In-laws can be a gift or a blessing. Many people find that the first law of dealing with in-laws comes with is understanding what the boundaries are in your relationship early. Ask yourself the following questions.
Are you struggling right now with one of your in-laws who has been intruding into your marriage? Or, have you allowed your own parent to interfere in your relationship with your spouse? If you are unsure about what I mean by these terms intruding and interfering, let me explain. Has one or both of your in-laws been meddling in your decision-making by exerting undo influence upon you or your spouse? Have they been interfering in the way you discipline your children by overruling your decisions when you are absent? Have they sought to control your mate’s thinking by constantly badgering him or her when it comes to the way you run your household or spend your money? Do your in-laws mock or belittle your spouse in your presence? Is one of your in-laws dominating your time by constantly calling or coming by your house? Do your in-laws force their opinions on your spouse so that the decisions you have made privately with your mate are undermined? These are just a few of the ways an in-law can be intrusive and bring harm to your marriage.
How do in-laws become such a contentious issue in your marriage?
Are you the spouse that doesn’t understand why your mate has such an angry and resentful attitude when it comes to your parent’s influence in your marriage? If I’m speaking to you right now, please understand why your mate is so upset.
First, intrusive, pushy, interfering, and opinionated in-laws are upsetting to your spouse because he or she believes that your parents are invading private issues that should only be talked about or decided by you and your spouse alone. Let me give you a parallel example to illustrate what I mean by a private issue. Would you consider it unacceptable if someone came into your home and picked up your check book and began questioning you about your purchases? Wouldn’t you take immediate offense to this behavior because it would really be none of their business how you spend your money? Your mate views your parents’ intrusion into personal matters the same way.
Second, your mate views your unwillingness to stop these intrusions into your family as a betrayal. Your mate believes that every time you take your parents’ side or do nothing to stop your parents’ intrusion, you are betraying your vows to honor your mate above all others. Betrayal is one of the deepest offenses that can ever be inflicted upon the heart of your spouse. This betrayal will create tremendous anger and will drive you and your spouse further apart with each infraction.
What should you do with an intrusive in-law problem?
1. Is there really a problem? First, every husband and wife must come to an agreement that there is a problem. This sometimes is difficult to agree upon because perhaps your spouse doesn’t see the intrusive behavior of their parent as a problem. Other times your definition of intrusive and your mate’s definition may differ. Remember Solomon’s wisdom to help in your definition: The frequency of anyone coming into your house is an important indicator of intrusion. He taught us, “Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house, lest he become weary of you and hate you” (Prov. 25:17). To fully sort out your different views will first require the two of you communicating specifically about what bothers you about one another’s in-laws. If you cannot come to an agreement concerning what to do, consider getting input from your pastor to determine what a normal in-law relationship should be.