August 04, 2009

The In's and Out's of Life With the In-Laws

Jesus repeated what was said at the beginning of our existence when He said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5).

This passage is used very often and because of that, it’s crucial we don’t become numb to its basic points.

A New Loyalty
First, marrying our spouse means we turn our loyalties to him. That doesn’t mean we are not loyal to our parents, but that we place priority on our husband. One obvious step to leaving our parents that shows we place priority on our husband is changing homes. Our attention and effort turn toward our family’s well being and happiness and a central home together. Second, becoming one flesh, in addition to referring to a husband and wife joining sexually, suggests we should stand united with our spouse regardless of outside opinions. We are so united with our spouse it’s as if the two of us are one person. Even if other people, such as in-laws, disapprove or offer their opinions, we make our own decisions and stand by them, together.

The Middle-Man Rule
One primary difficulty married couples face is in managing conflict with the parents of their spouse. It’s a very good idea to make your spouse the “middle man” for conflicts you have with his or her parents. Relationships are stronger when they have time behind them and, as they say, blood is thicker than water. Therefore, in-laws will probably react better to a request from their son. If his parents need to back off, it’s better that it comes from him.
It’s important to be sensitive to your spouse’s feelings concerning your parents. If he feels crowded or disrespected, it’s important you take these feelings seriously and act to improve the situation. These principles should also be taken into consideration by parents and should influence the way they treat their child’s spouse.

Independent Identity
You’ll know you’re in a situation where change should occur when you and your spouse don’t feel you have your own identity. One of the purposes of marriage is for a couple to establish an identity that is independent of their parents. If this doesn’t happen, a healthy marriage becomes much more of a challenge. Some marriage experts say couples should not live in the same town as either of their parents. The reasoning is that with constant availability of their parents, the couple doesn’t learn to rely on each other. It’s difficult to form an identity together unless each of you learns to rely on the other instead of parents. It is not my opinion that every couple should live in a separate town from their in-laws, but for some, that situation might be best. It might be best for you if your in-laws are too involved in certain aspects of your relationship — especially if they are too involved in conflicts between you and your spouse. Part of what it means to have your own identity as a couple is that conflicts are resolved without the involvement of in-laws. If you and your spouse are arguing about any subject, neither has the right to involve a parent in the disagreement. If your spouse brings a parent in on an argument, you’re probably going to feel it’s “them against you.” This violates the oneness attitude that should exist in your marriage relationship.

Mutual Respect
In all things, respect your mother and father-in-law. Remember, they are the parents of someone very special — your spouse. If you are a parent of a married child, your son-in-law or daughter-in-law is very special because he or she is your child’s life partner. It is best for each family to realize the independence of the other. Your spouse must know your parents will not interfere with the family you are building. Your parents must realize you and your spouse need to build a life and relationship separate from them. This requires patience and, at times, may be painful. It’s important to honor and respect your in-laws, but above that, protect your marriage. This principle will pay great dividends in the future.---author unknown