How Do You Live With Your In Laws and Still Love Them?

Photo by FrameAngel, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Photo by FrameAngel, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Living with your in laws (parents), or having them live with you, is a complicated situation —particularly for those of you who live in Africa and the Middle East, and other parts of the world, where this is a common cultural practice. This may work out fine in some households. However, some of you may not have a family that works together to make this an easy living arrangement.

This whole situation is a particularly perplexing one because the Bible tells you that as a married couple, you are to leave your parents and cleave to each other as husband and wife (see: Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:7; and Ephesians 5:31). But when circumstances stare you in the face where you feel it is not possible to live separately from your in laws (parents), married life becomes more complicated.

How do you live out the Biblical principle to “leave and cleave” now that you are married, and yet live under the same roof in a peaceable manner with your parents (in laws)? You want to always love and “honor” your parents (in laws), because you know that is the right thing to do, but when they don’t make it easy, how do you do it?

To be quite honest, we don’t know. This may be an almost impossible situation! And yet the Bible says that with God nothing is impossible! So if there isn’t any other choice you can make in this matter, there must be a way to make this work. It may not be as peaceable or as comfortable as you want it to be, but with God’s help, you can do it.

The Bible warns us of the various tribulations we will encounter in this life. Even in married life we are told “those who marry will face many troubles in this life” (1 Corinthians 7:28). Living with your parents (in laws), may be a tribulation or a “trouble” that you will need to work through with the Lord’s guidance, and strength. This could be an “iron sharpening iron” situation that the Bible talks about (Proverbs 27:17) where you have the opportunity to allow the Lord to bring out His character within you as circumstances and people rub you in a way that causes sparks. Follow the rules for Holy living that you can read in Colossians 3.

It’s true that the ideal may seem to be that you and your in laws (parents) live in separate households. But the ideal isn’t always possible. So after you have prayed, if you see that things aren’t going to change at this time, the next wisest choice is to make the best of the circumstances you are in, rather wasting energy on complaining or wishing for that which you cannot change at this point in time. There is a time to say something and there is also a time to be quiet and let God say it. (See Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.) Other times God tells us to “be content in the circumstances we find ourselves.” (See Philippians 4:12-13.) And this may be what you are facing at this time. Ask God to show you what you are to do in this season of your life.

Keep in mind that you and your spouse can still “leave” your parents in your mindset and in your attitudes —finding ways to cleave together, even if you can’t live apart from your family in your living circumstances. You just have to be more cleaver in how you make this happen —firmly placing the boundaries that are possible. The Lord can show you how to do this.

You may even have a spouse that doesn’t fully join with you in working through this situation in a “cleaving” type of way. And that is most certainly perplexing and sad because this is definitely not how God intended for marriage to work! Our hearts go out to you. But don’t give up. God is with you as you reach out to Him for help. Cry out your circumstances to Him and ask Him for continual guidance as to how to make the best of a situation that seems to be the worst!

And don’t give up if you pray and God is silent for a period of time. His silence will not be forever. It’s not that He doesn’t hear you, but there are reasons for His silence that you need to accept. He is God and His ways are not your ways. God tells us in the Bible, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways’ declares the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8).

If you are wondering why God is not answering your prayers as quickly or in the same way you believe He should concerning this problem (or others), consider the following thoughts, which come from the teaching of Oswald Chambers from his book My Utmost for His Highest, (published by Barbour and Company). Chambers writes:

“We have the idea that God rewards us for our faith. It may be so in the initial stages; but we do not earn anything by faith. Faith brings us into right relationship with God and gives God His opportunity. God has frequently to knock the bottom board out of your experience if you are a saint in order to get you into contact with Himself. God wants you to understand that it is a life of faith, not a life of sentimental enjoyment of His blessings.

“Your earlier life of faith was narrow and intense, settled around a little sun-spot of experience, full of light and sweetness; then God withdrew His conscious blessing in order to teach you to walk by faith. You are worth more to Him now than you were in your days of conscious delight and thrilling testimony.

