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Monsters are scary. They lurk and prowl. They are sneaky and threatening. They are enemies. Their looming presence brings us fear and dread and challenges us to prove our worth. Unfortunately, these are qualities that are associated with some mother-in-laws.

This month my mother-in-law celebrated her 80th birthday. As we celebrated her, it caused me to reflect on her life. Fortunately, for the past 30 years I have been blessed with a mother-in-love, not a monster-in-law.

As a mother-in-law myself, these are some lessons I have learned from her that I have tried to incorporate into my own life:

    1. Love your son-in-law or daughter-in-law like your own. Treat them the same as your children. They are not outsiders. Include them in everything. Treat them as equals in celebrations and gift giving. Take the initiative to spend time together with a mutual interest to build the relationship. Pray for them and let them know you do!
    2. Instill value in your son-in-law or daughter-in-law. Even after years, some feel like they never measure up to the standards of their in-law. Realize they may feel insecure. Accept them for who they are. Compliment their accomplishments in front of others and show appreciation especially for how they contribute to the life of your child. Build them up rather than criticize and watch how they soften and warm up to you.
    3. Be wise in knowing when to step in and when to step back. Respect boundaries from the beginning. Don’t interfere, don’t take sides. Don’t compete with your children-in-law. Be available but don’t give advice unless it is requested. Know when to visit and when to leave.
    4. Maintain a healthy, godly relationship over the years. It takes effort, but for the sake of all, a healthy relationship must be kept at all costs. Clear up misunderstandings quickly before they fester. Try placing yourself in the other’s position. It’s not a competition. You’re not each other’s enemy. You’re family.

We can all learn a few lessons from my mother-in-love. Mothers-in-love are not scary, they are encouraging and approachable. They don’t lurk and prowl, but are ready, willing and able to help when asked. They aren’t sneaky and threatening, but trustworthy and kind. They aren’t enemies but allies. Their presence brings joy and challenges us to be our best. Which will you be?