I have a great relationship with my in laws and Mark has a good relationship with my parents as well. We are not taking full credits for that because one of the reasons for the healthy relationship we have with them is their good heart. They have always been kind, understanding, and supportive of us ever since. I’m saying this to clear out that this is not a post about dealing with difficult in laws. This is about maintaining a good relationship with our parents despite differences and how we prevent conflicts with them. After all, all relationships are prone to conflicts- not because one is bad and one is good but because we’re all different. Here, we are going to share how we normally communicate with our parents and what we do when differences get in the way.
A background of our relationship with them:
Mark’s parents have always been so sweet to me even when we were still dating. They live in Dubai and we live in the Philippines, but we regularly chat online. Mark’s dad has always been like a dad to me. He challenges my faith and leads me closer to the Lord especially during challenging times. Mark’s mom has always been so thoughtful of me. She takes care of me whenever she is around.
My parents are very supportive and caring to Mark. They treat Mark as their own and respect Mark’s space in leading me and Taziana. They respect Mark’s decisions for our family but also assures him that they are still there to guide us.
But like I said, though our relationship with them is healthy, it is like any other relationship that is prone to conflicts due to differences. So, Mark and I are intentional in keeping a warm relationship with them by setting up these guidelines:
- “We” instead of “He/she”
When we make decisions, want to announce anything, or have certain plans, we always use “we”. For example, if I can’t make it to certain events because I am packed with school work. Mark tells his relatives, “Sorry we can’t make it because we are occupied”. Or if Mark thought my relatives have been frequently feeding Taziana more junk food than what is allowed for her, I’d tell my parents, “we think Taziana should eat less junk and eat more healthily”. This way, our parents (and everyone else) would know that Mark and I live as one- like we should because we are since we are bonded by marriage! Hehe. When using “we”, any decision and announcement we make is placed under both our responsibility. It kind of says, “we know about this decision and we support it”.
They know that we’re a package!
Just imagine if we were stronger on using he/she. “Sorry we can’t make it because Treszka is busy”, “Mark thinks Taziana should eat less junk”. They’re very simple sentences but has a way to direct people’s attention to one person and has tendencies to put all the weight on one person. It risks one person for judgement and blaming. We never really had that heavy situation with our parents, but I think using “we” prevents that. Some married couples find it hard to interact with their in laws because of their lack of “we”.
“I can’t come to the event today because SHE already made prior commitments”
“Stop spoiling our child because HE does not like it”
Those are supposedly harmless statements but I think we’ve all heard painful stories of in laws getting upset because the focus is on one individual too much rather than the couple as one.
But using “we” really takes a deep connection with each other, practice, and commitment. To use “we”, Mark and I really have to be intentional in consulting each other and communicating about everything- our schedule, our goals, our point of improvements in marriage and parenting… basically about everything. Only then are we able to tell others “this is what WE stand for”. If we don’t communicate, we will never really know what is in each other’s heart, then we can’t really use “we”.
It also takes practice and commitment. At times, Mark and I still get that slip of the tongue or forget to consult each other first before committing or deciding on anything with other people. It’s normal because we have lived as 2 separate people for 20 years. It takes some adjusting to get used to living as one with someone. We keep on practicing it until today.
2. Mark and I respect each other
We don’t argue and raise issues in front of anyone. This was actually a marriage tip from my own mom. She told me that if Mark and I respect each other, people will see that. But if we disrespect each other, people will see that too. And if other people see me disrespecting my husband, they would automatically think that it’s okay for them to disrespect him as well because his own wife is doing it.
I treat Mark the way I want others to treat him- with love, kindness, trust, and respect. He does the same for me.
3. We don’t let our family know about an ongoing conflict in our marriage
In Tagalong, hindi kami nagsusumbong (we don’t tattle tale). Whatever conflict that we have, we keep it within us. Telling parents and family members about an ongoing conflict naturally creates a wound in their hearts because they love us. The sad thing about this is Mark and I could probably already heal from those wounds because we get a chance to communicate and reconcile, but our parents could still remain wounded. Telling others about an ongoing conflict has tendencies of ending up as a one-sided story. What makes this even more sad is that the other person is not there to defend him/herself and the spouse ends up gossiping or backstabbing his/her own partner.
This happens a lot in many marriages. And other times, parents really get involved. We often hear stories about a husband’s mother fighting with the husband’s wife because of a husband-wife problem. It gets really messy. Other times, families end up having a cold war. Besides, we don’t need to get our parents involved because the only people who could solve a marital problem is those who are part of the marriage- the husband, the wife, and the Lord.
If Mark and I ever get into something that is too much for us to digest, we rather open up to our couples group leader in church. They are able to look at our problems without judgement and bias. Plus, they wouldn’t harbor pain because of our marital conflict.
Though we are open to our parents to many things, we keep this part of our marriage private. We never share an ongoing conflict to anyone. When the lesson has been learned, when God has reconciled us, and when the wounds are healed, that’s when we share our story- not as a rant but as a testimony that we hope others could learn from.
