Inlaws or Outlaws? – MM #78

Inlaws - Dollarphotoclub_10242610.jpgWe’re told in the Bible, that when we marry, “For this reason” we are to “leave” the primary allegiance we had with our mother, father and “cleave” to our spouse. We are “no longer as two” but were are to be as “one.” In other words, after wedding vows are exchanged they are to step behind each spouse both emotionally and authoritatively. If this doesn’t take place the offended spouse, quite often, starts viewing their inlaws as “outlaws” because of the intrusion into their marital union.

“This is not to suggest that children and parents should cut off their relationship under the guise of leaving and cleaving. But your primary human relationship now is with your spouse, not your parents. Your commitment to God comes first; then your bond to your spouse, then to any children you might have, then to your family of origin, and then to extended family and friends” (Sandra Lundberg, from the book, The First Five Years of Marriage).

Dealing with Inlaws

The importance they still have in our spouse’s heart shouldn’t be underestimated. But the influential role they once held in our decisions is to change.

If this hasn’t been the case in your marriage up to this point, this can be a time of “NEW BEGINNINGS” in your relationship with your spouse and his or her family “from this day forward.” It’s important that you make the necessary changes and stand by them together. With this in mind, please prayerfully consider the following thoughts. They come from an article titled “In Laws or Out Laws,” written by Dr Randy Carlson

He writes:

Lately on our radio program, I’ve been hearing from more people than ever about the difficulties they’re having in their marriages dealing with their mothers-in-law or fathers-in-law. The complaints vary. For one caller, it’s his father-in-law that’s showing favoritism for one grandchild over the other. Another person gets angry because her mother-in-law is always trying to control her husband.

For many couples, it’s the in-laws that simply won’t let go of their children and let them grow up. They constantly give unwanted advice on parenting, finances —even church. And then there’s the concern about in-laws who are not believers, who are having a negative influence on their grandchildren.

Afraid to Confront Parents

Whatever the circumstance, the way to overcome the conflict is through communication. But far too often, the husband or wife is afraid to confront their parents, or worse yet, just prefer to sweep the problems under the rug and pretend they don’t exist.

In the meantime, resentment and anger builds to the point that the easiest solution is just to stay away from the meddling in-laws, thereby depriving their children of an important and foundational family relationship —their grandparents.

Three Tips

“Here are three practical tips to help you deal with your in-law outlaws in a way that will glorify God and move your family toward healing, closeness and renewed trust.

1. Your in-laws are not the enemy:

Couples need to start with a little self-analysis. If you see your in-laws as the enemy, you’ll never get anywhere with them. No matter how troublesome they seem, you need to take the lead in working toward solving the problems.

“One thing that might help is to remember that your mother or father-in law is different from your parents. You cannot compare the two, because in most cases your in-laws will come up short. Therefore, you need to get to know them for who they are, not for what you want them to be.

2. “The biological connection:

If a wife has a problem with her husband’s parents, it is the responsibility of the husband to bring that issue before his parents —no matter how uncomfortable that may be. Truth is, the biological child will generally carry more credibility with his or her own parents, and should discern how to best communicate with them. It is then vital that the biological husband or wife lovingly but firmly defends his or her spouse and family.

3. “Stay unified:

Finally, couples need to be 100 per cent unified in their communication with their in-laws. It’s important for the mother or father-in-law to sense that there is no way they can possibly use their parental influence on their own child to try and drive a wedge in their marriage or in their role as parents.

“How can you do this while keeping the Biblical command to, ‘Honor your father and mother?’ By understanding and then communicating God’s design for families as established in the second chapter of Genesis. ‘A man will leave his father and mother,’ verse 24 says, ‘and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.’

Leave and Cleave

When you marry, you are to ‘leave’ your parental home and ‘cleave’ to your spouse and build a new home—with rules, expectations and goals set by you, not your parents. As a couple, you set clear boundaries regarding how you will maintain your relationship with your in-laws, and how you will communicate this to them.

In fact, it’s best to do this when you’re engaged so that the expectations of both you and your in-laws are established before marriage and parenting enters the picture.

When In-Laws Are Not Believers

Special relationship dynamics do exist when your in-laws are not believers in Christ. First, you must remember that it is still vitally important to nurture your relationship with your unsaved in-laws, especially when grandchildren are involved. But, as a couple, you need to stay sensitive to spiritual issues.

If your non-Christian in-laws 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.

