Everyday I am amazed by the way people are directed to my blog through Search Engine Terms. The most common search, believe it or not, is in relation to bullying and boundaries. That is a very sad statement.
Recently there was a post on Freshly Pressed by Kelly Croy about bullying that really pointed out the ridiculousness of many social beliefs in regards to this very subject. Even in my family I have heard statements like, “It’s just a fact of life” or “It’s how society determines the pecking order.” But why does it have to be that way? Why are we as a society okay with bullying people into submission? I see it almost daily through my children and their playground antics. We’ve all experienced it in some form as either a child, an adult or both. In most of these situations the bully is someone in our peripheral life – a friend, an acquaintance, a co-worker or even a complete stranger. That should make it easier to confront them or remove ourselves from those situations. But what if the bully is a family member?
Several years ago I remember privately laughing at some of the women in my bible study group who continually bitched about their mother-in-laws. Many of their complaints were petty and overly dramatic. For almost the last 9 years I have been very fortunate and have an amazing mother-in-law. She is loving, generous and fun to be around. We have many common interests. I would even choose her as a friend if she wasn’t already family. DW also has made it very easy to build a relationship with his mother because he makes it clear to me everyday that I am the number one woman in his life. He loves his mother and they have a wonderful relationship – but there is no competition for affection. There is a necessary and respected balance.
However, this was not the case in my first marriage.
I was bullied by my first mother-in-law. Sometimes it would be overtly, other times it would be completely in your face. When she would come to visit she would throw out most of the food in my kitchen and buy new groceries because what I had prepared wasn’t good enough for her son. She would re-clean a house that had already been slaved over for days, again, for the same reason as the food. She would demand our time during the holidays and let me know that my family was less important. And you could be sure that if she didn’t like a comment or behavior of mine, that she would throw out a bible verse in my direction and remind me to “pray about it”. My parenting, my body image and my ability as a wife were all attacked. The list of grievances is long and was endured for a total of 8 years. It probably has not escaped you that she was able to treat me that way because her son not only allowed it, but was part of the problem. It is bullying – it is abuse – so why when it is family do we put up with it for so long?
It saddens me to see those terms searched for everyday. I am at a loss as to how to change these behaviors in our society. That is why I am so passionate about working with woman and young girls to help strengthen their self-esteem. It is only now in my 30’s that I finally feel empowered.
The only advice I guess I can give to these possibly broken individuals that keep being directed to my blog, searching for help and encouragement, is to admit what is really happening. My dad gave me some really great advice when I was at the end of my first marriage, he said, “You have two choices – you can either quit complaining about your situation or you can change it.”
In other words – shit or get off the pot.