Marriage, the bedrock of any given society, is a union between a man and a woman for life. But Satan will not allow it to be. He will try to steal, kill and destroy every good and healthy marriage by all means. One such means that he employs is the in-laws attack and manipulations of marriages. That is especially true as it concerns the African relationship.
In some cultures, the in-laws, that is, ‘the extended family members’ either on the man’s side or the woman’s side, exert a very strong influence on marriages and this influence has on many occasions had a bad effect on the marriages, resulting in either sadness, regret, or even a total disintegration of the marriage.
In this article, I will try to help our young people who have been married or are planning to get married on how they can turn their relationships with their in-laws into a blessing instead of a burden.
By the grace of God, I am an African, a Nigerian in particular. I am also married to a Nigerian lady. We have lived together as husband and wife for an unbroken 28 years (October 2007). This was not without experiencing many bitter lessons, however. I will therefore address this matter from the African context and to our African brethren and people of other cultures with similar marriage experiences about in-laws. I am doing this with the hope that this article will be a blessing and source of healing to your marriages.
One inherent problem in the African marriage is that our extended family members are seen as integral members of our marriages. In some cultures, members of the husband’s family see the wife of their brother or son as an addition to their family. And in some cultures, they expect the wife to serve every other member of the family including the youngest child of that home.
In some cultures, the wife is expected to call every other member of the family ‘my husband.’ This means that she is to marry not only her husband (except in sexual matters) but the whole family. It also means that if she decides to relate to her husband alone, she will incur the wrath of other members of the family. They will in turn make her life miserable in that marriage.
On the other hand:
The parents of a lady can be so possessive that they will manipulate her and direct her on what to do or how to marry her husband. In some cases parents may decide to move over to their daughter’s matrimonial home. They will live together with her and her husband or convince their daughter to bring her husband to live in their own home.
In such cases, their daughter may start by spending most time with her parents, causing the man to come visit her most of the time in her parents home. If she becomes pregnant, they will retain her till she delivers the baby and becomes pregnant again. Then the cycle continues without end.
In some other cases, the brothers and or sisters of the husband may not be happy about their brother’s intention to get married. This is because they think the woman will cause them to lose all the financial support which they have been enjoying. This can lead to a serious tension between them and their brother and eventually the wife of their brother. This can go on for years if not the life time unless God intervenes.
Educated and Employed Ladies
In the case of the ladies, if they are educated, gainfully employed, into a successful business venture and wealthy, some parents, brothers and sisters of such ladies, will hardly let her go into a marriage relationship without them remote-controlling her to be their bread winner even after her marriage. They will want her to build them a house. They also want her to buy them a car, train others in school or set up profitable business venture, etc, as a recompense for her training.
In some very extreme cases, some family members would prefer to retain their loved daughters at home and permit them to have children out of wedlock rather than giving her out in marriage.
These points can be a real source of trouble in any given African marriage but God has solution to every marriage problem.
SOLUTIONS TO THE IN LAW PROBLEMS:
1. Accept the problems as cultural problems.
Although the degree of the problems differ from culture to culture even within the same country, it is very important that every intending couple accept them as real. Do not try to treat them as non-existent or you will multiply your sorrows. The scripture says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” This knowledge will save your marriage.
2. Discuss them before marriage.
Before you say, “I do” it is wise to discuss these points. Remember that God hates divorce. Therefore, it is better to discuss these trouble spots and accept or reject them before you get married.
One problem that I have noticed is that either the man will say, “I will change her after marriage” or the lady might say, “let me get married first” but secretly she thinks, “Then I will show him my true colors”. Or both the man and the woman have no idea of such problems. They are so deeply in love that they do not foresee any problem from the in-laws. And when the problem begins to show up, they are unprepared to handle it. It then tears them apart.
3. Seek the face of the Lord.
Having discussed the matter together, present it to the Lord in prayer and go ahead with the relationship if the Lord approves the relationship or quit the relationship if He tells you to quit. A broken engagement is better than a divorce or a painful and sorrowful marriage.