Goal: to Alter Behavior

Your goal here is not to change your in-laws. It’s to get them to alter their behavior as needed to protect your children and marriage as you see fit. But in extreme cases, where the mother- or father-in-law is an alcoholic, addicted to drugs, or is violent, you must draw the line to safeguard your family. Be sure to also communicate to your children what is happening with their grandparents. Encourage them to pray for the situation.

“In-law parents and grandparents are important members of your family. But your marriage and role as parents is now the priority. Wise couples will do everything they can to ensure they have a long, healthy relationship with their in-laws. Communication is the key to making that happen.”

Further Help

To help you further on this issue, we have numerous articles, quotes, testimonies, and available comment sections dedicated to Dealing with In Laws & Parents, posted on this web site.

Plus, below there are several links to web site articles, to read that could help you further with this issue:




— ALSO —


We hope all of this helps you to set your marriage in God’s order.
Cindy and Steve Wright

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Filed under: Marriage Messages

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74 responses to “Inlaws or Outlaws? – MM #78

    1. My father in law does not go anywhere; he doesn’t get along with his daughter or relatives. All the time he is sitting in the living room and a bedroom is allowed to him still he will not budge. Whenever we go out he has to come along with us. Word space has no meaning for him and most of all my husband is not bothered about my suffering. Anyways, my life will finish like this with remorse, hard feelings. Only God can help me. Any advice which pacifies my brain is welcome.

  1. I have tried and tried the best way to handle a situation as well as my husband. He has asked and asked his mom, dad, and grandparents to cut all ties with his ex wife. They say that they can’t because of his daughter which is 16. They say that the ex won’t let them see her if they tell her to stay away. The ex just drops by their houses whenever and especially on holidays. He has even told the ex to stay away but her response was, if they don’t want her there then they can tell her but of course they don’t. He’s been dealing with this for a year and a half. It really bothers me as well and so I just stay away. Please give some advice on how to handle this because we have made no contact with them and it bothers me.

    1. Honestly, it would be unfair for the parents to have to give up their friendship with the mother of their grandchild, whom also was once their daughter-in-law. The marriage didn’t last but should that automatically remove her bond with family members? How Christ like would it be to cast her out as a dog that is no longer wanted? The healthier the relationship, the more maturity that can be displayed to the children of the family and the easier the healing over the divorce can occur for all parties.

      Her place should not threaten yours if proper respect is also paid to you. Healthy boundaries can be set up in your home for the protection of your marriage, and should be. However we do not have a right to decide what boundaries others should set up in their house, simply because it makes us more comfortable. I am sure they love you as their daughter-in-law so pray about how you can resolve any insecurities or distress you may struggle with.

      Best wishes and take time to read the story of Ruth to gain a new perspective of family love and dedication. I am sure you would not want to be ostracized from your in-laws if your spouse passed on or your marriage disolved. The Lord can give you guidance and comfort and disolve anything that may need pruning; sometimes it with others and sometimes it is surprisingly within ourself.

  2. I am a 46 year old woman and my husband and I have been married for 25 years. In a few weeks I am going to be baptized in the river that our home is built near. My in-laws have a cabin there, also. My mother in law and I have always had a strained relationship. I struggle with an enormous amount of anxiety when we are around each other. Do I invite my in laws to my baptism? It seems that I should but, at the same time, I would like to forego the negative energy.

    I truly want to do what is right in the eyes of God as a Christian. I want to be a good wife to my husband and I want this day to be Beautiful and Peaceful for me, too. I would like to get advice on this and the way to pray about this.

    1. Leslie, I think the best thing to do would be to invite your in-laws. Yes, they could bring negative energy into it, but you may cause more problems by not inviting them than if you do (and the complications could go on for years and years). You never know… they may decline. But if they do come, try to keep your eyes on the goal –a closer walk with the Lord. Remember, a closer walk with the Lord is not walking on a bed of roses. You will have thorns come up here and there. What’s important is what you do with the thorns. Do you have the Lord help you to do what He would do, or do you do things like you would have if you weren’t a follower of Christ?

      Something that has helped me in times like what you describe with people who can rub us the wrong way is to keep in mind what we’re told in Philippians 4:8-10: Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” We’re promised His peace if we focus on what’s really important. It sure has worked for me.

      God can give you the grace to give out to others when it is the hardest as you look to Him and His word. Try not to make it such a “perfect” event, but rather look at why you are getting baptized, and how you can please the Lord as you go deeper in your walk with Him. I believe if you follow the principles of Philippians 4:8-10, you will be all the more blessed than you could have been otherwise. I pray the day goes GREAT for you :)

  3. Is it wrong to say love you to our ex son in law as he, my spouse, our grandson are traveling to a game together? Our daughter is angry now because I did so. I was told you can hate a person but remember God said love thy neighbor as thy self. What can I say to help us converse without anger?

