Power of the son-in-law, Agency of the daughter-in-law, none and none

I should (I did) know that if Yahoo posts a piece that discusses a study of familial and relational issues it would be something to behold. They didn’t disappoint. But what’s more, the article from which Yahoo drew, which appeared in the WSJ on 26 November, is a shocking textual formation of a circle of wagons around female accountability and lack of emotional self-control.

Elizabeth Bernstein writes in the WSJ about an NIH funded study by Terri Orbuch, (a psychologist and research professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research) where she completed a 26 year longitudinal study of 373 same race couples who were between 25 and 37 when their marriage began in 1986. Initially she asked them to rate their relationships with their respective in laws. She then followed them over time collecting data that included whether they divorced. She was looking for cause and effect based on a man’s relationship with his wife’s parents, and a woman’s relationship with her husband’s parents, and their likelihood to stay married. She got lots of data, she made what I have to assume are correlative observations, but then she did something we may find interesting.

A common assertion by a particular poster at Dalrock is that most women have difficulty processing cause and effect. He should be gratified that this study and its conclusions exist to partially illustrate his maxim.

To wit, Orbuch found that

In couples where the husband initially reported being close to his wife’s parents, the risk of divorce over the next 16 years was 20% lower than for the group overall. Yet when the wife reported being close to her in-laws, that seemed to have the opposite effect: The risk of divorce with these couples was 20% higher. [emphasis mine]

She then goes on to settle for the most superficial observational explanation, failing to even consider any deeper individual implications of , in particular, the why behind the wife’s behavior.

The wife who feels close with her husband’s parents may find it difficult to set boundaries and over time may come to see their close relationship with her as meddling. “Because relationships are so important to women, their identity as a wife and mother is central to their being,” says Dr. Orbuch, []”They interpret what their in-laws say and do as interference into their identity as a spouse and parent.”

[emphasis mine]

And when she gets to the part about analyzing the flip side, which is the one resulting in a lowered divorce rate she makes the deeply insightful comment:

Men, for the most part, don’t have this problem.

And she fails then to see the juxtaposition of the two and accommodate that in her resultant behavioral prescription.

Oh? How does she fail? Simple, she closes the piece with advice.

If you are a wife, be aware of the need to maintain boundaries with your in-laws—especially when sharing details about your marriage, parenting decisions or personal issues. Reassure your in-laws that you want a close and loving relationship, but learn to say no. If conflict arises, ask your husband for help settling it.

If you are a husband, treat your in-laws as special and important. Remember that when you care for them, your wife feels you are caring for her.

Orbuch is saying to expect the man to proactively manage himself. Expect the woman to proactively manage others. Expect the man’s force of will to be plowed into changing himself while expecting the wife’s force of will to exert on others, keeping them at bay and making sure they expect nothing less than they already perfect perfectness she was born with. Man, adapt to woman. Woman, make sure you manage others as they adapt to you.

The writer of the yahoo piece, Jessica Ferri,  was even more helpful, refining this relational advice ore into this nugget:

In other words: women, keep doing what you’re doing. Men: be nice to your in-laws.

How much would the NIH pay to hear the real resultant conclusions and requisite advice from the study?

It tells me that a man being a nice fellow to his in laws is a good thing. That is not new ground. But it tells us what we already know in spades; it’s all about her, even unto the generations.

Full WSJ Article:  The Secret Powers of the son-in-law


6 thoughts on “Power of the son-in-law, Agency of the daughter-in-law, none and none

  1. I heard about this story on the radio yesterday morning. It’s not something we ever had to deal with as neither of us has a MIL to deal with (I have a stepmother). Additionally, both our fathers are very much the kind of men who believe in staying out of their children’s marriages.

    My dad loves my husband, and I am my FIL’s favorite daughter-in-law, but both men’s temperament and belief in the idea of a man being the king of his castle keep things form getting so intertwined as to be problematic.

    The author’s conclusion are typical female drivel: Wives, set your boundaries. Husband, bend over backwards. They claim to believe in egalitarianism, but clearly they don’t. Of course egalitarianism is dysfunctional enough, but they really believe in wifely headship and a husband’s submission.

  2. They absolutely believe in egalitarianism. The problem that that word, in practice, doesn’t mean anything like what it’s dictionary definition says it means. Go look at any website or blog or ministry that purports to advocate egalitarianism and you see exactly the same drivel that you see here in this article.

  3. It is a bit ironic I suppose that the marriages that have the partners as most truly equal are far more often the ones where the participants hold to a fairly traditional view of gender roles than the ones that purport to be egalitarian.

    I’ve always like to write that word eGALitarian because in practice the woman or gal is what is emphasized in nearly every respect.

  4. Translation: a faux no-fault divorce is really either the man’s fault, or his parents.

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