4. If you must marry him / her, make sure that the marriage is godly and legally conducted.
Avoid co-habiting. Be determined to handle the problem very maturely and positively. Throw away every form of hypocrisy or deceit. Determine in your mind to love your in-laws.
5. Be determined to live in peace with every member of your husband’s or wife’s family.
It is achievable in every culture. But one problem we face is that most young people wanting to get married, have determined to have nothing to do with other members of their husband’s or wife’s family.
Therefore, even before the marriage is consummated, they are already scheming to displace every other member of their spouse’s family with the result. Even their good intentions, deeds, and requests produce negative results. That is because of the deceit and hypocrisy behind the good intention. Such people try to present themselves as good but have other plans. Try to live in peace even with the worst of your in-laws.
6. Leave and cleave.
It is very important for both the man and woman to understand and accept God’s formula for a healthy marriage. They must determine to leave their father’s houses and cleave to one another as is clearly demanded in Genesis 2:24 and Psalm 45:10.
What God has joined together in marriage must not be put asunder by in-laws. Any man or woman who allows his or her father, mother, siblings, etc to come between his/her spouse is not wise. Put them where they belong. I do not mean that you have nothing to do with them. But they must allow you to build your new family with your spouse. You must make sure that they know that.
7. Determine to support you in-laws.
The law of leaving to cleave does not mean that you must have nothing to do with the welfare of your in-laws. God expects us to extend our love to both our own family members and members of our spouse’s family to the extent that we can without grumblings and complaints for God loves a cheerful giver.
In our own marriage, we support both my family members and my in laws without discrimination to the extent that we can carry. My wife and I consult one another before taking any action. By doing this we have laid to rest every such problem in our marriage. It is partiality, like was in the case of Joseph (in the Bible), can wreck any good marriage. Try not to be partial.
8. Do not marry a man or woman because of his/her wealth.
If you marry a man or woman because of his or her wealth, you will be blinded by that fact so that you will concentrate on grabbing his or her wealth. People who marry because of the wealth of others will do everything within their power to keep the man or woman completely to him or herself and his or her own immediate family and therefore incur the wrath of his or her in-laws.
We must understand that, in the African and similar contexts, both families become one by marriage. We must therefore endeavor to balance our treatment of both families. The man and his wife become one by marriage so they should care for both family needs (i.e. that of the husband and his wife) to the extent that they can cheerfully do without grumblings because God loves a cheerful giver.
EXAMPLES OF IN LAW SITUATIONS FROM THE BIBLE:
Abraham was a father in-law that wanted the best for both his son and daughter in-law.
Leban was a selfish father in-law who was willing to keep his son in-law to himself for life as his servant with little wages. Leban’s desire was to keep Jacob perpetually in his own home so he could continue to manipulate and retain him.
Jethro, despite being a Midian Priest (an unbeliever) was a father in-law who wanted his son in-law’s success. He kept his son in-law’s family when the situation required it. And he released them at the appropriate time. He also cared about the welfare and success of his son in-law. He gave him a wise counsel and brought success to his ministry (business).
Naomi was a godly mother in-law who showed love and care for her daughter in-law. She gave her useful counsel that gave her a befitting husband. Naomi did not determine to keep her all to herself but let her have her freedom away from her. She did not meddle with Ruth’s marriage.
Here is an excellent example of a daughter in-law to be desired. She proved that her marriage to her late husband was not dependent on anything he had, but was based purely on love. Her love continued to radiate after her husband’s death and extended to her aged mother in-law. This is true to the extent that she took good care of her and God blessed her.
Jacob was a determined son in-law who was prepared to go an extra mile to have the love of his life. He was ready to die for Rachel but he had his bad spot. He cheated his father in-law in his business venture. May your son in-law rather work for your progress than your downfall in Jesus’ name.
7. JUDITH AND BASEMATH
(Gen. 26:34-35) —These were the wives of Esau, Isaac and Rebekah’s daughter in-laws. The Bible says of them, “They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.” Are you such a daughter in-law?
(Ruth 1:14) —She had emotions for her mother in-law. But they were not strong enough to overcome her selfish ambition. She was not prepared for further suffering with an old mother in-law who had no chance of having more sons. She preferred the luxury of her comfort zone. Is this a picture of you?
