Blog Post by Rodney A. Wilson
Rodney Wilson is a regular guest post writer on Selma on Leadership. Rodney has been a marriage and family pastor/counselor for almost 20 years. Rodney and Selma have been married for 40 years and they have spoken and written on marriage and family issues for most of their married life.
We have all heard the horror stories about trying to exist in the same world with in-laws. You can probably think of a half-dozen jokes related to the same. Personally, I rate these jokes right up there with people who disparage marriage, trying to create the image that it is a ball and chain.
I have counseled many newlyweds who were struggling with the challenges of “in-law adjustments”. Life with in-laws is a different animal and different can be threatening and intimidating – to them as well as you. It can also be exasperating because they think, believe and act differently than your family. Sometimes the differences are slight while sometimes they are on the other side of the universe. And just like your family, your spouse’s parents are not perfect and they can do things to hurt you.
With all that said, let’s take the higher ground. Let’s look at what you can do for the good of this situation. You have another set of parents now, so how can you honor your “additional” mother and father?Your in-laws are another set of parents now, so how can you honor your “additional” mother and father? Click To Tweet
Newlywed or not, here are five things you can do to keep your in-laws from wrecking your marriage.
- Thank God for them. Yes, you read that right. I Thessalonians 5:18 encourages us to
Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Thanksgiving is powerful in that it helps us see people, situations, even the hardships we are going through differently.
When our girls were young and they would argue, Selma would always make them go to their separate rooms to cool off. Then they could not come out until they came up with ten (TEN!) things they were thankful about for their sister. Afterwards, they always came out with a different attitude toward their sibling.
Be thankful – even for the sometimes challenging times with in-laws.
- Ask God to open your eyes to see the good in your in-laws. Caution: when you sincerely ask that, have pen and paper in hand, because He is likely to give you a lot that you haven’t seen before!
Then, affirm them. Do not underestimate the power of this gesture. When you blatantly affirm your mother-in-law for example, she will know that you are looking for the good in her and not otherwise. We all like to receive a good word here and there. How helpful would that word be to her coming from you?
- Pray for the wisdom of discernment.
Teach me good judgment and discernment, for I rely on Your commands. Psalm 119:66
Some issues really are a big deal but some are not worth the fight. Don’t die on every hill. Seeking God’s wisdom can tell you which ones are worth standing up for and which ones you need to let slide.
My wife once had a boss who, when she brought an issue to him, he would often say, “Selma, this issue is about a 2”. His meaning: on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most urgent, the issue wasn’t as important as she had thought and for her not to spend as much energy on it. Granted there were times when the issue was higher and they would deal with it accordingly. It helped her to have her boss to keep things in perspective.
Pray for the wisdom of discernment to know when to hold them and when to fold them with your in-laws.
- Make sure your spouse is aware of your concerns. Do not expect him to fix his parents or resolve the situation all by himself. However, you two are a team, a new team and that needs to be clear to everyone. (Can you say leaving and cleaving from Genesis 2:24?) You need his support as you adjust to his parents, so ask for that help.
Also, if you are the one whose spouse expressed concern about your parents, play the role of the listener. (Selma and I each had to play that role early in our marriage as most couples do.) Probably the best thing that helped us in this area of our young marriage was that neither of us got defensive. We mainly let each other express concerns without getting defensive. That mere gesture itself was an incredible support. And if an issue was an “8” rather than a “2”, then we addressed the issue with our parents. Spousal support is critical in this area.
5.Find a peacemaker if needed. Sometimes in-law issues are a 10 and help is needed. While peacemaker might be a strong wording, there are times when an outside person can be useful in helping spouses – and moms and dads – in clarifying everyone’s new roles. Keep the “peacemaker” in mind throughout your in-law experience.
CONCLUSION: Remember, these are people who will be part of your life very likely for a long time. Plus, they are your spouse’s family so yes, they are now part of your new family, too.
So pray for them, love them, look to affirm the good in them, keep your honey in the loop, and seek the Lord. Be encouraged! Selma and I are prime examples that adjusting and loving and living in the in-law world is quite doable. I lost a second mom when Selma’s mother passed and she has since lost a second dad and mom. Wish we had them back to continue the adjusting.