Right before the Independence Day holiday, I was reading about the future mother-in-law who sent painful email message to her future daughter-in-law. You can read about it here.
Yes, we all screw up, have people rub us the wrong way, and participate in interactions where someone gets under our skin in a way that makes us turn into a raving lunatic. Yup, I’ve been there and sometimes I still go there.
In this particular situation, I don’t have the details of the relationship, but I what jumps out to me is there is a painful control and jealously dynamic going on. Whether Carolyn Bourne and Heidi Withers were friends or will try to be friends once Heidi ties the not with Carolyn’s stepson (Freddie Bourne) is kind of the back burner at this point.
What I am wondering is why Carolyn wanted to control Heidi’s behavior before, during, or after the visit? Does Carolyn feel inadequate in her own knowledge and execution of proper etiquette – that she projected this onto Heidi? (In my knowledge of etiquette, you do not use email correspondence to lash out at someone.) Does Carolyn feel pushed out the “top dog lady” spot with Freddie, therefore she had to lower Heidi’s “status” in Freddie’s eyes – by pointing out where Heidi was falling short during the visit? Was Carolyn’s wedding lacking in some way that she’s jealous of the wedding Heidi is having? Is Carolyn in so much pain about this change in Freddie’s life that she’s grasping and lashing out at Heidi?
In Heidi’s situation, has she stopped for a second to consider how difficult this marriage and change may be for Carolyn? I’m not suggesting Heidi can do anything about this, but has she stepped back to think about it? (A little acknowledgement goes a long way.) Is Heidi having open communication with Carolyn so Carolyn can learn more about who Heidi is as a person? Have Heidi and Carolyn spent any time together, and did Heidi left some room open for Carolyn to spend time with Freddie, during this hostile visit?
Mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationships are complicated, tricky, and take a lot of work. I know!
I’m not saying all mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws will get along well, be great friends, or live under the same roof. What I am saying is each mother-in-law and daughter-in-law has to be responsible for themselves in all interactions and that’s all there is to it.
When my mother-in-law and I get into a bumpy patch, I have to look within. Is my mother-in-law really causing a problem or raucous for me – or am I the one who needs the self-check?
99% of the time – I’m the one who needs the self-check. I’m the one who needs to not make things mean more than they really do. I need to see what self-talk is getting me into a jam, when my mother-in-law and I are in tense situations.
Now – I’m not always graceful and on top of myself at all times – when it comes to situations like this. I fall short, and then try to do better.
I usually turn to Byron Katie’s The Four Questions to guide me as I analyze why I’m jammed up with my mother-in-law.
So my suggestions for Carolyn Bourne and Heidi Withers are:
- Talk to each other face-to-face or on the telephone – sending email messages is not a safe form of communication for the two of you.
- Get a life coach to help you work through this – you both need to learn how to release painful thoughts.
- Spend some time alone to work on The Four Questions.
- Keep a journal of when you are having negative thoughts about the in-law relationship – and then go back to The Four Questions.
- Forgive each other – we all make mistakes.