“Faith by its very nature must be tried and the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character has to be cleared in our own minds. Faith in its actual working out has to go through spells of unsyllabled isolation. …Faith in the Bible is faith in God against everything that contradicts Him —I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do. ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him’ —this is the most sublime utterance of faith in the whole Bible.”

It may seem cruel of God to withdraw from you when you are dealing with so many problems, but we encourage you to understand that God has a reason why He allows certain things to happen in certain ways and at certain (or in uncertain) times. His silence may be a time when He is trusting you to live by faith at this time and to cooperate with Him in stretching your character beyond the limits of what you may think should happen. We encourage you to trust His silence and trust His heart. He loves you and knows what is ultimately best for all concerned.

If you have a spouse that recognizes the Biblical mandate to “leave and cleave” and yet you can’t physically live elsewhere at this time, ask God as a married couple to help you —even if it is something you feel you must do within your mind and actions within the same home as your family. God will lead you (at the proper time) as you lean upon Him, rather than upon that which you see right now. (See Proverbs 3:5-6.)

If you don’t have a spouse that at this time recognizes the “leave and cleave” mandate, then ask God how you are to proceed each day (hour, minute) under the constraints you find yourself living. God will be your guide. And what you see today in your spouse may actually change in the future. Trust God in this.

To help you further in this journey, we’ve searched for articles you can read that may give you insights into how to make your living situation work. We’ve found a few (and hopefully will find more in the future) that may help you. Even if your circumstances are not the same as in the articles we provide below for you to read, pray and then glean. Ask the Lord to show you what you can and cannot use, and what you can tailor in such a way that they will work in your situation. Open your heart and mind to all of the possibilities that God can show you.

Just make sure that what you use is not contrary to scripture. It is important that you are not allowing your own mind or a contrary spirit disguising itself as “angel of light” (that is working against God’s ways), to fool you. Be on the alert! (See 1 Peter 5:8-11.) Let the Bible, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, lead you into Truth in the decisions you make.

“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Ask the Lord to help you to be strong in doing what is best and right for all concerned —especially for the health of your marriage.

We want you to know that one or more of the articles, is not written from a Christian perspective. But we believe you will still find helpful things among all the articles that could help you. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide as to what you should and shouldn’t use. Please click onto the links provided below to read:

Posted on the web site Crosswalk.com, Sarah Haymaker writes:

HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR IN LAWS AND STILL LOVE THEM

From Pastor Walter Snyder, who addresses this issue:

ASK THE PASTOR: LIVING WITH YOUR IN LAWS

On the web site About.com, Sheri and Bob Stritof address:

IN LAWS AND THE NEED FOR BOUNDARIES

On the web site, Be About Jesus, Pat Sieler discusses:

THE ONLY THING HARDER THAN LIVING WITH IN LAWS

This article was written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.

If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.

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49 responses to “How Do You Live With Your In Laws and Still Love Them?

  1. (NIGERIA) As for me, my husband treats me like a slave. He does not care about me in terms of decision making. His family members see my house as their right. They even come over any time without my consent. The elder brother, mother, sister and their little boy are all in my house without my opinion and he is not bothered.

    He insults me and calls me names in the presence of his family. He sald instead of them not staying I should leave his house. I used to think he loved me but now I know it’s the other way around. He hates my family so much, especially my 77 year old father. Every night and day I keep crying. My heart is bleeding and he claims to love GOD. Please, what do I do? Should I leave the marriage or continue bearing it?

  2. (NIGERIA) Dear Mercy, I understand what youu are passing thru. To start with, what’s his whole family doing in your home? Have a talk with your husband and explain things to him. If it doesn’t work then report the case to your pastor or somebody he respects. I don’t think you should keep bearing without expressing yourself. Above all keep praying about the situation. It’s well

  3. (UNITED STATES) My husband moved my father-in-law into our home from another country without consulting me. He has lived in our home for nearby for 13 years. He moved in again 2 years ago and expected me to be his maid, cook, friend, etc. After both my husband and father-in-law refused to listen to my to protests, I finally went on strike and refused to serve him. I wasn’t mean at all. He’s perfectly capable of taking care of his own needs. He’s moving out next month, by my demand. I was losing my mental and physical health so that he could be an “eight year old prince.”

