I got a letter from my mother-in-law the day before yesterday. However, since my mother-in-law lives overseas and speaks a language that I scarcely speak and can barely read, it was, to some extent, a bit futile to reach out in this way. And, to a great extent, it was a greatly misdirected, although perhaps well-intended, effort.
From what I could read, the letter sounded rather final, and it seemed like she was trying to cut ties. But, I really could not decipher it, so I hired someone to translate it for me. The translation came back last night. It revealed both advice and logic that were poor. I don’t mean to malign my mother-in-law, but really this was not an area for her in which to interfere.
Actually, she acknowledged this: it was the first thing she wrote. She recognized that she should refrain from commenting. Nevertheless, her letter commented on that situation for a page and a half.
She advised me not to waste my one chance at life on her daughter. This choice of words is curious: she did literally say that bothering about her daughter would be a waste. She went on to cite cultural differences, different upbringings, and differing values as things that led us to drift apart. This is where faulty logic first appeared: she stated that it was through spending time together every day that gaps in our values developed, and that perhaps the connection had faded.
Well, the connection had faded, there’s no doubt about that: no marital crisis is likely to happen in a strongly connected relationship. But spending time together should not cause gaps to widen, but rather to lessen any gaps that exist. In fact, this was very much how our marriage started: those gaps disappeared because of the time we spent together. However, when the honeymoon phase of a new marriage ends and the realities of life set in, it becomes imperative to maintain that relationship with specific actions. We, like most married people, did not know what these actions were, and so we did not take them. Thus, we grew apart. This was bound to happen regardless of how much time we spent together.
But, I digress. This assertion was followed by another statement of faulty logic: she said that we cannot live from love alone, but rather need to be economically independent. I find this baffling. There is no reliable correlation between these two situations, at least in the direction she asserts as vital. Marriages between economically independent individuals (however one might define that, and I’m not so sure how one could define it, or by what metrics) fall apart all the time. In fact, the pressures of both spouses working to maintain such a status very often causes marital disintegration. Conversely, however, a marriage that is filled with love can thrive in virtually any economic conditions. I know this for a fact: the initial years of our marriage were ones of financial hardship but extremely strong emotional connection, and thus true happiness and contentment.
She then took a spiritual tack by stating that God gives a man challenges so that he can abandon his selfishness. This was followed by sayings that do not exist in English, like “one cannot fix broken glass,” or “do not turn others away, but do not chase those who leave.” This was followed by an admonition to abandon “selfishness and obsessiveness” and to “let it be.” (I don’t think she’s a Beatles fan, though.
The most bizarre turn of semantics was yet to come, though. She urged me not to bother myself with “little things,” and to take a step forward.
Now, let’s think about this for a moment. What this woman, my wife’s mother, was essentially telling me was this: Your marriage to my daughter is a trifle. Her commission of adultery is a tiny matter. The incursion of an adulterous pervert into our marriage, with the intention of destroying our union and tearing our families apart, is a “tiny matter.”
That, my friends, stikes me as linguistically quite perverse.
However, she did end on a kind note, thanking me for everything up to that point, and telling me she believed I could achieve whatever I set my heart to. She also urged me to take care of myself, and then bid me farewell.
I will be taking one of her statements to heart: I can indeed accomplish whatever I set my heart and mind to, and this includes (among other things) reconciliation.
I could have responded, but decided — and quite quickly — is that the best response would be no response. There is simply nothing I could say that would be helpful or productive, and moreover just about anything I might say could be misconstrued or all too easily misunderstood. I do not want that. I still respect and honor my wife’s parents no matter how they might think right now.
What my mother-in-law does not understand is that, were I to follow her advice, the end result would be disastrous for her own flesh and blood. In a relatively short time from now — and this could be anywhere from a few days to a few months, but certainly not a long time away — her daughter’s adulterous relationship with that perverted, middle-aged divorcé will come to an end, and it will not be pretty. It is not unlikely that he will throw my wife out.
If that does occur, she will likely have nowhere to go. The friends who encouraged her down that path will turn their backs on her in embarrassment and disbelief. She will have no money to establish herself as an (ahem) economically independent woman, because she cut ties with most of her clients with an absolutely reckless abandon a year ago. She gave up two jobs and numerous students. She held on to only one job, and has a couple of students she occasionally teaches, but this income amounts to, at most, a few hundred dollars each month.
So, dearest mother-in-law, I regret that I cannot take your advice. I do not want to see your daughter homeless, on the streets and all alone. It will be a brutal enough awakening for her when the affair ends and the fog lifts, and she is then faced with the ugly reality of what she has done and the damage she has wreaked in her (ahem) selfishness and obsessive clinging to a deeply immoral, dead-end relationship. I could walk away, as you suggest, and allow her to hit the hard pavement of reality in a short time from now. But personally, I’d prefer to cushion that fall.
Anyway, I have more to say about the tone of this letter, which was far more conciliatory, and in many ways more revealing than what I’ve written here. This post was more about working through the logic and my own ego-clinging, I think. My next post on this will have more to do with compassion.
At least that’s my hope.