Day 20: In-Laws or Outlaws?
Missed some posts in this series? You can read them here.
I felt I would never get along with my in-laws.
We had different backgrounds, different values, different ways of expressing ourselves, and entirely different perspectives on life.
After years of nursing this typical daughter-in-law opinion, I was convicted by one of God’s principles. You know the one. It’s found in the Fifth Commandment and repeated in Ephesians 6:2-3: “Honor your father and mother.”
Obeying this command is not contingent on the character of our parents but on our character and trust in God’s principles. And as much as we’d like to ignore it, once we’re married our in-laws are part of our Fifth Commandment responsibility.
Honoring parents has grown more difficult, I believe, because it contradicts the prevalent attitudes of our culture and sometimes defies our human logic. But it’s accompanied by an incredible promise for our well-being. If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth” (Eph. 6:2-3 NLT).
As Christians, we have some significant Biblical role models for honoring those in God-given positions:
- King David had a father-in-law from the dark side but he refused to take advantage of King Saul or show him disrespect even when those around him encouraged him to do so (1 Samuel 24; 1 Samuel 26).
- Ruth had an insensitive, self-focused mother-in-law, but Ruth focused on God and was greatly blessed for it. These examples show us how completely we can trust God’s principles and promises.
So let’s look at eight ways we consciously or unconsciously undermine our relationship with our in-laws:
- Judging them hypocritically–not judging our own actions and attitudes in the same way we judge our in-laws’ (Mat.7:1-5). Christians are often more self-righteous about their in-laws than unbelievers.
- Favoring our parents and treating our in-laws like “second-hand” parents and grandparents (Mat.7:12).
- Not encouraging our spouses to resolve conflicts and improve their relationship with their parents (Eph. 6:2-3).
- Being petty and sensitive (1 Peter 4:8).
- Treating in-laws poorly when they treat us poorly (Rom. 12:17,21).
- Thinking we are responding to our in-law’s disinterest or disrespect, when they are actually responding to ours (Phil. 2:3-4).
- Becoming bitter (Heb. 12:15).
- Talking and thinking about in-laws in negative terms (Eph. 4:29; Phil. 4:8).
It’s always good to ask if we would like our married children to treat us in the same way we are treating our in-laws. It very likely will happen.
We must guard against selfish advice from our peers and realize our obedience to the Fifth command reflects our respect for God.
I believe most in-law problems would dissolve if couples showed their in-laws as much respect and interest as they show their friends. Yet God commands us to honor parents more highly than friends.
When I started applying the principles of Ephesians 6:2-3 to my in-law relationship, it was incredibly hard. I was skeptical, and so were my mother and father-in-law. Gradually, however, God showed me how much my judgmental, self-righteous attitudes had damaged the relationship.
Now I not only love and respect my in-laws, I enjoy them. They still have their quirks, but now I realize I also have mine.
I challenge you to test God’s “command with a promise.” I know God will bless you.
For more encouragement to honor your inlaws: Bless Your Marrige, Love Your Mother-in-law and Underestimated Command.
Thank you so much for this timely post! My husband needs to read this, as he and my parents are a bit at odds right now. It saddens me to think that he does not like my parents as I like his.
I pray that your husband and your parents will work through their differences, and I pray your husband will discover the wonderful benefits of honoring them. It sounds crazy from our human understanding, but honoring our parents really does have an important impact on our marriages and our individual walk with the Lord.
This is all well and good. But should I still OBEY my mother in law when she tells me, in her drug induced stopper that I am a chicken sh*t person and that my parents should be ashamed of me? I am sorry, but I will not obey someone to degrades my wife, her daughter, in front of me and any others she sees fit. One size does not fit all in any situation.
Actually, an adult no longer needs to obey their parents or in-laws.
If you’ll notice, my article speaks of honoring parents, not obeying them.
I’m sorry that your mother-in-law uses abusive language with you. I’m sure that is difficult for you.
Honor is something we can do whether a person deserves it or not because we can do it out of love for God and obedience to His commands. And, even if honoring a parent or in-law doesn’t change their heart, it will definitely change ours. I know this because obeying God’s command always blesses us, and this command specifically contains that promise. And I also know this because I have personally seen it happen in a number of situations when in-laws were not deserving of the honor.
