The Greatest Thing About My Father-in-Law…

…is the way he communicates.

A few months before I married Dwight, my father-in-law, Dwight Garland Sr. and I were sitting at his kitchen table. He was about to cut a bell pepper.

“Do you know how to cut one of these?” he asked.

Still new to this family and environment, I shook my head no.

“Well, let me show you.”

He carefully held the green pepper in his hand and showed me the top.

“See what you do is cut right around the top here. All the way around.”

He took the knife and cut a circle away from but around the stem. I looked on as if it were a major operation.

img_7542“Now, you pull this,” he said as he removed the stem from the bulbous part of the pepper. “See,” he turned the insides so I could see them. “All the seeds are right here.”

You would’ve thought he was David Blaine and I’d just seen him put a knife through his hand. I was amazed. To this day, that’s how I cut all peppers, and every time I do, I think about my father-in-law and this lesson.

It’s true that you’ll never forget how people made you feel. I’ll always remember that moment because he didn’t say, let me show you the right way to cut a pepper. He didn’t make me feel like some wayward child whose parents had neglected to teach her how to cut vegetables.

He simply asked me if I’d ever cut one, and then lovingly showed me how.

Mrs. Little from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeMrs. Little was the second wife that I’d interviewed. Although she’d given me quite a few details about her marriage, what kept resurfacing were small anecdotes and feelings about her mother-in-law. She was voiceless, but in a much different way than either Jasmyne or Gina.

Her comments reminded me of Steve Harvey’s movie, Think Like a Man. In it he approaches how so-called “Mama’s boys” affect relationships, but I thought this was different because the mother-in-law’s actions were subtle, or like people like to say nowadays: petty.

Concept: Her husband, Mark knew how Mrs. Little felt, but she’d never really expressed herself to the mother-in-law. Quite honestly, I have issues with my own MIL that I’ve never shared, so I began to wonder what it would be like if Mrs. Little could tell Ms. Little everything she wanted to say over the past two decades. Then, I thought wouldn’t it be great if she wrote her a letter? Wouldn’t we all like to do that with someone, in a way where they don’t get to respond, but just read?

I also had fun using the epistolary format. It seemed that would break up the monotony of reading traditional narratives, yet still explain the past and present challenges with the relationship.

Commentary: I’ve never been a mother-in-law, but I have one and I’ve talked to a few. What seems to be challenging (sometimes) is accepting that their son is no longer a little boy, but rather a man with his own responsibilities. Essentially, it’s an issue with transitions and change that manifests through marriage. From my perspective, it seems that mothers want to still “mother” their sons, while either not embracing the daughter-in-law, or ignoring her altogether.

That doesn’t work.

And there was a twist for this story. Mark was using his military salary to pay his mother’s bills before he married. The mother-in-law had to not only deal with a new woman in her son’s life, but also not being financially taken cared of anymore. She’d lost a lot all at once. I’m not sure they’d ever discussed a plan for this change.

I tend to believe that conversations can heal all things. People underestimate the importance of sitting down, airing grievances, setting the stage to move forward, and then actually moving forward with a clearer understanding. I’m not saying this always works, but I do know that unacknowledged issues are rarely solved.

unhappy-wifeLet me know what you thought about Mrs. Little and Mark, what I’ve said here, or anything else that you felt was important. Next month, we’ll move on to the next section, The Detached Wife. Thom’s wife signed a waiver that doesn’t allow me to discuss the story in this format, so on to the next chapter we’ll go..

Interested in purchasing a copy and getting caught up to discuss the rest of the wives? Order here.