How Do You Live With Your In Laws and Still Love Them?

Live with Inlaws AdobeStock_135171544 copyLiving with your in laws (parents), or having them live with you, is a complicated situation. This is particularly true for those of you who live in parts of the world where this is a common cultural practice. This may work out fine in some households. However, some of you may not find this to be an easy living arrangement.

This whole situation is a particularly perplexing one. The Bible tells you that as a married couple, you are to leave your parents. You are to cleave to each other as husband and wife. (See: Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:7; and Ephesians 5:31.) But when it is not possible to live separately from your in laws (parents), married life becomes more complicated.

Leave, Cleave Yet Still Live Together?

How do you live out the Biblical principle to “leave and cleave” now that you are married? And yet how do you live under the same roof in a peaceable manner with your parents (in laws)? You want to love and “honor” your parents (in laws). You know that is the right thing to do. But when they don’t make it easy, how do you do it?

To be quite honest, we don’t know. This may be an almost impossible situation! And yet the Bible says that with God nothing is impossible! So if there isn’t any other choice you can make in this matter, there must be a way to make this work. It may not be as comfortable as you want it to be, but with God’s help, you can do it.

We Are Promised “Troubles”

The Bible warns us of the tribulations we will encounter in this life. Even in married life we are told “those who marry will face many troubles in this life.” (1 Corinthians 7:28) Living with your parents (in laws), may be a “trouble” that you will need to work through with the Lord’s guidance, and strength. This could be an “iron sharpening iron” situation that the Bible talks about in Proverbs 27:17. This is where you have the opportunity to allow the Lord to bring out His character within you as circumstances rub you in a way that causes sparks. Follow the rules for Holy living that you can read in Colossians 3.

It’s true that the ideal may seem to be that you and your in laws (parents) live in separate households. But the ideal isn’t always possible. So after you have prayed, if you see that things aren’t going to change at this time, the next wisest choice is to make the best of the circumstances you are in, rather wasting energy on complaining or wishing for that which you cannot change at this point in time. There is a time to say something and there is also a time to be quiet and let God say it. (See Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.) Other times God tells us to “be content in the circumstances we find ourselves.” (See Philippians 4:12-13.) And this may be what you are facing at this time. Ask God to show you what you are to do in this season of your life.

Leave Within Your Mind

Keep in mind that you and your spouse can still “leave” your parents in your mindset and in your attitudes. Find ways to cleave together, even if you can’t live apart from your family in your living circumstances. You just have to be more cleaver in how you make this happen —firmly placing the boundaries that are possible. The Lord can show you how to do this.

You may even have a spouse that doesn’t fully join with you in a “cleaving” type of way. And that is most certainly perplexing because this is not how God intended for marriage to work! Our hearts go out to you. But don’t give up. God is with you as you reach out to Him for help. Cry out your circumstances to Him. Ask Him for continual guidance as to how to make the best of a situation that seems to be the worst!

And don’t give up if you pray and God is silent for a period of time. His silence will not be forever. It’s not that He doesn’t hear you. But there are reasons for His silence that you need to accept. He is God and His ways are not your ways. God tells us in the Bible, “As the heavens are higher than the earth. So are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are my ways your ways’ declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8)

If you are wondering why God is not answering your prayers as quickly as you believe He should concerning this problem, consider the following thoughts. They come from the teaching of Oswald Chambers from his book My Utmost for His Highest, (published by Barbour and Company).

Chambers writes:

“We have the idea that God rewards us for our faith. It may be so in the initial stages. But we do not earn anything by faith. Faith brings us into right relationship with God and gives God His opportunity. God has frequently to knock the bottom board out of your experience if you are a saint in order to get you into contact with Himself. God wants you to understand that it is a life of faith, not a life of sentimental enjoyment of His blessings.

“Your earlier life of faith was narrow and intense, settled around a little sun-spot of experience, full of light and sweetness. Then God withdrew His conscious blessing in order to teach you to walk by faith. You are worth more to Him now than you were in your days of conscious delight and thrilling testimony.