    If money allows, I strongly encourage separate homes, and sometimes that means being oppositional. Yes, be patient and be giving, but after a certain point, just be strong and stick up for yourself.

  4. (NIGERIA) ADVICE PLS- MY HUSBAND DESPISES MY FAMILY. I’m married (nearly 4 yrs) with 2 children presently. My husband lost his job about 3 yrs ago (he got one about a year ago and is currently working). The times of his unemployment were really tough financially (my parents gave us money from time to time) as I was the only one working and pregnant. His mum came over to stay (we were living in Canada at this time, in a one bedroom apartment) to help with the baby. 6 months after the birth of our child (considering the situation at hand then, this wasn’t necessary, as my husband was not working and was taking care of the baby at home) fair enough.

    I didn’t contribute to her flight ticket, but obviously our expenditures increased. Thank God she wasn’t the demanding type. What really pained me was the fact that my mum had a valid visa at the time I put to bed, and she wanted to come over to help out (and for sure, would be of financial assistance as well). But my husband talked me into discouraging her. His reasons were that: our flat was to small to accommodate an extra person, we were still living in the same house, and his mum still came over for 6 months!!!!!!!

    Right from when we got married, he’s shown that he doesn’t want my family around us.

    When my dad was diagnosed of a terminal illness my parents came to Canada, and lived with us for about 4 weeks although they were hardly in the house as my dad (and obviously my mum who was taking care of him) was more in the hospital than at home. Against my wishes, they rented a flat not too far from us, cos they felt we should have our own space. Prior to my dad’s illness, I used to leave for work as early as 5 am and return home between 8 and 9 pm. While my parents were with us, I got a job closer to the house, that afforded me the opportunity to arrive home by 6 pm.

    I ceased the opportunity to visit my dying father in hospital on a daily basis, and return home even before 8 pm. This was a big issue for my husband, who complained that he was unable to go out, because I left the baby with him, but he never complained about my coming in late when I did as result of work. He even registered for internet dating, claiming that I wasn’t there for him because of my dad. Just to satisfy him, I cut down the number and duration of visit to my dying father in the hospital, and even with that, I still caught him on the internet dating site. Even after my dad passed on, I used to visit my mum a lot just to support and encourage her, he was insensitive and constantly complained about my absence

    Just before my dad passed on, my mum saw an email that he sent to me, misinterpreted the context and felt really pained, as it sounded like an insult against my parents. She called for a meeting with his parents and confronted him. He then also told of how I took a loan without his knowledge, despite the fact that the funds from the loan were solely used to cater for the family. I didn’t even anything use out of it for personal items. This was very heart breaking!!!!!!! Even though I was in the wrong, the fact that I had good intentions should have counted

    Throughout our financial challenge, my parents helped us out, even paid for our accommodation for a year. When my dad passed on, we were at my parents house (in /Nigeria) with relatives and friends, and my husband felt pained, that my mum constantly called on him to do some chores (e.g. mainly to drop off guests at the bus stop, 10 mins away from the house, and on one occasion to lay the bed for my younger sister, husband and her kids). He felt ridiculed. I kept telling him that she didn’t do these things intentionally.

    While his mum was with us, she was always in the living room with us. We hardly had personal space as a couple, but I only mentioned it once, after she had left, and my husband was very angry about this! He always says my family members are intruders, because we live close to each other and they pop in to say hello!!!

    I love my husband, but don’t know if he really loves me, as he despises my family. I made it perfectly clear to him that he can’t and I can NEVER be cut off from my family.

  5. I know this is an old post. I want advise any woman out there who is contemplating moving in with in laws to not do it. I made the mistake of doing so and it was a nightmare. These people have had major problems since my hubby and I met. He was an only child and paying all their bills while they just sat at the computer all day. I came along and threatened that. I treated them with the respect I gave my parents but they were mean to me and tried to work him against me. He moved out and left them and we married shortly after.