  4. My husband and I are Christians, and welcomed the women our two sons married with joy, even the one not walking with Christ. We took those women as our daughters. After 12 years of marriage to a Christian woman with father wounds who did not know how to love well, our son had an affair with her best friend – all in our church. He loves God and tried to get help for their marriage, but it broke. We were devastated. He eventually married that woman (we were not close to her, and always had concerns about her and her husband’s spiritual condition). This is her 4th marriage, and we know she cheated on her last two husbands. So … we are struggling to accept her. We pray for her to be free of her own wounds, but it is so hard. We have seen her be manipulative to turn his children against her mother and us. We still attend church with his ex-wife, still love her. Please if you have any objective Biblical advice on how we can do this honorably pleasing God, I am open.

  5. My father Inlaw has committed and made fun of my weight along with my brother-in-law. They call me names. My father-in-law has told my husband many a times that he should leave me. My father-in-law believes a woman should be quiet till spoken to and work at home. I however work on my own, speak my mind and will not take the abuse and defend myself and then that causes tension between my husband and me. What do I do?

    1. What does your husband say to all of this? Does he defend you in some way? Is it making a difference in how he is treating you?

      Honestly, I can’t tell you what to do but I believe if it was me, I would find a time to talk to my husband at a non-combative time… a time when neither of you is hungry, tired, or disturbed in some way. And I would tell him how this hurts me and the dynamics of our family relationship. If he tried to minimize my feelings over this I would just let him know that this is no small matter to me. I need him to champion this matter that concerns me with his family because it is very divisive.

      If my husband didn’t take me seriously, then the next step would be to tell him that when this type of thing happens in the future, I would need to quietly take myself out of the situation and leave the room (or restaurant or such) until the conversation becomes more affirming, rather than negative. And if that didn’t work after a few times, I would limit my time with my in laws –letting my husband visit them at different times, but only be with them when it is an important family event. Family needs to be supportive. If they can’t be, then boundaries are needed to be put into place. A good book to get would be: Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. I hope this helps.

  6. My Mother-in-law only puts my husband and daughters name in cards. She ignores me and my son. We sat with her to explain how it felt and she said she’d write and apologise to my son; she never did. In front of my husband she said she would invite us all to dinner, when the time came she invited only my husband and daughter, my husband told me to see if she invited us all the next time. I have sent flowers at Christmas just to be told “I don’t like flowers;” she loves my husbands flowers.
    I have now cut her off. My sister-in-law will only see our daughter if my mother-in-law is there, and my husband doesn’t speak up.

  7. My problem is that my in-laws are overbearing. They are both pastors, but the actions they show are far from Christ-like. They condemn everyone as sinners (which we all are and will always be) and act above everyone else. A prime example: My wife just had a baby 3 weeks ago; mother-in-law took baby out of my hands (father) and held him for 6 hours. Pushed me out of the way changing his diaper. Told wife, I did not want them at hospital again and my time to bond with my son. So of course they show up on the 2nd day.

    This time my family was up there (total of 45 min because they have respect) and in laws didn’t say a word to them – or me because they were taking time to hold my son and time the in laws couldn’t. Anyways, they glared at me and walked out without ever saying a single word ( really Christlike). I’ve told my wife that she needs to choose us as a family and not her parents. Her parents are over 3-4 times a week behind my back because I despise seeing them because they act like they are my sons parents.

    My wife doesn’t respect the way I feel. They are separating our marriage and I’m thinking divorce- the other reasons to sum up is because she now thinks like her parents that everyone is evil and you can’t be around anyone who drinks or is a sinner essentially. Also she refuses to get a job and go back to work, so essentially I have a lot of stress paying all the bills and she dictates what I can do in life – like I can never drink another beer again in life. I believe in Jesus’s law of loving God and neighbor vs mosaic law. I get upset because actions speak louder than words and I think her parents are terrible people with no love and no resemblance of Jesus – and they think I’m evil because I want to drink a beer or two (literally not excess) and socialize. I also feel that my wife’s response of not working – which is God will provide is a cop out to be lazy. Yes, I believe God provides everything – he provides us with opportunity to work and not a basket of money at the door.

