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Family Affairs: The In-laws
Mothers-in-law are supposed to be among the least beloved of relatives, right? Yes and no.
YES. Mothers-in-law are blamed for the rising divorce rate in Italy. According to psychologist Annamaria Cassanese, the concept of mammoni--sons who cling to apron strings--is well known in Italy where it is not uncommon for men in their 30's and 40's to live with their parents. Dr. Cassanese says, "The husband is used to being adored, and when he doesn't get that unconditional love from his wife, he goes running back to his mother." (Netscape Family, accessed September 2007).
NO. According to a 2000 study by Hallmark Canada and Chatelaine magazine that surveyed 600 Canadians from ages 18 to 60. The results: 90 percent said they love their mother-in-law, and 9 percent said that their relationship with their mother-in-law was closer than with their own mother (Stephen Goode, "Insight on the News," June 5, 2000; http://findarticles.com; accessed September 2007).
What makes the difference in in-law relationships? There are tips in the biblical account of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. I have concluded that what had impressed Ruth back in Moab was the stuff of modern interpersonal communication and behavioral studies. Two women of opposing temperament and personality types, following the traditions of different cultures, worshipping different gods, and loving the same man undoubtedly many times had been stretched beyond their limits of compatibility. Plus the Bible reveals that Naomi knew how to complain-dramatically. And I imagine that Ruth's strong will was not always as admirable as in the biblical narrative.
Yet the two women determined to meet one another's needs, learned to communicate on one another's terms, and found value in submitting to one another's wisdom. So after the son died their love lived on.
As I see it, the anchor point was that Naomi knew the God of her fathers and was enough like Him for Ruth to take notice of how He directed Naomi's relationship with her. While Ruth's passionate plea to follow Naomi to Bethlehem has taken away the breath of readers for centuries (Ruth 1:16), the success factors for the women's relationship is available to all in-laws: Determine to meet one another's needs, learn to communicate on one another's terms, find value in submitting to one another's wisdom, choose to lean on the all-wise God.
Faith Johnson Crumbly is a writer and motivational speaker for Essential Pieces Communication Strategies, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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