Coming from a South Asian background, I have always assumed that an extended family is a norm and that issues of in-laws were only unique to our culture. Fast forward many years, and we came across the TV comedy, “Everybody Loves Ray.” In it Ray and his wife and children live in a house on the East coast and their parents and Ray’s brother-in-law live across the street. They are an American-Italian family, and the parents and brothers have no sense of boundaries and privacy, so they barge into Ray’s home anytime they like. Add to it that the father role, Frank is old-school (my way or highway type), the mother Marie has a superiority complex, especially with her daughter-in-law, Debra. She always favors the younger son, Ray and has many other quirks. It’s a wonderful comedy that reflects on some of the everyday conflicts that some of us may go through. Below are some of the in-law related ones.
- No matter how hard Deborah tries to cook and clean, she is never good enough for her mother-in-law
- Sharing personal problems with parents
- Having to lie to parents to get some intimacy
- Parents stop speaking to each other and one of them moves in
- Getting both in-laws and parents to behave similar
- Being treated like a kid by your parents
- Parents play arbiter in sibling rivalries
- In-laws reveal your past relationships
- In-laws keep intruding on wife’s personal life and space
- Helping your daughter/son-in law when they don’t ask for it
- When aging in-laws pretend that they are still young
- Receiving unwanted gifts from in-laws
- Discovery from past and unable to forgive and forget
- Taking care of sick/injured parents/in-laws
- Getting too close with brother-in-law, sister-in-law
- Family takes sides with/against husband-wife over senseless argument
- Discussing what constitutes a “sex life” with parents/ in-laws
- Deciding guardians in will/living-trust who are not in-laws/parents
- When a sibling becomes ultra-religious
- Finding new ways to improve relationship with in-laws
- Who is included in family (pic)
- Finding “alone time”
- Joining forces against mother-in-law
- Lying to parents and then having whole family cover for you.
- Family get together and differing family traditions
- “Whose side are you on” can apply to any conflict,
- Lending money to in-law and consequence
- In-laws good intentions sidetracked by overzealous participation
- Small event triggers bigger one, “straw that broke the camels back”
- Parent discovers, reads, personal information of their grown child, in-law.
- Father-in-law needs to be the boss in every situation and becomes too much to bear.
- Tempers flare when a sentimental item that was borrowed is not returned
- When parent-in-laws decide to separate after decades of marriage
There are many more episodes and lots of laughter. If you have a chance check them out. Of course in the real world most short-term problems do not resolve in 20-30 minutes. Grievances, misunderstandings, poor choices, communication skills, bad ethics, and so many more things can lead to an escalation rather than resolution. That is where empathy, active listening, forgiveness, getting help and praying to God are some of the measures to resolution and to lead a some-what normal life.
I will leave you with a quote from Debra, which encapsulates the show:
“When I got married I didn’t just get a husband, I got a whole freak show that set up their tent right across the street. And that will be fine if they just stayed there, but everyday, everyday they dump a truckload of their insane family dreck into my lap. How would you like to sit through two people in their sixties fighting over who invented the lawn…the lawn. And then the brother, “I live in an apartment, I don’t even have a lawn, Raymond has a lawn.” But you can’t blame him when you see who the mother is, she has this kind of sick hold on the both of them. And the father is about the most disgusting creature God has ever dropped on this planet. So no wonder the kid writes stories, I should be writing stories, my life is a gothic novel and until you have lived in that house with all of them in there with you day after day, week after week, year after freakin’ year…YOU ARE IN NO POSITION TO JUDGE ME!!! Debra Barone