Dear Readers: As we prepare for another holiday season, all kinds of emotions and feelings rise to the surface for all of us — some of joy and excitement and some of disappointment or sadness. This is one of my favorite poems when it comes to feelings. I hope you enjoy it.
“The Guest House” by Rumi
“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”
Dear Annie: Your column from “Blessings,” who was managing a difficult relationship with a daughter-in-law, could have been written by me, but from the other side. I’m the spouse who married into the family in this situation.
I have never forbidden my spouse from seeing their family. I have declined to spend more than the time it takes to have a meal with them but have offered to go back to a hotel or coffeeshop if they want to continue spending time with their family. I have also suggested that they go for a weekend without me.
What changed was not my making an ultimatum; things changed because my spouse went to therapy. They began to make healthy boundaries in their life and in the life of our family. Their family (my mother-in-law and brother-in-law in particular) have been quite displeased with this; hence, the low-contact situation.
They are displeased because of their narcissism and borderline personality disorder — at least, that’s how we treat the situation after much time in conversation with both my spouse’s therapist and our marriage counselor. Our healthy boundaries protect us and our child.
Their refusal to even acknowledge the boundaries and then lay blame at MY feet when they don’t get the access they want is causing my spouse to pull away from them even more. Please encourage the letter writer to seek counseling; they may find some peace from seeing things differently or get some suggestions on how to better interact with their daughter-in-law. — Been There, Living That
Dear Been There, Living That: Thank you for sharing how you and your spouse have set healthy boundaries with your in-laws as a result of therapy and marriage counseling. It would be helpful if your spouse were to tell their mother and brother of these boundaries, and not you, so they will stop singling you out as the problem. Perhaps, in time, they will come around and respect the boundaries that you and your spouse have set.
“How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?” is out now! Annie Lane’s second anthology — featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]