“Faith by its very nature must be tried. And the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character has to be cleared in our own minds. Faith in its actual working out has to go through spells of unsyllabled isolation. …Faith in the Bible is faith in God against everything that contradicts Him. I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do. ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.’ This is the most sublime utterance of faith in the whole Bible.”

Stretching Your Character

It may seem cruel of God to withdraw from you when you are dealing with so many problems. But we encourage you to understand that God has a reason why He allows things to happen in certain ways and times. His silence may be a time when He is trusting you to live by faith at this time. He wants you to cooperate with Him in stretching your character beyond the limits of what you may think should happen. We encourage you to trust His silence and trust His heart. He loves you and knows what is ultimately best for all concerned.

If your spouse recognizes the Biblical mandate to “leave and cleave” and yet you can’t physically live elsewhere at this time, ask God as a married couple to help you. Even if you have to do this within your mind and actions within the same home as your family. God will lead you (at the proper time) as you lean upon Him, rather than upon that which you see right now. (See Proverbs 3:5-6.)

If you don’t have a spouse that at this time recognizes the “leave and cleave” mandate, then ask God how you are to proceed each day under the constraints you find yourself living. God will be your guide. And what you see today in your spouse may actually change in the future. Trust God in this.

On This Journey

To help you further in this journey, we’ve searched for articles you can read that may give you insights into how to make your living situation work. We’ve found a few (and hopefully will find more in the future) that may help you. Even if your circumstances are not the same as in the articles we provide below for you to read, pray and then glean. Ask the Lord to show you what you can and cannot use, and what you can tailor in such a way that they will work in your situation. Open your heart and mind to all of the possibilities that God can show you.

Just make sure that what you use is not contrary to scripture. It is important that you are not allowing your own mind or a contrary spirit disguising itself as “angel of light” (that is working against God’s ways), to fool you. Be on the alert! (See 1 Peter 5:8-11.) Let the Bible, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, lead you into Truth in the decisions you make.

“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Ask the Lord to help you to be strong in doing what is best for all concerned —especially for the health of your marriage.

Heads Up:

We want you to know that one or more of the articles, is not written from a Christian perspective. But we believe you will still find helpful things among all the articles that could help you. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide as to what you should and shouldn’t use. Please click onto the links provided below to read:

Posted on the web site Crosswalk.com, Sarah Haymaker writes:

HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR IN LAWS AND STILL LOVE THEM

From Pastor Walter Snyder, who addresses this issue:

ASK THE PASTOR: LIVING WITH YOUR IN LAWS

On the web site About.com, Sheri and Bob Stritof address:

IN LAWS AND THE NEED FOR BOUNDARIES

On the web site, Be About Jesus, Pat Sieler discusses:

THE ONLY THING HARDER THAN LIVING WITH IN LAWS

Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.

If you have additional tips you can share, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.

Print Post

Filed under: Dealing with In Laws & Parents

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.

Comments

53 responses to “How Do You Live With Your In Laws and Still Love Them?

  1. (ZIMBABWE)  I was told about this website by a friend. I really wished I was told earlier about it, coz it has lots of helpful stuff –things that we overlook in our marriages but yet has the power to destroy our marriages at the same time.

  2. (SOUTH AFRICA)  Thanks Cindy for a biblical reminder of our responsibilities as partners to each other and also to our parents. My spouse brought his mother into our home without consulting/ agreeing with me first and he sees absolutely nothing wrong with our present living arrangement. I may have tried to politely indicate the dangers of making this a permanent living arrangement but he loves his mother too much that no one else could possibly give him advice about her.

    I want to ‘honor’ his mom by being respectful but circumstances make it so difficult that at times I get depressed and cannot confide in my spouse as he would view anything I have to say about his mother as my way of trying to chase her out of our home. As a result there is so much tension between his mom and I that we hardly speak to each other. How do I continue to honor her even when she does and says words that are disrespectful to me?

    1. (NIGERIA)  I understand how you may feel. I hope by now, you have found a way around your circumstances. I believe the Lord has and will let his word shine in your situation.