I pray that God will give you wisdom in dealing with your situation.
I greatly appreciate you taking the time to respond to my comments.
This is a great article especially in our culture where mother in laws especially are given a bad rap (although there are some who have not helped that viewpoint). However, I would have loved to see included ways to use this information practically in my life with my in-laws. How do we put this information into practical use? Overall, I have a good relationship with my inlaws, but there are definitely those times where something is said that is really quite frustrating.
I think you make a great point. We need practical ways to apply Scripture.
Last year I wrote a 7 part series on this subject. If you click the link at the bottom of the article above (“Bless You Marriage, Love Your Mother-in-law”) you’ll find the first of that series with the other 6 linked at the bottom. Some of the information is similar to what I’ve written here, but there is also practical advice about handling specific situations in the mil/dil relationship. For example, when a mil mocks your values or interferes or when in-laws seem disinterested in your family. These and other problems are addressed. I hope this series might help you.
And I also want to commend you for your desire to improve your relationship with your in-laws.
I LIVE with my MIL and have since I married her son over 14 yrs ago. Now, she has Alzheimers Dementia and living with her is quite challenging. Her sons want to avoid placing her in a nursing home but frankly, it’s probably gonna have to happen real soon. I work full-time as does DH. There is NO ONE to give us a respite in caring for her. She’s 90. It’s been hard especially now that her Short-term memory is gone. She has said some pretty nasty things to me in the past. It’s hard to let that go…they’ve gotten nastier with her Alzheimers so it’s not as simple as chalking the nastiness up to just that.
First, let me commend you for caring for your mil, especially since she has not always been kind. I do believe God is pleased with your kindness toward her even if she isn’t.
In addition, starting a marriage with a dual living situation is always a challenge, no matter who you are sharing your home with. So I’m sure you have mastered problems that most of us never do.
I pray that you and your husband will have a peace about whatever decisions you need to make in regard to your mil’s Alzheimers and her care. I believe nursing home care is sometimes necessary, and it is not wrong to put a parent in a home when it is.
My greatest prayer for you is that you are able to forgive the unkind things your mil has said to you, knowing that she will probably never apologize or appreciate that things you’ve done for her. I think this is incredibly hard to do … actually, I think it is impossible apart from Christ in us doing it supernaturally. But I’ve experienced that kind of forgiveness and it has really set me free from the pain of unjust/unkind actions and words in my life.
I know you probably know what I’m saying, but I think we all need reminding at times (I know I do) that holding on to those things hurts us and our relationships, not the person who has offended us.
I pray God will give you grace/peace whenever your mil says something unkind. It’s all the harder when it continues day to day. But I know Jesus can do it in you!
God bless you,
This post hit me hard! My boyfriend & I have not spoke to his parents in almost 1 year because of a petty disagreement. I forwarded this article to him & he actually set down and wrote his father a letter. Hopefully the 2 of them can get together and start mending things. It’s time for our children to be back into their grandparents life. We don’t have much time left with them so we need to grab all the memories we can.
Thank you for writing this. It is what we needed to hear.
What a blessing to hear your story. I pray that your boyfriend’s letter will be the beginning of a new stage in your relationship with your children’s grandparents. I know you will be blessed for this step. And I pray God continues to reveal His wonderful truths to you.
thanks for taking the time to comment.
Thank you so much for this incredible post! I went & read all of your 1 min suggestions, too. I have a husband who is VERY close to his mother. That has caused some tension in our relationship as I’ve tended to feel like I come 2nd. One of the best things you said, for me, was that I can “set the tone” for how our relationship is. Also, remembering that I’ll one day have two dils myself has helped to put it all in perspective. Praying that I’ll be able to put this all into practice when I’m “tested” this weekend with a mil visit! Thanks for your encouragement 🙂
I’m so blessed that this and my other posts were helpful. I pray that God will continue to give you the wisdom to apply His principles to your relationship. It may not be easy, but I think He has some incredible blessings in store for you.
Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment.
I love your post – – this, something I really need. I tried so hard to get along with my in-laws but there are really times I don’t feel comfortable with them. I don’t understand. I guess there is just something not right.
I pray that your situation will improve, and I know that the Lord wants to help you deal with it.
I hope something in my post will give you encouragement or an idea.
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