Continual InLaw Challenge – MM #188

Inlaw Challenge - Dollarphotoclub_31011326.jpg - Mother in Law“They often give unwanted advice. Play favorites. Demand control. Worst of all, you can’t get away from them —even if you try. Because when you got married, they became yours —for life! They’re inlaws. And unless you’re among the fortunate few whom enjoy a trouble-free relationship with them, an inlaw can be a continual challenge —to your marriage, and your sanity.”

So says Dr. Randy Carlson from The Intentional Living radio ministry, in an article he wrote. If you’ve ever had a problem with an inlaw you may find this Marriage Message especially beneficial to read. Then apply it in some manner in your marriage. Pray, look, and then glean whatever you can use from it. Dr Carlson writes:

The Continual InLaw Challenge

One man struggles with the father-in-law that’s showing partiality for one grandchild over the other. Another woman is angry because her mother-in-law is always trying to wield power over her husband. Many couples spend hours discussing, even arguing, about their inlaws and their unwanted influence over parenting, finances and other family issues.

Yet the inescapable truth is that in-laws are family and if you’re not careful, you’ll unwittingly make them feel like outlaws, and risk depriving yourselves and your children of a vital and needed family relationship.

I’m going to give you six quick rules that’ll help you better love —and yes, even like —your inlaws… and benefit your marriage in the process:

Rule #1: Don’t fail to communicate.

Whatever the circumstance, the way to overcome any conflict with your inlaws is through good, direct communication. But far too often, you find yourself afraid to confront them or, worse yet, just prefer to pretend the problems don’t exist.

In the meantime, resentment and anger build, to the point that the easiest solution is to just stay away from the meddling inlaws. Yet inlaw relatives, particularly parents and grandparents, are important members of your family.

Even though your marriage and role as parents is now the priority, if you’re wise you’ll do everything you can to ensure you have a long and healthy relationship with your inlaws. Clear communication is the key to making that happen.

Rule #2: Understand you can’t control it.

Inlaw relationships are the one major family relationship you can’t control. When you get married, you choose your spouse. Hopefully, you get to really know the person and develop a relationship that grows until it blossoms into an engagement and, ultimately, marriage.

But when two people voluntarily and willingly marry, several involuntary, and at times unwanted, inlaw relationships are automatically created. You have another set of parents, brothers and sisters, and extended family — most of whom you don’t know, perhaps haven’t even met. You just have to jump in immediately and make them work. Accept that responsibility, and understand it will require time and effort to be successful.

Rule #3: Expect personality and value conflicts.

Have you ever driven away from a family gathering with your inlaws shaking your head? “How did I get mixed up with this bunch?” you wonder (hopefully not loud enough for your spouse to hear).

Don’t let these clashes in personality surprise you. There are also value conflicts to tackle: they have addiction problems, don’t know how to parent or, as I’ll address in more detail shortly, don’t share your faith in Jesus Christ. You can sometimes feel like your inlaws just mess up everything, and believe you were better off without them. Guard against that attitude.

Rule #4: Remember to support your spouse.

Never do anything that would display a lack of support for your spouse with his or her family members. In fact, your job is to help your husband or wife become successful with their brothers, sisters and parents.

If you criticize an inlaw, it creates a problem for your spouse. You may be correct or justified in your accusation, but you shouldn’t fan the flames. Instead, you need to do all you can to move your spouse and that other family member toward reconciliation, no matter how you may feel about the situation.

Rule #5: Realize there is no shared history.

You have little to no previous shared history with your inlaws. Therefore, remember that you can say certain things, or act a certain way, with your parents or other family members that may easily bring offense or misunderstanding if you say or do it with your inlaws. Be cautious, use good judgment, and be quick to apologize if you’ve caused offense, even if you don’t feel it’s necessary.

Rule #6: Set loving standards with unbeliever inlaws.

Special relationship dynamics exist when your inlaws are not believers in Christ. It is still imperative to nurture your relationship with your unsaved inlaws, especially the grandparents of your children.

But as a couple, you need to stay sensitive to spiritual issues. If your non-Christian inlaws are prone to use obscene language, live a carnal lifestyle, or try to directly influence you and your children against Christian beliefs, you need to step in and address the situation as lovingly as you can.

Your goal here is not to change your inlaw, Instead, it is to get them to alter their behavior as needed to protect your children and marriage as you see fit. In extreme cases, where the mother- or father-inlaw is an alcoholic, addicted to drugs or is violent, you must draw the line to safeguard your family.

If that’s necessary, be sure to communicate to your children what’s happening with their grandparents. Also encourage them to pray about the situation.

You know, you often encounter difficulty in your relationships with people. Much of the time it can be with the people you’re supposed to love the most! Follow the six rules given and you will hopefully find the love your relationships were meant to have.

You can find practical articles like this one on Dr. Carlson’s website by going to  We’ve worked closely with Dr. Carlson for over 30 years and endorse the work he’s doing to help marriages and families. We hope you’ll find this message to be practical and a blessing to your marriage.