  3. (SOUTH AFRICA)  I have been reading through the Marriage Missions. I just would like to summarize the story of my life. Thanks again for your guidance and advices.

    I have been married for 9 years and has stayed in my two first years of marriage with my in-laws. My husband got a job in another province and I moved with him and my daughter. My mother in law is too protective of her son and loves him too much; he can not let go. She was persisting for years that she is tired of staying in her house (with a helper). She used to cry when we had to go back to work after our visits and wanted to stay with her son. She has two daughters who are both married and not taking care of her, let alone phoning her or inviting her to visit them.

    Last year she succeeded in selling her house and moved in with us. This has been very difficult for me, because for years I have been staying with my husband and kids (who are now two). She discusses everything with him — Doctor’s appointment, she watches soccer with him, she wants his attention.

    Recently I went with my husband on a business trip, she was going along, telling my helper that she is going with me and my husband. She was to accompany us on our vacation (holiday trips). I was suffocated by her presence, but recently I asked the Lord for his guidance and for help as I normally turn to Him for everything. The Holy Spirit told me to forgive Her for everything, focus on him alone and my kids, and also to let go of whatever she does. I am ok now. I thank God.

  4. (CANADA)  I am pregnant and my mother in law keeps saying things such as she wants the child to live with her and that the child will be with her everyday. She sounds so overbearing and I worry about this. My husband does not seem to mentally support the whole cleaving thing and I get so depressed…

  5. (UNITED STATES)  I am in situation where I feel lost, uncomfortable, stress and depression all together. My husband I live got married about a year ago and he’s in the Military.

    When I got pregnant this year we found out that he will be deployed. Since at the time we live so far away from both families, he had decided that the best way for me was to move me in with his parents so that they can help me during my pregnancy and after my pregnancy. My in laws are strong Christians and my family isn’t.

    When I married my husband I never expected to move in with the in laws. Since I moved in with them I don’t feel right, I feel like I am unwanted here, like I am trapped and I can’t get out. In my tradition when a girl gets married she must go live with her husband’s side. Since I am pregnant and when I moved in with my in laws, I would get up early to cook, and clean and serve them (that’s what I call it).

    I’ve been so depressed and stressed out, my husband is far away somewhere out there and I have no one to turn to nor to vent it too. My husband doesn’t seem to understand my point of view or my feelings. He says that I am just being mean and self centered but the truth is how can I live with my in laws, 7 months pregnant and serve them everyday? When I leave I have to let them know where I am going and when I’ll be back.

    After reading this article, it somewhat kinda of helped me because it’s true: “the next wisest choice is to make the best of the circumstances you are in, rather wasting energy on complaining or wishing for that which you cannot change at this point in time. There is a time to say something and there is also a time to be quiet and let God say it. (See Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.) Other times God tells us to “be content in the circumstances we find ourselves.” (See Philippians 4:12-13.) And this may be what you are facing at this time. Ask God to show you what you are to do in this season of your life.”

    And my only choice that I have until my husband returns from deployment is to make the best out of this living with the in laws.

    1. (USA)  Hello dear, I perfectly understand your situation. But sometimes we have to stand out so strong for us to get our freedom as married women. I am not trying to tell you to be disobedient to your in laws and your husband, but let this be the last time you accept to such an ideal.

      I want you to be calm and patient for this time till you give birth to your baby and when your husband comes back you have to live your in laws, we as married woman have to fight for our freedom from in laws. Pray that God will make your husband understanding, you when you talk.

      You are meant to be happily married to your husband. Do not ever let your in laws spoil your happy times in marriage. They have already enjoyed their happy times in marriage so they have no right to make your life miserable. Because you are going to be strong I know you can do this. You have to pray. The strength of married women comes from prayer.
      Psalms 121:1-2 says, “I will lift my eyes unto the hills from whence shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

    2. Your husband should be supporting you. I say for forget the in laws. You are not their maid but a woman who is a mother to be. If your family will take you in, I say go for it. Your husband will just have to understand you’re a woman and not his parents maid. He is not around and you deserve a life of your own too.

