Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.- George Eliot
My mother in law just celebrated her 60th birthday with an old school dance party. Dancing and singing to Poison by Bell Biv Devoe was reminiscent of my teenage years, and I reveled in the opportunity to be 14 again.
At one point during her party, she took the mic to thank everyone for being there and shared sweet sentiments about the folks who surrounded her. I listened. Then I wondered who would surround me on my 60th birthday. Who would be there to celebrate my life. Who would I thank for loving me, for accepting me, for helping me navigate this crazy world.
Her simple, but genuine, 5-minute musing catapulted me into a days-long introspection of how I'd approached my relationship with my mother in law over the years; how I'd (mis)handled, (un)nurtured, and (un)accepted our relationship.
To go in-depth would have me writing for days, so I'll give you the spark notes version. We come from very different backgrounds -- not socioeconomic backgrounds, but familial backgrounds. My husband's family is large and very close knit. My family's closeness was pretty much confined to the six of us (mom, dad, and my three siblings). Establishing close familial relationships outside of that circle was completely foreign to me.
Fast forward to when my husband (then boyfriend) and I got "serious," and his mom began reaching out to spend time with me. Saying yes to her invitations felt like betrayal. "Surely I couldn't establish a close relationship with a mother figure who wasn't my mom," I would think to myself. So I resisted our relationship. Resisted her affection. Resisted her wisdom. Resisted any and everything that would make us "friends." Don't get me wrong, I was never mean or disrespectful (she don't play that), but when I felt my guard lowering, I would put some distance between us. I did this dance for years.
And as I thought about the evolution of our relationship, it occurred to me that despite my resistance to her, she's still managed to be one of the most influential people in my life. How?! Because even though she knew I was resistant to her, she always stayed true to who she was. She shared her spirituality with me (she bought me my very first bible). She related to me through our shared experiences of motherhood and marriage. She enabled my family's advancement by supporting my individual dreams.
She was able to be an influencer because she loved me...unconditionally. Her love overpowered my resistance without me even realizing.
The reality is that we won't always relate to the people who come into our lives in a way that's easy and uncomplicated. My mother-in-law and I certainly didn't. And that's okay. The beautiful truth that I'm able to accept nowadays is that her presence in my life has helped shape the woman I've become. And that, my friends, is the influence I hope to have on someone someday.
What internal struggles have you had to overcome in a relationship? Let's talk about it in the comments section below.