Steve and Cindy Wright

Print Post

Filed under: Marriage Messages

Join the Discussion

Please observe the following guidelines:

  • Try to be as positive as possible when you make a comment.
  • If there is name-calling, or profane language, it will be deleted.
  • The same goes with hurtful comments targeted at belittling others; we won't post them.
  • Recommendations for people to divorce will be edited out–that's a decision between them and God, not us.
  • If you have a criticism, please make it constructive.
  • Be mindful that this is an international ministry where cultural differences need to be considered.
  • Please honor the fact this is a Christ-centered web site.

We review all comments before posting them to reduce spam and offensive content.


6 responses to “Continual InLaw Challenge – MM #188

  1. (USA)  Thank you so much for this advice. My husband and I and our children are in the middle of a season of separation from his family which is causing my husband anguish. His uncle, who raised him since age 12 is a violent, verbally abusive man. He and his wife (my husband’s dead mother’s sister) opposes us in our decision to raise our children in the ways of the Lord. We have been accused of getting wrapped up in the Bible.

    We have asked them to support us when they have our children in their care to read them the Bible and their daily devotions before bedtime. Because they refuse to do this and support us in raising them for the Lord, they have chosen to disown my husband and us. Please pray for us.

    I trust that the Lord is protecting us from the violence and threats. My husband, however, is fearful because his own mother was murdered at the hand of his father. He considers these relatives a replacement of his own parents so he feels as if he has lost them as well. In addition, they have caused division between his relationships with his younger cousins (adults) which he considers brothers and sisters by spreading lies that we have accused them of "corrupting" our children.

  2. (South Africa) Wow, thank you for this one!! I really struggled with this one the last week. And it’s seriously a joy killer and a peace thief.

  3. (SOUTH AFRICA)  I’m in serious, desperate need of help. Anybody who can advice please do. My husband has issues with my family as in family in general my cousins, parents, siblings, the works, all of them. I don’t know where these issues come from but whenever we have problems he accuses one of my family members for causing the problems.

    We are now having financial problems and he blames my father. Last time he blamed my cousin for our marriage problems, which he only saw once in his life at our wedding. I’m so confused. I don’t know, I don’t understand why he does this.

    Last time he accused my aunt of being the centre of our marriage problem and the only time he has seen my aunt was on our wedding day. My aunt and I aren’t even close. She doesn’t even call me. We only see each other at family gatherings. The problem even extends to work. He blames my job on some of our problems.

    I’m so confused, really confused. Is there someone maybe who can help me understand how disagreeing about money becomes an in law’s fault, an in law you don’t stay with, you dont give money to? -Very desperate

  4. (ENGLAND)  We are in-laws! Our own marriage is now in it’s 28th year and we have three daughters. One at the university, the other two are in their early 20’s and married.

    From our side, we love both of our sons-in-law as if they were our own (they are both estranged from their own families). In fact now when asked how many children we have we respond with “five -three daughter and two sons-in-law”. We have great relationships with them all, and regularly share time and meals together. All our children are believers.

    We recognise, though, that they do not share our family history, so we are careful not to bring out “old stories” which will exclude the new members of our family, rather we work hard at creating new ones that they can share with us. Clearly from time to time, tensions do arise and we try very hard to follow a few rules…

    1. Our daughters are no longer our spiritual responsibility -the role of leading them has now transferred to our sons-in-law. Decisions they make are their responsibility now, and regardless of whether we agree, we hold our won counsel and our tongues – unless we are asked for an opinion.

    2. The same goes for the parenting of our grandchild -we are not the parents, we are the grandparents, our role is to love her and support our children the best way we can.

    3. When we visit, we never outstay our welcome -we prefer for them to think “I wish Nana and Bampy had stayed longer” than “I thought they’d never go”. The result? Our children have had more contact (and more positive contact) with us in 2 years than we have had with our own parents in 28! In fact I’ve just received a phone call and my eldest and her family are driving to see us as I write -why? because they have decided they want to spend some more time with us!

    4. We pray daily for them all -actually this point should be first on the list!

    I recognise that there is no “biblical content” in this post, but I did not replace my common sense with my faith! I may perhaps study this issue and write a study for in-laws for my own church! On a general note, like all relationships, the in-law relationship needs love, commitment and work on both sides in order to work well.

    1. Hi Julian, We both rejoice with you and applaud you for the way in which you approach this entire family issue. How we wish more families would abide by these types of guidelines. If you write a study for in-laws for your church, we hope you will share it with us here at Marriage Missions. It could be helpful to families world-wide. Thanks for sharing your family guidelines with us. What a joy to know of those who are embracing their in laws, rather than pushing them away!

  5. (Africa) I read this Marriage Message. But I have to say that you can try by all means, to make peace with them, only to find that they abuse your cooperation. My in laws they are unbelievers and have a lot of scary rituals that they perform.

    One day they called my kids to visit them and they performed all these rituals on them, smearing goats blood on them, making them swallow goat gall, making them sit in an empty house full of smoke and told my kids not to tell. It broke my heart because the Bible tells us to stay clean and not associate with such people. My kids were taken for counseling. Our pastor and elders of the church were praying for us. Now we don’t allow our kids to visit them without us and they are extremely mad about that.