Failing to leave your parents hurts them in the long run as well as your mate and yourself. Agree together on a mutual plan to leave the authority of your parents. Here are several suggestions for truly leaving your parents’ authority and cleaving to your spouse for help, comfort, and advice in decision making.
First, evaluate everyone’s needs.
Parents are not your enemy; they just do what comes naturally. If misunderstandings arise between you and your parents or parents-in-law, don’t strike out at them for loving you, even if their method is wrong. Since both mates have an intimate need to be at peace with their parents, don’t be disrespectful to your in-laws.
Instead, when frustrations occur, analyze the situation with your mate and agree together about the cause. Evaluate everyone’s real need, what went wrong, and most importantly, look for a creative solution. If either mate has wronged a parent, ask forgiveness. If a decision is needed to protect the integrity of the marriage, make it together. Then look for a creative way to communicate this to the parents.
Second, maintain privacy.
Commit together never to share any intimate needs or decisions with either set of parents without your mate’s permission. A husband may be dreaming of a new car, and his wife simply mentions it to her dad. The father then voices his disapproval to her husband, and the husband feels betrayed. Couples must build their lives together, and everything should remain private unless agreed otherwise.
Third, handle critical statements with care.
Never be critical about your mate to your parents or allow them to make critical statements about your mate. Sharing something critical about your mate is damaging, not only to your mate, but also to your parents. Why? Because parents never forget the problems shared, and rarely allow your mate to change (in their minds). Your parents naturally become overly protective of their own children.
We know one wife who revealed a financial irresponsibility by her mate in the first year of their marriage, and her parents are still bringing it up after twenty years. Parent don’t have the opportunity to see your mate change and improve as you do. They only have your comments to go on.
Do yourself and your parents another favor. The next time they make a critical statement about your mate, respond with a strong but loving rebuff. I know of one man whose mother was just leading up to a critical remark about his wife. He interrupted with, “Mom, I love you a lot, but please don’t be critical of my wife. I want you to know she is God’s gift to me, and I don’t want to hear those criticisms.”
His mother hastily replied, “Don’t be silly; I wasn’t going to be critical of her.”
The wise son responded with, “Forgive me, Mom. I just so want you two to be friends, because I love you both so much.” He was strong but kind to his mother.
Fourth, develop a plan for visiting in-laws.
Before visiting your parents, especially early in marriage, agree on the length of time that you plan to stay. One idea is to allow your wife to go home to her parents a few days earlier than you in order to give her parents the attention they need before you arrive. Men, occasionally go home to see your parents alone. Sometimes parents need time alone with their children after they are married. If you live close to either parent, this will not be a problem.
Most importantly, when visiting as a couple, let your mate have the freedom to love his own parents. If you feel somewhat ignored while at your spouse’s parents’ home, anticipate and discuss it before your next visit.
For example, you might want to go somewhere with your wife while at her home. Since she is the one who is naturally accepted in her home, take her aside and tell her your plan—that way she can announce the need for you both to go somewhere at the appropriate time. She takes total responsibility for the decision.
You are free from the possibility of hurting her parents, and they better understand and accept the decision. If in-laws tend to visit too much, agree on a plan; then the child of that in-law should talk to the parent. Don’t put your mate in a position that might offend or hurt your parents. It’s easier to deal with your parent yourself so your spouse is still approved and not involved in the tough discussions.
Fifth, be considerate toward your in-laws.
Ask your mother-in-law and father-in-law what they would prefer that you call them. Let them know you will be glad to call them Mom and Dad if they prefer. You may be more comfortable calling them by their first names, especially if you have known them for a long time. Asking gives them the freedom to say, “It’s up to you.”
Another thing that demonstrates consideration is dropping your parents-in-law an occasional card, thanking them for their role in your mate’s life or for allowing you to visit. Courtesy with parents not only brings joy to them and to you, but increases the possibility of an exciting grandparent-child relationship in the future.
This article comes from the book, “2 Becoming One'” written by Don and Sally Meredith www.2becoming1.com, and is only available on their web site. In this book Don and Sally share time-tested principles and practical insights that will help you build a Christ-centered marriage. You’ll learn: The 6 reasons marriages fail, God’s three purposes for marriage, the two forces for change in a marriage, how to end the insult-for-insult cycle, and much more!
Don and Sally Meredith are marriage counselors who have taught relationship principles for married couples, parents, and adult singles for over 30 years. In 1971, they founded Christian Family Life, to further the training of lay people, and in 1976 co-founded the FamilyLife Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. The Meredith’s have four grown children and reside in Charlotte, North Carolina.