(Ruth 2-4) —He cared both for the security and welfare of both Elimelech’s properties and family. He was prepared to give hope to a daughter in-law, Ruth. He did and God blessed their union. May God give us more Boaz’s in Jesus’ name.
10. THE KINSMAN-REDEEMER
(Ruth 4:1-8) —He had interest only in acquiring more property to add to what he already had. But this interest was not in the welfare of a daughter in-law, Ruth. Some near relatives desire their late brothers’ properties and not the welfare of their daughter in-laws. In some African cultures they would confiscate their late brothers’ properties. They would leave the widow or daughter in-law without an inheritance. These kinds of in-laws still exist in our days. But may they never come our way. Amen.
SPIRITUAL ANGLE TO THE IN-LAWS IN MARRIAGE:
I will not conclude this article without a mention of the spiritual aspect of the in-law’s problem in marriage. Africans practice witchcraftry. There are some African women who use their witchcraftry to manipulate their sons/daughters marriages.
Some True Examples:
1. A certain mother was spiritually carrying her daughter at her back. Thereby she was making it physically impossible for suitors to propose marriage to her daughter. This is because, rather than notice the beautiful young virgin, suitors always saw the old woman as they behold the lady. Physically her daughter was walking freely while she was having her on her back spiritually. That way no man could notice her and propose marriage to her.
This was discovered through prayer and she was confronted before she let her off her back and she got married after being assured that her daughter will take care of her after marriage. The daughter’s husband knew it and complied with the promise. When confronted by the pastor, she confessed that she did it because she feared that her daughter would not come for her if she got married.
2. Another mother in-law was using a spiritual belt to tie the pregnancy of her daughter in-law. This was giving her much pain perhaps with the intention to abort the baby. This is because she did not approve of her marriage with her son. This was also discovered through prayer and her daughter in-law was delivered.
3. Another mother in-law spoke out loud beside her sick pregnant daughter in-law’s hospital bed and said ‘if she wants to die, let her die and leave my son alone’. She hated her daughter in-law because she wanted her son to marry another lady. This wicked mother in-law is late now and this hated wife (daughter in-law) is the bread winner of the family today.
4. In some cases, it may be a strong family tie rather than spiritual manipulation that causes trouble between husband and wife. Such husband or wife should be honest with herself or himself and confess it to his or her spouse and their pastor and seek deliverance from such family ties.
Some husbands and wives behave abnormally, not because they love to do so, but because they are being manipulated spiritually by their diabolical parents, or have very strong family ties that must be broken.
Therefore, if you have sought counsel and done everything you believe would help you regain your spouse’s love and attention to no avail, I recommend that you seek out a minister of God who can help you with prayers to deliver your spouse from every evil bondage, imprisonment, or family ties, for God to restore your marriage.
In conclusion, let me ask you a question. Are you a son or daughter in-law? Would you like to have godly mother, father, brother, and sister in-laws? If you answered yes to the above questions, the next question to answer is: are you a godly, lovely son or daughter in-law? Do you give trouble to your in-laws? Decide right now to be good to every member of your husband or wife’s family.
Stop being like Esau’s two wives who were a source of trouble to Isaac and Rebekah.
Are you a father or mother in-law? Are you troubling your son or daughter in-law? Also, are you manipulating their marriage and giving them trouble instead of peace? What will be your gain by so doing? Would you have wanted someone to trouble your own marriage? If not, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus to repent now and let your son / daughter enjoy his/her marriage.
I pray that God who gave me a happy, healthy and successful marriage with a wonderful (in-laws) relationship will do so for you in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This article is written by Israel Ikpeka. He and his wife Elizabeth live in Nigeria. They are Co-Presidents of Family Life Ministries and Freedom Bible College and Seminary. Concerning his marriage, Israel says the following: “My wife and I are very much incompatible in almost every way. But God has helped us to master our areas of incompatibilities. And rather than let them separate us, we handle them as good friends to the shame of Satan and the peace of our family.”
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Filed under: Dealing with In Laws & Parents