4. We are firm on how we want our spouse to be treated
When Mark and I just got married, my sister who is only 4 years younger than me had minor adjustments to make. I once told her to treat my friends like her own friends, so she didn’t have the habit to call my friends Ate or Kuya. And because Mark has been my friend since I was 11, she called him “Mark”. But when we got married, my mom told her that she should start addressing Mark as her Kuya Mark now because he is no longer my friend but my husband, and now an older brother to her.
One night, we were all in one room with my younger cousins when my sister made a remark about how annoyed she was about a broken computer mouse. She wasn’t aware of her tone but I was sensitive about it. The sad thing was she didn’t know it was Mark who last touched the mouse. I was worried that Mark might have felt uncomfortable or hurt but I didn’t want my sister to feel that she had lost her Ate over her Ate’s husband. My sister and I are pretty close. So, I told my mom about it and asked if she could talk to her instead. But my mom said, “No. You have to do it. You have to let people know about how you want your husband to be treated”. I told her I was scared that my sister would think that I am siding with Mark, but my mom said, “that’s how it is now. You should always be siding with Mark. You are partners now”.
So, I messaged my sister, telling her what I have noticed about her behavior and how I found it hurtful. I told her that Mark didn’t really speak about it but I was just worried that he might have gotten hurt and that I was hurt as well. I approached her nicely. As I expected, she didn’t intend to do it and didn’t know that her tone was hurtful- it happens to everyone I guess. But my sister was humble enough and apologized to me. The next day, Mark told me that she messaged him and apologized to him. He wondered what it was about because he didn’t actually notice what happened that night, but he was so moved by my sister’s humility and kindness.
Since then, I have learned that it matters to let my husband and other people know that we are a team. Mark is my partner and I will be by his side no matter what.
5. Mark communicates with his parents and I communicate with mine
Of course, I still talk to his parents and he does to mine. We still talk to them individually- sharing stories and catching up. But when it comes to conflicts or making big decisions, we bring it to each other first, discuss what we want to happen, and the child of whose parent is involved is the one to communicate the issue. We don’t really have big issues but no matter the size of problem, we follow this guideline. For example, I was really determined to fully breast feed Taziana and Mark was supportive of that. We acknowledge its benefits and committed to breast feeding Taziana until she weans. However, some of his relatives were suggesting on giving Taziana formula. We know they suggested this while seeking what is best for our daughter. They’re not really wrong and they sincerely just want to help but it was not what Mark and I wanted. And for a moment, I was starting to feel discouraged in my breastfeeding journey. So, Mark and I had a conversation about what we really what want to happen and discussed the advice they were giving. After coming up with the decision that we strongly wanted our daughter to be purely breastfed, Mark talked to his relatives and explained our decision to them. Every time a friend or relative of his would suggest otherwise, he would ask me to just sit back and relax while he responds to them.
Similarly, when it comes to my side of the family, Mark doesn’t have to be in a position where he has to defend his ideas and decisions- I do that for him. I communicate his decisions to my family. For example, my family suggested that Mark starts applying for a job here in Laguna instead of Manila. They were right in so many things and their ideas were great, but Mark wanted to work in Manila. So, I talked to my family and told them about our decision.
This helps us avoid conflict due to differences. Mark takes care of his side while I take care of mine.
6. We love and respect our in laws as our own parents
While marriage is the unity of two souls, it is also a unity of families. That’s why my Tito and Tita back then are now my Daddy and Mama. Hehe. I cherish them just as I cherish my own parents. I admire and respect them for raising Mark so well. At first, I didn’t know how to act around them especially when we had to stay under one roof for a short while during summer. It was easy for me because they love and care for me as their own but I still wanted to do what a daughter in law must do. Then I asked myself, “what would you do if they were your parents, Treszka?”. So, I wake up at the same time they do (if not earlier) to have coffee with them. It’s usually during our morning coffee, while Mark and Taziana are still asleep, that we exchange intimate conversations to get to know each other even better. They are OFWs so we rarely get this chance to be with them. I also like going to the market with Mama early in the morning to help her out and learn to cook from her. I love getting to know Mama and Daddy. I guess my favorite part about being with them is when they tell me that no matter comes our way, God will be there and they will be there to support Mark and I.
Mark had to adjust at first. As you know, we got married early and unexpectedly. My mom was wounded for a moment and did not know exactly how to be around Mark and I. I praise God for her heart and for my Tatay who walked with my mom through this journey. My mom opened up her heart to Mark and gave him a chance. She treated Mark as his own son- she even helped Mark learn how to drive! Mark took this opportunity to introduce himself and his intentions to my mom and my family. He’s even practicing speaking their love language. He’s practicing how to be a good son to my mom and grandson to my grandmother. He runs manly errands for them (Mark is the only man at home because my tatay is an OFW, so we do need his strength hehe) and lets them know he is always there when they need him. The biggest thing I think Mark has done for them, though, is loving me and Taziana unconditionally. I believe my family see how well Mark takes care of me and our daughter, and that gives my family comfort.
So that is it! I just noticed a lot of girls asking me about my relationship with my in laws and Mark’s relationship with my parents. Like I said, we have been very blessed with the humble and loving hearts of our parents but we do like being cautious in keeping our relationship with them sound.
How are you? Can you relate to this or maybe know someone who could find this helpful? You know you can message me anytime.