“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 Theintentionallife.com. 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
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