    And this viewpoint all started 2 months after getting married when her parents moved from out of state to 45 min away – I could go on but is there even anything to do? My wife used to be complete opposite and drink and not like her parents attitude until they moved closer. I pray about this all the time and I just feel lost, and feel that I’m running out of time for her to change financially speaking to protect what I’ve built on my hard work and not watch it go bye bye. Please advise

  8. My husband and parents haven’t gotten along for a few years now. Came to a head last year, when a number of hurtful things were said and done. I have tried unsuccessfully to get both parties to maintain the peace. Even to the point that my husband felt I was not on his side. He moved out and wanted a divorce. After long sessions of prayers and by God’s grace we were reconciled after about 3 months. It’s still not easy, but the tension with my family is still there. Both parties are still bitter. How do I broker the peace when both parties still dwell on the past hurt and neither one seems ready to forgive. I don’t want to drive my husband to the point he feels I’m not defending him, but I do want peace on both sides and would like our children to have a relationship with their grandparents.

  9. I have been married to my wife for 25 years and have seen her family as my own. Have always been there in good times and bad times. Recently my sister in law got married. We had a blast at the wedding. They took formal pictures of my wife and myself, my wife, the bride and the groom, me shaking hands with the groom and a photo of my whole family, which I clearly remember being in it. When I saw the album there was not a single picture with me in it. Even my family picture looks like I was airbrushed out. I was very down and depressed. I asked why and they said they didn’t know what happened. What should I do? How should I view this? Do they hate me? Should I break all ties?

  10. Please help! My husband and I are married going to be 6 years now. We’ve been together for 10 years and we have three small children. We live with my in-laws because my husband and I were having financial trouble. My in-laws are not Christian but my husband and I and our three children are Christians. I’ve always felt despised for my beliefs and like my father-in-law thinks I took his only son away from him. My father-in-law never had a good relationship with my husband when he was a child and he makes it really difficult now. I let him know when we first moved in with them that I respect his and my husband’s relationship and I wouldn’t want to interfere with a father and son bond but want them to reconcile.

    Months have passed and it seems more issues have arisen. Like he still hated me depite what I told him. I’ve always tried to be part of the family. I would be loving and kind and helped them out with whatever they need; even would go the extra mile. They distort my kindness and try to say I had a evil motives behind it. They would make comments and remarks to me accusing me of things I never did and misjudging everything I do. They’ve spread rumors about me that aren’t true to hurt me so much so they get rid of me. I feel I have to walk on egg shells every day to avoid offense. I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. They’ve threatened to break up my marriage. I’ve tried to tell my husband but he’s afraid of his dad because he manipulates and denies what he does. He’s a very cynical individual. I love him but it’s a very difficult situation.

    I’ve prayed for God to show me what to do. This has been going on throughout my whole marriage. I love my husband and my in-laws dearly, I just don’t know what to do. I’ve heard conversations my in-laws would say to each other that they didn’t want me or my children there, just my husband. But we love each other very much and would never want to leave each other. I endure because I love him and my children and never want our family to be apart. I promised to be with him through the good and bad.

  11. I had to skip my sons wedding and am now paying for it. His mom and I were divorced, and this is also his second marriage. I did not want him to make the same mistakes over again. Although the “extended family” claims to be “Christian” they are prideful, arrogant, and legalistic in every sense. I studied my “daughter-in-law’s Face Book profile. Not one time going back three years did she ever post anything spiritual pertaining to God. But since she started dating my son, it’s possible he may have had a good influence in spiritual matters. However, she would post selfie after selfie after selfie bragging about her looks, talking about exercising to look good for the wedding and making life style changes. She even claimed that “fat people were lazy.” I called her out on it in her posting.

    The two years she dated my son-not one time did she and my son come over to get to know me and her potential step-mother-in-law. I have had a close relationship with my son up until now. But my other children are distant because the divorce with their mom. His new wife begrudgingly sent us an invitation at the last minute. But I found out that we as intermediate parents were not invited to the rehearsal dinner that night nor the brunch the morning before. It would have been nice to have been reacquainted with folks I haven’t seen in a while, plus meeting the other set of parents. This was quite a slap in the face. Because of her ” higher-than-thou” prideful, no humility attitude, I soon realized that she would fit in quite well with her new family.

    I drew her in a text conversation admitting that she snuck away with my son on an overnite trip, but his mom (my ex) didn’t know about it. She has everyone else fooled but me. I showed my son the warning signs. They were going to have an extravagant wedding outside with catering, and he was complaining to me about the cost . This was his second wedding and her first. Both her and his mom were pushing him to have this type of wedding. After being hurt, and seeing this drama play out, I just couldn’t go. I realize he is married to her, even though I can’t stand her,and this situation has hurt our relationship. But I do worry about him.

