Establishing Patterns For In-Law Relationships

Establishing Patterns Relationships - AdobeStock_129945149In the first months and years of marriage, couples establish patterns of relating that, for good or ill, will likely be with them for life. What are the implications of this truth for in-law relationships? Simple —if you get off to a warm, positive start with your in-laws, the odds are good you’ll enjoy a long-term cordial relationship.

On the other hand, if your first year of marriage is filled with frequent telephone and face-to-face arguments with your mother-in-law —about everything from oven settings to career decisions, your future does not bode well.

Here are 3 bits of in-law wisdom learned (the hard way!) by several marriage veterans:


1. The “Don’t Share Marital Dirty Laundry with Your Folks!” Policy:

You have a marital spat. Or a knock-down-drag-out. You’re fuming. He’s a jerk. She’s a selfish brat. Do yourself a favor. DON’T call your mom and/or dad and vent.

You may get things off your chest and feel better. But parents have a hard time “flushing these kinds of conversations. They will (consciously or not) keep a mental list of how that son/daughter-in-law is not being a good spouse. Human nature is that, over time we suppress and/or forget bad memories. Unless they have to do with our in-laws!

2. The “Blood is Thicker Than Water” Dictum:

It’s December 23, say, and you’re home for the holidays (after an exhausting drive). Mom announces she REALLY wants you two to participate in the annual Christmas Eve tradition of rousing Christmas caroling with the church choir. You’d both sooner submit to a [tooth] root canal without anesthesia. Instead of letting your spouse (the “in-law”) be the one to disappoint your parents, you need to be the one to say “no.” Your parents will be upset, but they’ll forgive you sometime over the next three months. They wouldn’t forgive your spouse for three YEARS (if then).

3. The “Stand-Up-for-Your-Spouse” Law:

A parent inappropriately criticizes your spouse (i.e., their son/daughter-in-law). Or they are cool, or cold. They may be downright rude. You must not ignore this. Gently and lovingly confront your mom/dad. Let it be known that you will not stand idly by and allow this kind of mistreatment.

If you do nothing, your parent(s) will be emboldened to step up the attack. Also, your spouse will feel betrayed and abandoned.

Some In-Law Questions for Newlyweds:

1. How will you respond if and when your parents say something negative about your spouse?

2. How and where will you spend your first Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays?

3. What have you done in the last month to show appreciation and love to your parent(s)?

4. What specific things have you done so far during your first year of marriage to try to build good will and good relationship with your in-law(s)?

5. Read Genesis 26:34 – Genesis 27:46. What principles (good or bad) for in-law relationships do you see here?

6. Read Exodus 18:13-24. What principles (good or bad) for in-law relationships do you see here?

7. Read the book of Ruth. What principles (good or bad) for in-law relationships do you see here?

8. What emotional ties with your parents interfere with your relationship with your beloved?

9. Would you consider borrowing money from either set of parents? Why or why not?

10. What are the pluses and minuses of getting into financial deals with parents?

This article comes from the book, Marriage Clues for the Clueless written by Len Woods, Christopher D Hudson, Jeanette Dall, and Mary Ann Lackland. It’s published by Promise Press. Unfortunately, this little book is no longer being printed.

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Filed under: Newlyweds & Beyond

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