    Well, he made the mistake of letting the toxic manipulator (his mom) back in his life. She manipulated him into thinking that we should move in for a few months and get straightened out. We just lost everything as I had missed a lot of work with my mom who was dying. I tried find us a cheap apartment because I did not want to move in there. Married people should have their own place. I made the mistake of agreeing to it. WORST mistake of my life!

    If you don’t agree with her on something, politics, religion, opinions on current events, then she gets mad and starts screaming. 99% of the time it’s topics she brings up. One time she got mad and threw a Pringles can and it hit the wall and chips went everywhere. I don’t know why her husband has stayed for 20 yrs. He’ll roll over, apologize, and take her abuse.

    After years of this I told my husband enough. I told him I loved him with all my heart but I could not deal with this any more. I told him I’m leaving and if he wants join me fine but if not, then I’ll go live in my car before I’d endure another year in that place. He agreed to join me. At the first of the year I’m going to go live on a tractor trailer with my two cats, just to be rid of her. I told my husband if you want a relationship with them it’s up to you. However, I’m done and if they start negatively influencing our relationship that’s it. I sincerely hope for other women out there that you do not end up with monster in laws like I did. I had hoped I would think of my in laws as second parents. Good luck ladies! I implore you to take heed of my story and think things through carefully be agreeing to live with anyone.

  6. This speaks to me. My husband and I got married almost two years ago and we have been living with his mother since we got married. She’s disabled and doesn’t receive enough money to live on her own. So we’re living with her, helping her make her monthly house payment. It hasn’t always been easy, but we’re making it work.

    I have not been the best wife in this area and it has caused strain on our marriage, but I’m becoming okay with the situation and trusting the Lord. Thank you for this! We’ve been told by many people that we’re doing the wrong thing by helping his mom and living with her. Some of the things that we’ve been told “You should just kick her out of her house.” “You shouldn’t have to take care of her, because you’re married now.” “You’re not doing the right thing, because you should cleave to your wife and leave your parents.” However, we feel we’re doing what is best and have lately been thinking, is the advice we’ve been receiving what Jesus would do or what God would want us to do?

  7. (USA) I am in a situation in which I feel misunderstood and misplaced. I have gotten married with my spouse 4 months ago. Because we both are still in college, he decided to continue living in the 2nd floor apartment above his family to save money after marriage. Then we will move out. During the week of our wedding he was laid off his full time job, and now we both depend on unemployment benefits to pay bills. However, I feel as though the phrase “leaving thy father and mother” is not visible to me.

    He has 6 younger siblings, he is the oldest being 27 years old. Two of them are married and they moved out, and the youngest just turned 7. So I would understand they are a big family, inseparable and have gone through many hardships as a family. However, they depend on him too much. His excuse is that his step-father pays the mortgage (since its a lot) while he is in charge of paying every other bill (which is about the same amount as paying the mortgage), including everyone’s phone bill. Also that he has a special relationship with his mother (Past experience that he does not want to tell me about, because it is unnecessary) which motivates him to still support his family. I don’t mind my husband visiting them and helping them out, but we have our own house responsibilities to take care of. But I feel as though he tells her everything that is going on. I thought that because he is married everything will change, but everything is still the SAME. The only difference is that now I am living with him.

    I understand that in marriage it might be a bit rough in the beginning getting used to each other, and both of us must deal with it together. But I feel as though his family becomes involved when it comes to me transitioning to married life. They want me to get used to THEIR lifestyle and my husband gets upset if I don’t. However I want to create my own lifestyle with my husband, in which both my husband and I can work together; but they prefer their lifestyle is the best way. Every family is different, and because they are a big family (compared to my small family of 4) the way my family does things are different. However, because my family was against my marriage, it is hard to communicate with them when they don’t want to see me.

    I feel frustrated and alone, and when ever I try to explain to my husband how I feel, he sees it as I hate his whole family all together, even though they have been there for me when my own family hasn’t. I want the Lord to help me on this road but I feel as though things are’t going well. Any advice?