How do you engage your difficult in-laws? When you get married you don’t just marry your spouse, you marry their whole family. Some are good, some are great, and still others are worse than your nightmares. I have seen first hand how family can kill a marriage before it even really gets going. Here are 3 rules for engaging difficult in-Laws.
Fortunately I have been blessed with hands down the best in-laws, and I tell people this all the time. They are the greatest, and they are our best friends. Not only have they blessed my wife and I tremendously throughout our marriage, but they have also accepted me as their own son since day one. Actually, my father-in-law picked me out, but that is another story for another day.
Sadly many people are not this fortunate. If you are in the situation of dealing with difficult in-laws, here is some helpful rules that can help foster healthier relationships.
3 Rules For Engaging Difficult In-Laws
1. Don’t address the problem with the opposite family member. Allow your spouse to handle their family.
Even though my wife and I got married quite quickly, we still had a premarital counseling session with our pastor. But one of the things that has always stuck with us since that session that we always try and abide by, is that if we have a problem with one of our in laws, that person does not address the in-law concerning it.
While I have great connection with my wife’s family, there is the occasional “rub” that needs to be dealt with. There is something about the spouse interacting with a troubling family member that raises the tension even higher. It is better to let your spouse handle his or her own family.
If you have a problem with a member of your spouse’s family address that concern during your daily intimate conversation. If you allow it to fester without ever coming to the surface, trouble will ensue when the lump under the rug creates a stumbling hazard for your marriage.
2. Seek to see the situation from the in-laws’ perspective.
Your spouse grew up in a different home, with a different lifestyle, and a different worldview. Even though your in-laws may be annoying to you, they care about their family. Whether it is the nosey mother in law, the gossiping sister in law, or the overbearing father in law, they may just be thinking about their son, daughter, or sibling.
Is this the case every time? Of course not. Seek to see the situation from their perspective. If you and your spouse both see the situation differently than the in laws, you have the right and freedom as a married couple to do things your way. If you want to be successful when engaging difficult family memebers, you have to be on the same page when it comes to what you want and how you will address the issue with them.
When you become married you are no longer under the tutelage of your parents.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. – Gen. 2:24
This is that whole “leave and cleave” thing. Your relationship with your spouse has now become the most important relationship to you, outside of Christ. Becoming one flesh is more than just sex, it is a coming together as a whole within your marriage.
When you see the matter from the family member’s perspective you put yourself in a place to create a win/win situation for your family as a whole. Once you have garnered their viewpoint, have the spouse of who’s family it is address the issue with their family.
3. Seek to live at peace with everyone.
Paul instructs us in his letter to the Romans,
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. – Romans 12:18
It is your job to be an instigator of love. If Christ is living through you, your relationship will strive for peace, love, and harmony between yourself and your in-laws. Trust me, you cannot do it on your own. Christ must do it.
Do you have to listen to everything your they tell you? No, but you can be respectful, you can be polite, and you can instigate peace.
As I said earlier, my in-laws are our best friends. We have garnered a great deal of wisdom from their knowledge. Have there been times we made our own judgment call? Yes, but along the way they have taught us immeasurable amounts of wisdom.
Is everyone going to be as blessed as I am when it comes to in-laws? Most likely not. As I said, I have seen marriages end because of in-laws that are worse than nightmares. However, I believe if you will take these 3 steps to foster those relationships you can change the climate of your family interactions. You can make your nightmare relationships into a pleasant reality by being mature and an incarnator of Christ’s life.