Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sensitivity Training

Carolyn Hax is an advice columnist. She had a beaut of a letter this week: "A mother-in-law won't take 'no' for an answer." It was submitted by a woman whose married son, daughter-in-law, and grandson live eight hours away. Her husband wanted to celebrate his birthday by taking his son hiking to reconnect over a long weekend. His son's wife gave her blessing and planned to stay at home alone with the sixteen-month-old grandson.

That's when the troubles began. Mother-in-law didn't want to spend the weekend alone, so she offered to ride along with her husband. This would give her the weekend with her daughter-in-law and grandson. The daughter-in-law had already given several reasons why that would not be a good idea. But thinking she could easily resolve those problems, the mother-in-law came along with her husband without first okaying it with her daughter-in-law.

Needless to say, when mother-in-law showed up at the front door, daughter-in-law and son were furious. Father-in-law was pretty ticked off too, having been under the impression his wife had worked everything out to their daughter-in-law's satisfaction ahead of time. The daughter-in-law allowed her to stay the weekend, but was pretty distant and cold.

The mother-in-law asked, "What exactly did I do that was so bad? How do I remedy a situation when I don't know exactly what the issue is? I don't want to be 'that' mother-in-law."

I liked Carolyn's answer. She didn't mince words or beat around the bush. "The issue is that you showed complete disregard for your daughter-in-law's wishes because you wanted to visit ... Regardless of the specifics on her end, you decided that your wants and needs were paramount and just steamrolled her wants and needs completely. You still seem confused that she has needs. And that is what you have to apologize for, fully, immediately and without defensiveness, which means no "but I thought ..." constructions.

Life gets messy when we don't take the time to listen -- really listen -- to each other.

Carolyn concluded her response with another thought: "I think you have to go beyond an apology and offer to make it up to her somehow."

Have you been caught in the middle between your mother and your wife, or between your wife and your daughter-in-law? It's not a good place to be, is it?

How would you suggest she make it up?

You can click here to give us your insights to this prickly issue.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

How about simply offering a "do over"? This time she stays home. This will allow father and son to reconnect without the stress of the prior incident.