  6. (USA)  My wife brought her father to live with us from his home country about 10 months after my mother-in-law passed away. I knew about this but was not consulted about how I felt or feel about this. He does not speak English and has no income. He sleeps on a day bed in our family room. I call this my wife’s 25th wedding anniversary gift to me. (Sorry for the misplaced humor.)

    I have two adult children. One who is working part-time and adjusting to life after college graduation. He lives with us, and the other who I am through tight money management putting through college. She lives at school during the school year. My wife and I have not had a private weekend at home since last October and this is not because of our kids because they have their own lives. We have to take father-in law many places with us. My wife has 5 adult married siblings in her own country.

    We purchased a home for my father-in-law a few years ago but he gave it to one of his adult daughters and her husband. Before my mother-in-law passed away my wife had another house built. Your article is somewhat helpful. I love the Lord, but this situation is gettng more and more difficult for me and I am developing a detached attitude. If I try to discuss this with my wife she gets mad at me. Please pray for me.

    1. (USA)  I really feel bad for you. We had my step dad stay after my mom past away. We have also had several siblings stay in our home. It was a huge strain on our marriage. What we decided to do was set a 3 day limit for anyone to stay or visit. Sounds harsh to many but in our experience many of our “guest” would still be here today if they were allowed. At the time none of them were helping out financially, my husband decided to make a HUGE pot of ham & beans and said, “this is what we are having the whole week.” They moved out after two days.

      I would be honest with your wife and let her know how this is affecting your marriage. It sounds like your father in law has others that he could stay with or at least rotate. It’s difficult to have anyone stay in your home it’s also difficult to be the “guest”. I guess what I am saying is there has to be boundaries and limits, without them things will progressively get worse. My prayers are with you.

    2. (USA)  Hello Tony, I perfectly see what you are going through but you know what? Sometimes women cannot understand situations the way men do. I will pray for you, my brother. But if you could find a way of getting your wife in one of her best moods and tell her to tell the father to go back home, that may work. All in all, I am going to pray for you. I believe God is going to deal with this situation.

  7. (US)  Thanks for your prayers. This written discussion is very beneficial. Please also pray for my wife, her siblings, and my father-in-law. He as gone from being very independent to dependent. I just read in my morning devotional that trials build character. David experienced many trials before he became king. Our Lord also experienced trials here on earth. Your comment about setting boundaries is well taken. This is as far as it goes. My focus is getting our daughter through college and helping out our son. At this point all I can realistically do is put things in the Lord’s hands. “All things work together for good to those who love God..” Romans 8:28. The Lord be with you.

  8. (S.A)  Hi all, I just came across the website and I need some advice. I am still in a situation where I live with my husband’s siblings who are all not working. The hardest part is they do not appreciate anything we do for them i.e the rentals, the bills, toiletries etc that we provide for them. The sad part is they are both above 20 years of age; one is almost 30.

    They have nothing good to say about me. As long as we are not home they waste things from electricity to spending the day sleeping on the couch. You get home the house is all stuffy, they bring their friends home in your absence, eat and have all the fun. They report us to our parents in laws.

    You visit them; they are angry at you; they don’t ask but they just frown at you. For one, we were paying for his fees but when results came we were never told. None of them can get into a conversation with you. You don’t greet them; they will not greet you at all.

    My husband tried to confront them but he was told he is useless. Honestly, I am so tired and have gotten to a point where I do not care what happens to them. I am in a place where I feel if one day God opens a door for us to leave the house are we staying in I don’t think we will ever see eye to eye. How can you stay with people who don’t want to see you?

    I, for one, have never confronted them. I just watch them do what they do but it eats me up to an extent that I am losing so much weight I can’t eat at home coz I am bitter. But I thank God I have a husband who is so understanding and loving. Ladies and gentlemen, I need help.

    1. Kim, I am sorry to hear of your misfortunate situation. One thing I never saw you mention in your message was if you had ever brought this situation before the Lord, not only to ask Him what you should do about the situation of your brother in laws, but with your husband also.

      The first thing you need to do when you cry out to God about your situation, is you need to first admit to both yourself and to God that that this situation is something you need help with. Then totally put God in charge and let go of it. God does his best work when we take our hands off of what God did not tell them to touch.