  12. Hi, well to make this short as possible My daughter moved to France about 3+ yrs ago. She got a place and to pursue a relationship with a young man she met while he visited here, he was still in med schooling she had graduated college. Fast forward to now 3 1/2 yrs later. Our very close family has sacrificed birthdays – holidays, being able to have family times with her and that’s the way it is. They recently got engaged & told us they are getting married in France. My husband and I were pretty hurt that there was no sensitivity or discussion about it. She has two sisters who were all close and love Jesus. I tried to explain as the 2 here are pregnant and will have infants – their response “people with babies fly.” My husband is not well alot and I also explained how we all who have loved & supported her all our lives are unable to do this travel and we sought the Lord and feel our daughter especially is disrespecting her dad as is her fiancé. He has not given them his blessing as this is selfish and inconsiderate to all who long to see her and understands their lives thereafter will be in that country.

    This is the only request we have made in the whole time of sacrificing life in general with her. Grandma is 86, unable to fly and wants to see her along with other family that prior to her move were so, so close. Let me add he has family ten min from us in the USA. His mom’s brother. His family is very small and could come here. Then they can go back have a ceremony in France & a reception but at least her dad would have the honor of walking her to her groom in the presence of very loved ones and God. Then they will be off to continue life away. They are completely disrespecting us and my pain that my own child who was raised with such love, care, liberty, sensitivity can be like a stranger. Its like she is blind to any of the hurt and disappointment for all here. Her response is you can come.

    They live a secluded lifestyle where its very far from the trials and everyday life her sisters and we have as well. Theirs is a very different way of life. No financial difficulties etc. So, biblically speaking I know they are not being led by God as the fruit speaks volumes. We are not choking, overbearing people. But we understand he was not walking with God when they met. He has come back to Christ and attends a church. But, we are to let Christ live through us and have understanding etc. I Just wanted a persons take on this that had no emotional attachment. Our and our families perspective have been confirmed by grounded Brothers and sisters in The Lord. I saw this site and just wrote. Thank you kindly.

  13. I feel I have been ostracized by my soon to be ex husband’s mother, as well as his brothers and sisters. I understand from what my children tell me after one of their visits to see their grandma, that I am being bad mouthed. They have only heard their son’s side of the story, and I will never hurt his family by telling them what he has been doing for the last 25 years. Anyway, his mother thinks she is a good Christian. Is this the kind of behavior of what a good Christian does?

  14. Every article I’ve ever read points to the mother and/or father in law as being the problem. That’s not always the case. My issue is a son in law. His relationship with my daughter started out with lying and manipulation. His main concern is control. He literally can’t be with my 2 year old granddaughter for 10 minutes without making her cry. He’s continually degrading my daughter, and making snide comments to my wife. He’s applied for the worship leader position at our church. Oh, and they live with us because he won’t work. He only has a part time job that’s 29 hours a week, but regularly misses 2 days a week. What does the Bible say about this? He knows he has a trump card in my granddaughter. What am I supposed to do to handle this biblically?

    1. Les, sadly your options are limited – as the father-in-law. But because they are living under your roof you have the right to set boundaries and expectations for them living with you – sort of a set of “house rules.” For example, in our house we do not allow yelling or name calling (even now when our kids and grandkids are here). We treat each other with respect. We sit together and pray together at meals. Everyone contributes to the house chores (even our 7 year old grandson has his jobs). Personally, I would not tolerate ANYONE making snide comments to my wife. I wouldn’t allow my own son to get away with that let alone my son-in-law. You need to have a “Come to Jesus” talk with him privately and tell him he IS NOT in control in your house. If he wants control he needs to move out. AND he will treat your daughter and your wife with respect while he is living under your roof. You can tell him that a true man of God would never treat his wife and daughter the way you see him treating your daughter/granddaughter. If he tries to defend his position ask him to show you in the Bible where he sees he is “right.”

      Les, it would be good for you to get some counsel from your pastor. But under no circumstance should you allow his bullying to continue in your household. He should also know that if you ever hear of him physically hurting either your daughter or granddaughter (whether they’re under your roof or not) you will turn him into the authorities.

      There’s no doubt you are in a very tough situation and it’s not likely you are going to be popular with your daughter or your son-in-law. But you have to do something or things will get worse. He has only been doing what he’s been doing because he knows he can get away with it.

      Pray yourself up, seek some guidance from your pastor – but act sooner, not later.