Taking the PIL

There is a typical double standard that comes from having parents and parents in law.

If your relationships are generally good, your mum can ask you, Do you really want to eat that cake? Are you sure you locked the car? endlessly remind you to take a coat, without much more than a sigh from you, wheras the same things are not okay from an in law. This has invariably led to the cliche of inlaws, opening the way for such ‘great jokes’ as

I was out shopping the other day when I saw six women beating my MIL up. As I stood there and watched, her neighbor, who knew me, said, “Well, aren’t you going to help?” I replied, “No. Six of them is enough”.

However, I’ve noticed an interesting paradox. When it comes to a bad relationship with your own parents, the very oppostie occurs. Suddenly, every murmur from your own mother about clothing and food is attributed to a dig about your weight, every comment about your house or your husband is a slur on you as a wife and mother, and will no doubt end up with a fight ensuing, or at least bad feeling. On the contrary, your MIL tells you outright that you’ve put on weight, or FIL spends the entire ride home commenting on your driving skills or lack therof, and you sit silently, only unleashing in the safety of your own home with your spouse.

I can’t say why this is. Maybe it comes from our inate longing to have parental figures in our lives…but not too much. That balance means that while we’re used to having one person/unit (who we love and respect) who can say what they like and we keep schtum, the onset of marriage and the arrival of another pair who didnt bring you up and truly dont know you that well is not the most welcome. When they insist on treating you like they’ve adopted a new baby who just happens to be in their mid-twenties this is understandably maddening and results in inevitable conflict.

However, when the opposite is true, that you’ve spent your life negotiating that conflict, and you already have that negative force, the arrival of inlaws can be just what you need to fill the gap. In which case even the irritation is attributed to them caring too much, and the annoyance is (for the most part) kept behind closed doors.

“Ah, they mean well..but can be so annoying” seems to be an unavoidable sentence in the married couple’s repetoire, but who is yours pointed towards?

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