  9. (INDIA)  I am staying in my mother in law’s house. My parents don’t like me to stay with them. When they come there they do not feel comfortable to stay with me. And my mother in law does not show any respect to my parents. I am in a dilema and don’t know what to do. Every day my parents are scolding me to move out from this house. My parents visit once a year to my place. Please pray for me and give some suggestions if possible.

    1. Santhosh, I see your dilema and I was wondering, have you ever tried to meet your parents on a mutual ground? You make it sound as though you are ok living with your In laws, only that your parents aren’t as comfortable with the idea. If you and your husband are comfortable where you are, including your residing with your in laws, I would not say that just because your parents suggest you move, that you do so. This may cause more stress than relief in the long run. Something needs to happen so that your parents feel that their words are not in vain, and also so you don’t put them in an uncomfortable position, such as your in laws place.

      You mentioned that they come around once a year. Next time plans are being made suggest a new location of meeting. For example: Everyone stay in a hotel, resort, or maybe that you guys all go camping. There are other ideas or destinations that may come to mind, allowing you to see your parents and your parents not to have to come in contact with your inlaws.

      But most of all you need to discuss this with your husband. When you married, you left the role of being under your parent’s house and now to that of belonging to your husband (and visa versa).

  10. (TRINIDAD)  Hi, I live all the way in the Caribbean and I am so surprised that I am not alone in a frustrating situation. I truly believe that my marriage may not survive this dilemma. I recently gave up my independence to live with my husband’s family. I would say I was conned into doing this because my inlaws were supposedly moving to another area. Silly me!!!

    Its now been seven months and I am so depressed and stressed. I feel so alone because my husband is one of those who does not understand my frustrations. Now I am in a worse position financially, emotionally and spiritually. This site has really helped because I know that God will deliver me and my children soon. I shall overcome and I pray that the relationship my husband and I shared can be restored.

  11. (PAKISTAN)  As I think with respect to my country (because we are still living in a joint family) and when you are living in a joint family, you should live with patience, bear with one another, having good thinking for the others. Sacrifice is the best weapon in the joint family.

  12. (UNITED STATES) I am so stressed!!! My mother-in-law has always lived with one of her daughters since her husband died. She raised their children, cooked, cleaned for them. She has always had a strained, or distant relationship with her 2 sons; my husband being one of them. Therefore her whole world has been her 2 daughters and kids.

    Recently our two oldest daughters decided to become more independent and to move out. We have two younger children left and we both work. As soon as they got news that two of my children moved out, my mother-in-law and her daughters decided to send their mother to live at our home without consulting with me!

    This is already causing strain in our marriage. It seems that my husband doesn’t know how to tell his mother that she can’t stay. I am concerned that we will never have privacy and that my life will be judged by them continually. They are very gossipy and I have always tried to keep certain distance from them for this reason. I cherish the peace and privacy I have in my home with my husband and children; but it seems that my husband doesn’t understand or knows how to stop this from happening. Any suggestions?

    1. (USA) Vivian, This is a classic problem where a good counselor or marriage coach can help you (one who is marriage-friendly –Read through our “Marriage Counseling” topic, to best understand what that is). Obviously, you aren’t able to figure out boundaries at this point as a married couple, concerning his family, that is reasonable to both of you. The book Boundaries and possibly the book Boundaries in Marriage written by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend, may be helpful, as well as reading through the topic we have on our web site, “Dealing with Parents.”

      This is not just an issue for newlyweds, as you know all too well. This situation has been lurking around the corner, to be confronted for years. By enabling co-dependant behavior, none of her children is doing her a favor if the “children” and their spouse’s marriages are strained under the pressure. She needs to build a life that isn’t dependent upon draining the life out of her “children’s” marriages. Perhaps a counselor can help you both to figure out proper boundaries, how to both approach his mom and how to help her best transition into being more independent. That doesn’t mean that she is erased from your lives, but she doesn’t depend upon you to be her main source of entertainment and care after her daughters used her and then dropped her off.

