When you and your spouse get married, you’re taking two families and merging them together, along with some of your own personality, to make a whole new one. This means that while it’s a great opportunity to forge out on your own, it can also lead to tension when the new couple doesn’t do things how their in-laws may expect them to. This kind of in-law tussle can have all kinds of causes, and all kinds of outcomes, but luckily our resident marriage expert Pastor Phil Ayres is on hand to help.
In his role at Kingdomcity Church, Ps Phil has developed a passion for growing strong marriages. This week, in a continuing series on in-laws, we discussed fair trade offs in your relationship with your in-laws.
First of all, if you’re reading this and thinking to yourself “oh no, I don’t get along with my in-laws, that’s not good”, don’t worry! Ps Phil estimates that 60% of couples have issues with in-law relations, so you’re not alone, and it’s not the end of the story.
What are the common issues people have with their in-laws?
Unsurprisingly, the most common hot topics are things like how the new the new couple spends their money, their political views, and how they’re raising their children. For the most part, these issues are based on personal opinions, which don’t necessarily need outside input.
So what are the golden rules for parents in-law?
Put simply, parents in-law need to understand the priority and sovereignty of the marriage, and as such need to give up control. While raising your child, you do have a level of control over them (in a good way, of course). But now that they’re not only grown, but also married and most likely living out of home, it’s time you stepped back and let them live their life, and live their NEW life with their spouse.
It’s also important to not compare your own marriage to your child’s marriage. Not only that, you shouldn’t compare how you raised your child growing up with how their spouse is caring for them now. They’re not a child, and their relationship with their spouse is different to the one you have with them.
Next up, stop giving advice, and only support in response. If the couple isn’t asking you for advice, stay quiet, and support their direction. Now, obviously there’s a safe limit here. Sometimes it may be best to add your thoughts, but if in doubt, keep out.
This isn’t a one way street! What about the other side of the coin?
First of all, the younger in-laws need to overcome their fears and insecurities. You’re entering a new family situation. What may have been seen as a cutting insult in your family, may be a playful jab in the new one. That doesn’t mean you need to put up with being a punching bag, but try not to jump to insecure conclusions.
Additionally, allow for change. This is a new situation for everyone. Even if your parents in-law have other sons or daughters in-law, they’re not YOU. There are boundaries the need to be set and preconceptions to be shattered. Move with grace and be flexible whenever you can.
Above all, show your new in-laws respect and communicate with kindness. Not only did they bring your spouse into the world, they’re now your family. For the most part, there’s little reason why everyone can’t just get along!
For all of Ps. Phil’s great advice for in-laws, check out the podcast below: