In-law relationships need a touch of civility. Consider the story of Stephanie, who complained, “My mother-in-law never approves of the way I do anything. The last time Joe and I visited her it happened again. Just trying to be nice and helpful, I washed all the pots and pans after dinner. No sooner had I finished than she washed them all over again!” Getting along with your in-laws is not always easy.
Stephanie is not a newlywed. She has been married to Joe for 15 years. That whole time, she and Joe’s mom have silently struggled with being civil to each other. When Joe’s mom comes to visit, Stephanie really tries to get the house clean and comfortable for her. But after arriving, her mother-in-law pulls out the cleaning supplies and spit shines the bathrooms and kitchen. Stephanie assumes she’s doing this because she thinks Stephanie is a slob and lives in filth.
After the last pots-and-pans fiasco, Stephanie spilled her frustrations to Joe’s older sister, Connie. “I know your mother hates me and thinks I’m a slob and a bad person. I can’t seem to do anything to please her.”
Connie replied, “Stephanie, it’s not about you. It’s about Mom’s compulsion to have everything spotless. I grew up with her. I know her. She was like this before you and Joe even met. When she rewashes the pots and pans, it’s not condemning you —it’s simply that she had different (and what most would consider absurd) standards of what is acceptably clean. Let it go. There are bigger hills to die on.”
While Stephanie couldn’t really forget it and totally let it go, she did begin to look at her mother-in-law in a different light. She began to try to find ways to help that didn’t involve meeting her mother-in-law’s high standard of cleanliness —like running to the grocery store for milk or dropping off the dry cleaning and laundry. Stephanie will probably never have a close relationship with her mother-in-law, but these days they are much more civil to each other.
Civility Tips for Relating to In-Laws:
• Be proactive. Do what you can to build the relationship.
• Don’t compete with other family members.
• Refocus your perspective by looking for the positive.
• Accept reality.
• Focus on remaining calm. What 1 Corinthians 13 says about love can also be true for civility. This really works: Try reading the love passage and substituting the word civility or civil. If you can succeed in remaining civil, you also up your chances of remaining calm even when you are extremely upset.
The ABCs of Family Civility
Adapted from Pier Forni, Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct.
• Smile. People respond better to those who are positive.
• Be considerate. Ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say going to encourage and build up the other person, or tear him or her down?”
• Practice restraint and don’t yell or raise your voice.
• Give sincere praise.
• Have the courage to admit it when you are wrong.
• Avoid ridicule and don’t humiliate or demean the other person. You can express your anger without attacking the other person.
• Accept kindness from others and let others be nice to you.
This article is from the book, Loving Your Relatives, by David and Claudia Arp, and John and Margaret Bell. This is a Focus on the Family book, published by Tyndale House Publishers (but is no longer being published). It’s full of practical, uplifting ideas for anyone who desires to resolve disputes and build understanding between branches of the family with real-life examples and biblical wisdom.
— ALSO —
The article below is another good one to read to help you to not only get along with your In Laws, but also to build a better relationship. It’s written by Fawn Weaver and is posted on the web site for the Happy Wives Club:
• 25 GREAT TIPS FOR BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR IN LAWS
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Filed under: Dealing with In Laws & Parents
6 responses to “Getting Along With Your In-Laws”
(SOUTH AFRICA) My husband is not interested in sustaining a relationship with my family; especially my sister. When I ask him what the reason is he says he doesn’t know. He just cannot stand her. My sister is a prayerful lovely girl not just because she is my sister but she has earned my respect for her. My whole family has been tolerant but hurt by this situation as sometimes he extends this attitude to my Mom and Dad as well. My sister is not allowed to stay in our home when she visits. She recently had a baby who is about 7 months old old. My husband has never asked me how the baby is doing. Often when she calls me he won’t even convey the message. This has been going on for about 3 years. I have prayed, I have complained and resisted complaining but his attitude hasn’t changed. He says I should give him time but how long?
One of the reasons why I struggle with this is he is a very outgoing person. We entertain people in our home (often from his side) a lot, often strangers and we do it willingly and whole heartedly but often I feel sad that I cannot freely allow my own family members into our home. I am very close to my family. My sister was my best friend until I met my husband.
One of the reasons that he says attracted him to me was my family. He really loved them and how we related to each other. I am not sure what changed.
I just want to know how to react to it. How do I love him through all this without condoning his bad behaviour? Sometimes I think I will give him a taste of his own medicine by ignoring guests from his side but its not in me to do that. Once a guest is in my house my only aim is to serve them and make them as comfortable as possible.
I get on very well with his family. I phone his Mom and Dad now and again to find out how they are doing. He wouldn’t do that for me unless there was a serious issue at stake and he is asked to.
What do I do? He is a loving husband otherwise. But his complete indifference towards my family is killing me slowly inside.
(NAMIBIA) Hi Daniella, I would recommend you pray and ask God to reveal to you any hidden mystery/feelings that your husband may not be telling you.
Well, it does work for me very well. Before I even start worrying about a certain thing that is going on on my hubby’s mind, I get a clear revelation and intuition by the Holy Spirit. Learn to be soft and a good listener. The Holy Spirit will guide you into resolving this issue… Be slow to speak., but in all be very prayerful.
"I once found my husband to be so troubled and uneasy, I didn’t take him to (court) questioning etc, I just remained prayerful. A few days down the line the Holy Spirit allowed me to do something I don’t normally do, which is to answer his phone. And before the person on the other side could tell that I was the wife and not him, the whole secret was spilled and I then knew what was going on." Be patient, prayerful and above all continue being the loving wife that you are… not taking everything you see/hear to heart.
(SOUTH AFRICA) Albertina, your answer was very spot on. Sounds like there is more to the story than meets the eye. Maybe Daniella’s sister found out something about her husband that he’s afraid she might tell or perhaps he is operating in darkness and the sister’s presence makes him spiritually uncomfortable. Seek Holy Spirit’s guidance and all will be clarified for you. Pray and watch…
(SOUTH AFRICA) I have a problem with my in laws. We don’t seem to agree on anything. I’ve always try to be nice and civil but I always get burned. We are married for 6 years now. At some point my mother in law said that she hates me and she came to our home with my elder sister in law demanding money and telling me how I misuse the mony and it is their culture for my husband to provide for the family.
I am not happy with how the 2 issues were solved, what makes me more sad is that my husband ignores me when I tell him of how hurt I am with the whole thing. I normally buy vegetables for my mother in law but she wont even say thank you. Some times she will call my husband to say that she doesn’t have food. I will buy a grocery for her but still she won’t appreciate it.
Yesterday, we found out that my younger sister in law, who we are taking to school, stole my contract sim card that I’m not using. She is being making calls to her friends and now a bill came of R7 250.36 from MTN they are also demanding the payment urgently. I’m scared to make any decision regarding the matter because I don’t know how my husband will react. I don’t want to fight or argue with him regarding his family. What must I do?
(SOUTH AFRICA) The issue of hatred from in-laws to the daughter in-law seems to be a common issue to all races. The ONLY cause is money. The in-laws only care about the way their son/brother used to support them before someone came to his life. They don’t care about his happiness. That is why our brothers end up commiting suicide and others throw themselves into drugs.
(UNITED STATES) My husband and I have been married for three years and together for seven years. Getting along with his family has been a struggle to say the least. I came into his family 6 months after his mom had committed suicide, so I know there were a lot of issues from the beginning. My husband never even wanted to go home to visit his dad and two younger brothers left behind but I told him he needed to. It was extremely hard visiting. My husband hated it every time we went and to top it off, his dad seemed almost like a borderline hoarder. We still continued to visit. Both of his brothers hated me. They thought I was too good for their family and I came from money, which was not at all the case. My family was very poor growing up and I also lost my mom at a young age.
They would talk so rudely to me and even curse at me every time I would visit. It hurt my feelings so bad. I talked to my husband about it, but he is afraid of causing problems because he still I think in a way blames himself for his mother’s death. So he never says anything. He is always the one cutting trips short, but I think they feel that I am the reason he stays away and wants to leave, but I’m always trying to make him visit and stay. His oldest younger brother has finally come around to me. He is at least nicer to me now and no longer curses at me. I think that has a lot to do with his now girlfriend. His youngest brother however is always so incredibly rude to me. He is 16 now.
Last time we went to visit, I walked in the door and said hi how are you and he said “*** **** you are waking everyone up, you should just leave.” Talk about a wonderful greeting when you get to town. My husband says that I have a lot of the same mannerisms as his mom and his brother probably still has so much anger about everything that he in a way sees me as the person to take it out on. It is so hard to deal with everything. I always try to be the bigger person because I know he is younger and has been through a lot, but at the same time I lost my mom and I don’t see it as an excuse. I also realize it was not in the same way so I can’t imagine that either. I want to show his family God’s love and kindness, but I don’t know how and if I can continue to take it. Please give me any good Christian advice and not to just write them off because I think that is sad.