      This is totally insensitive and divisive– both to your mother-in-law’s true needs and your relationship with her and more importantly with your husband in your marriage. A counselor or coach may be able to guide you and your husband to figure out a better solution to this situation. NOW is the time to make the pro-active steps in doing something about this, rather than waiting until this eventually drains your marriage of any healthiness.

      In approaching your husband on this matter, be careful in not acting antagonistic and argumentative. Approach this in a loving way, to the best of your ability. You might tell him that because you value the relationship you’ve had as husband and wife and with your children together, you want to approach this matter with his mother in an honoring way. Tell him that you believe you need to seek help together in this. You realize he loves his mother, and you love that about him. But when your marriage and the peace and privacy in your home is threatened (especially by the “gossipy” ways she and his sisters approach life), you need for him to be pro-active, along with you, to find out how best to deal with this situation, considering everyone’s needs.

      As for his sisters and how they interact with their mother, understand that they will always be gossipy. No matter what you do — they won’t curb that behavior. So push that out of your mind as best you can. Some people feed on gossip. You don’t need to get entangled in that mess. Do what you can to work with your husband as a team (realizing that many spouses deal with issues by running from them, or pretending they aren’t there… it’s their “survival” method… it’s unfair to the spouse who faces the brunt of the problem) but do what you can to TRY to respectfully involve your spouse in partnership.

  13. (UGANDA)  I have been married for four years. My husband is suffocating me with his relatives ranging from his mother, father to nieces and nephews. His parents come home quite often on medical grounds which is okay with me as long as they don’t stay so long. Last year his mother stayed for ten months after an operation. I don’t think she loves me (according to her comments to the house help) but I don’t care much about it.

    His niece stays with us too coz her school is near home. Apart from helping with the kids, she does nothing and disrespects my relatives.

    His two nephews are also now living with us. One is crippled. He was brought on medical grounds without my consent while the other was brought to take care of the crippled one. This ‘care taker’ sleeps the whole day claiming he was brought to take care of his brother. He does not want to do anything else. Recently he collided with my niece that I brought to help with house chores as I search for a maid. He called her housemaid. This sent me nuts and I told off all my husband’s relatives in the house as he tried to cool me down.

    I have told him I am tired of his relatives and that if any of us want to help our relatives, they don’t have to be staying with us. Am I wrong? Does a woman get married to a whole clan? He has a married brother who lives happily alone with his wife because he says he doesn’t want stress.

  14. (AUSTRALIA)  Hi, I’m really going through a lot. Me and my husband and our 4 kids have been living at our own house for a year… Everything went well until recently, my husband walked out on me and my kids (and I’m 7 months pregnant) to go live with my in laws that I was living with a year ago. They have treated me like a slave and my mother in law has hit me when I was pregnant with my oldest and has through all my pregnancy. So I’ve told my husband we need to move to our own place so that we can keep the peace.

    But now I’m alone with my 4 kids because my husband found out that his mum is sick and he has to be with her, when I need him the most. I’m pregnant and with 4 kids, all under the age of 5. I’m confused because his father is a pastor and I thought when you are married you leave your parents to be with your wife and kids. He’s preached about it all the time but doesn’t follow it. They have brain washed my husband saying that he shouldnt move out and stay with them because his mother is sick. What should I do?

  15. (USA)  I have a situation where I got pregnant and lived with my in laws and it went wrong. They started getting into our relationship. From there my fiance left me and now he wants to come back but he wants me to move in again with them. To me, I don’t find it to be a good choice. I understand he wants to be with the baby day and night but I just don’t find it right living under the same roof as his parents.

    To me, I want him to take responsibility for getting an apartment but his excuse is that he wants to save up and while he saves up, to live with his parents. But I don’t see that it’s right. I do love him and I would do most anything he offers, but I don’t think it is a wise choice to be moving into his parent’s house.

    I don’t know if I am wrong, but to me, my mom showed me that if he wants to be with you he has to make the effort of giving you what he can. But that doesn’t mean living under the same roof as his parents when he makes good money, with which can give me an apartment.