) One husband, who has learned to handle situations tactfully, first finds out how his wife feels. Then, in the presence of his wife, he talks to his mother about the issues involved. By thus assuming his role as the peacemaker, a son can help create pleasant relations in the home between the two women he loves.
[Picture on page 9]
Have hearing ears and communicate
[Picture on page 10]
Love, not a feeling of obligation, builds up fine relationships