Wonderful books by Father Kinsella:
The Wife Desired
The Man For Her
It has been said somewhat captiously that a person can choose her
friends but not her relatives. Marriage brings with it a new group
of relatives for better or for worse. A few thoughts may be
beneficial on how these new found relatives can work out for
There is no question that the problem of in-laws has earned for
itself a very high rating among the causes of broken marriages.
One need not be occupied in the work of counseling to be aware of
this fact. The problem will vary in magnitude for each marriage.
Fortunately, for many, the problem will be of such small
consequence as to be of little concern. After all, it is expected that
every human relationship will give rise on occasions to the need of
patient understanding. Between the best of friends there will be
times when one will have to exercise resignation to the whims of
It is most important that the ideal wife develop by the time of her
marriage the attitude that there need be no conflict with her in-
laws. Too many women acquire a real in-law complex even before
they are married. They are determined that they are going to have
difficulties with their husband's relations. You may be sure that
these people realize their expectations.
Let us suppose that her husband has a very normal mother. The
wife cannot expect the mother to drop dead because she married
her son. His mother still loves him and wants him to be happy. She
does not know her daughter-in-law too well. It is going to take time
for the mother to learn to relax in her presence and give her
confidence. Unless the wife realizes this, she may misinterpret
this initial uneasiness on the mother's part as suspicion of her or
In-laws can be a great asset to a young wife. It is normal for
grandparents to love and dote on their grandchildren. Financial
help can come from them indirectly in the form of toys, gifts, and
clothes for the children. As long as these things are given with no
"riders" attached, and as long as they do not "move in" and try to
take over, their help can be accepted graciously. They are often a
great help in times of sickness and other crises. Besides, they are
good, dependable baby-sitters.
More than a girl perhaps realizes, she gets out of life just what she
expects. If she expects opposition from her mother-in-law, the
chances are high that she will get it. Why should she look for
trouble? Let her cross bridges when she comes to them. Let her
realize that her mother-in-law and her husband's relations are
fundamentally his concern and possible problem. If he is half the
man she married, he will handle any possible situation arising
from that quarter.
It should be apparent that courtship and its problems do not fall
within the scope of this chapter. Yet I feel that I must warn any
young woman not to marry a boy who is still tied to his mother's
apron strings. No matter what are his assets--wealth social
position, or good looks, she should flee from him as she would flee
from a plague.
If a woman finds herself practically married to a possessive
mother-in-law, then she must marshal all the forces of her soul for
the conflict. She will need the character and heroism of the saints.
My hat is off to the young wife who has been successful in aiding
her husband to mature. The experience gained will stand by her in
the raising of her own children. Some men are still little boys at
the time of their marriage, in spite of all the outward bluster of
manhood. Incidentally, all the "hoopla" in connection with
Mother's Day notwithstanding, many a son has been ruined for life
by a possessive mother.
Recently I talked with a young husband who was deeply attached
to his mother. She was at fault in almost wrecking her son's
marriage. In this case mother insisted on doing his laundry. Like a
dutiful little boy he marched over to mother every week with his
little package. If some one could have slipped up behind him and
elevated him from the sidewalk with a strong foot vigorously
applied in the right spot, he might have come to his senses. His
wife was not capable of doing this, nor did she have a big brother
noted for any football punting prowess. Her attack had to be more
Carefully she saw to it that no batch of laundry was carried over to
mother without one or two nice big lipstick smears. It was not long
until these smears began to annoy mother. Somebody else was
kissing her own little boy. With all her petty soul she wanted him
just for herself.
As the weeks wore into months, the wife continued her little game.
With a sparkle of triumph in her eyes this ideal wife told me how
this nonsense with the laundry stopped one day. Of what
happened she still was not certain. Supposedly mother pushed him
too far one evening. Apparently they had a fight. The little
husband began to grow up. There was more to the story of how this
wonderful wife helped her husband mature into manhood and thus
save his marriage. It was not as easy as might appear from the
story of the laundry.
This case of a wife dealing successfully with perhaps the most
difficult problem of marriage is presented because very many
wives give up in the face of possessive mothers-in-law. Admittedly
it is primarily the husband's problem. He should solve it. Indeed,
he should have solved it long before marriage, but he did not.
What a wonderful tribute to her that she possessed the personality
and character to bring success out of what generally leads to the
divorce courts. Their companionship now can weather any storm
the years might bring. Through her leadership in their victory,
mutual esteem and appreciation of each other presaged many
happy years of loving companionship.
While a good wife may be unable to deal successfully with an in-
law problem, there is no excuse for failure to handle her own blood
relations. With them she is on familiar ground. She knows the
personalities with which she must deal occasionally.
The ideal wife remembers the words of Scripture that she and her
husband are to cling together as one. If it is necessary, she will
resist the inroads of her relatives. First of all, she has enough
sense to keep her husband's confidences and never talk them over
with her mother. There may be a great temptation to run to mother
for comfort and advice if she has a spat with her husband. To
mother she pours out the sorrows of her poor, wounded soul.
Mother, be she ever so good, will find it difficult not to give in to
black thoughts of revenge against the beast who has hurt her own
flesh and blood. At the very least it will be more difficult for her
mother to be natural and easy in the presence of her daughter's
The small consolations she may receive from confiding in mother
are more likely to be far outweighed by future grief so deservedly
earned. There is entirely too much of this running to mother with
petty problems. Perhaps mother is a sensible person and wants to
stay out of her daughter's affairs. Then why keep tempting her to
interfere? The immature wife who acts this way is asking for
trouble. Generally she gets more than she ever expected.
Too many young couples have begun their marriage by living with
relatives. Although few are crazy enough to want this arrangement,
yet too many feel that it is necessary. A housing shortage and poor
finances are the common reasons given. It has almost never
worked out and never to complete satisfaction. Two families
cannot live happily and comfortably in the same house or
apartment. The first year or so is very important to marriage. It is
most difficult to get off to a good start under this abnormal and
awkward situation. Everybody steps on everybody's else's feet.
Irritations are bound to appear. Nerves become frayed. Words are
said and feelings hurt. Moreover, it is rather difficult for the
husband to make love to his wife with "Pop" grinning behind his
newspaper and "Sis" giggling in the next room.
Whatever financial advantages may be had from doubling up with
parents, it is not worth the price. This is not theory. I am sure that
all married couples, who have survived a situation like this, will
shout assent on reading this.
An over ambitious wife may fall into the mistake of coaxing her
husband into living with her parents. She might think that they
will save money more quickly. She should realize that she is doing
the thing most likely to sap whatever "get up" her husband may
have about him. There is danger that his ambition to get
somewhere in the world will ebb away. Others are calling the tune
all the time. Let them worry about responsibility. All this
rationalizing brings him little peace of mind. He knows that he is
in a mess, and the only way that he can solve it is by getting out
on his own. The wife who resists his effort to break away does not
know where her happiness lies.
Furthermore, this living with the in-laws is not always very
economical. To escape the scrutiny of all eyes the young couple
find themselves going out more and more evenings. This can be
In closing the discussion on living with parents it should be
sufficient to say that all counselors on marriage advise young
couples to endure almost any hardship rather than submit to this
false security. The wife desired will resist the temptation to think
that her case will be exceptional.
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