Monday, July 11, 2011

Let's Talk About the In-Laws

The relationship between you and your in-laws will be one of the trickiest relationships of your life...until you become the in-law. My in-laws and I have had a very difficult relationship, a lot of hurt on both sides and a lot of things to work through. I've learned a lot from our relationship and I hope to carry what i've learned into my relationships with my sons and daughter-in-law. So because there are two sides to this relationship i'm going come at this from both of those sides. Let's start by talking to the sons and daughters-in-law...

To begin, lets look at the very first thing said about this relationship found in Genesis 2:24 "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." I've always thought it interesting that Adam even said this, after all, they are the only people to have never had to deal with in-laws of any kind. So the fact that it is said at the very creation of marriage must make it pretty important. But did you know that is not the only time it is mentioned in the bible? It's also found in Ephesians 5:31-32, Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7-9. I think the fact that it's mentioned so many times tells us that it's something to take very seriously. The fact is, when you get married the two of you start a new family. It can be very difficult for a time but it is absolutely what needs to happen.

Guys, as hard as it may seem, you have to do exactly what those verses say and leave your parents and cleave to your wife. The Hebrew definition for leave is "to depart from, let go, forsake, to let loose and to leave behind." That's a pretty challenging definition isn't it? The Hebrew definition for cleave is "to cling, stay close, to be joined together, to pursue closely and to stay with". That puts a lot of work on you men! I know that the relationship between your wife and your mother can put a lot of strain on you guys but take a step back and look at your relationship with these two ladies. Are you doing what the bible tells you to do? Have you left your parents and do you now cleave to your wife? This is not something that happens automatically, it can be a long and difficult process but it has to happen for the health of your marriage.

My husband had quite a challenge when it came to dealing with his mother and I, as I said, we have not had the best relationship so he had his work cut out for him! With the complications that come with the relationship between you and your in-laws you have to figure out how to handle things before they happen. Colby and I spent a lot of time talking about this situation when we were dating because I had watched my mom and grandmother have a very difficult and controlling relationship for most of my life up to that point. I had seen how hard things can be when the son is easily controlled by his mother and therefore the daughter-in-law is controlled as well. I knew that was not something I wanted to live out, and thankfully, I married a man who fully understood Genesis 2:24. But we still had a difficult time and all had to learn exactly where our places were in this new relationship.

Guys you have to face the fact that at some point in your marriage you will have to deal with a conflict between your mother and your wife. You are a very important person to both of them and at times, you are the rope in their tug of war. It's not fun and i'm sure it doesn't feel fair but it is something you will most likely have to deal with. So before you get in that position, figure out where you stand! Colby and I both know that regardless of the situation, we will always present a united front. I can completely trust that he will never talk me down or make fun of my opinions with anyone in his family wither i'm there or not and that is a huge comfort for me!! If there is a conflict between his family and I, we remain united at all times. Now, when it is just the two of us he is free to (and has done so plenty of times before) tell me where I am in the wrong and how I could have handled it better, but he has always been very good to never side against me in a disagreement. And again, this was decided before his family and I ever had our first disagreement. That is probably the best thing you can do for this whole relationship, take the time to figure out exactly where you stand before you have to make that stand!

Now girls, here's where your part comes in. I firmly believe that you come first and I support that position. But, and this is a really big but here, never belittle the importance his mother has as well! Your role and importance in your husbands life does not in any way negate the importance of his mom. Has her role changed? Absolutely. But she is still, and always will be, a very important person in your lives and your family. I did not understand this when we first married and I did a lot of damage fighting battles that should have been left alone, it is damage that we are still working on repairing years latter. I had this idea that any time we disagreed on something I had to come out on top to prove that I came first. And let me tell you, it's not worth it! Since then I have had to learn when exactly to just let things go. There have been, and i'm sure will still be, plenty of things we will disagree about that I do have to take a stand on. That stand would have been so much more effective and well received if I hadn't chosen to fight about the many other little things. Instead of looking for opportunities to prove you do come first, look for opportunities to stay quiet. You'll find a lot more of those and your whole relationship will be better off for it!

Also girls, everything I said to the guys about them leaving their families and cleaving to you applies to you as well. You can not expect your husband to respect you as the leading lady in his life if your dad is the leading man in your life. If you want your husband to side with you in a disagreement between you and his mom, you have to side with him in a disagreement between him and your mom. It goes both ways! Most of the time there is more conflict between the daughter-in-law and his parents but I do not want anyone to think that the man is the only one that has to leave and cleave. It does go both ways. If you can all get this relationship figured out early on you will save yourself from causing a lot of hurt and doing a lot of damage!

This post is linked up to Time Warp Wife and Women Living Well.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! It seems like most articles I've read about this issue talk about how in-laws always try to butt in, but forget to mention that sometimes it's the husband or wife that isn't fully "leaving and cleaving" that's causing the issue. You mentioned that wives have to make sure they aren't treating their father like the main man in their lives instead of their husbands. But I think it's also worth mentioning that many wives are far too influenced by their mothers. They're often afraid to do anything their mother wouldn't approve of, go to Mom for encouragement and advice more than Hubby, or sometimes complain about their husband to their moms because they know their mom will take their side. One thing I have had to learn since getting married was to never listen to my mother criticize my husband and never criticize him to her.

Jamie said...

That is an excellent point! I personally have struggled with this issue as well, it's very hard going against the opinion of your mother wither you're male or female I think. And like you said, never let your parent criticize your spouse, and never criticize your spouse to your parent. If you do it then of course they are going to think they can!

I do think there are things that the parents-in-law need to do in this relationship (and will address that in my next post) but it is absolutely a two way street. If you and your spouse start out your marriage by allowing and nurturing a dysfunctional relationship by not leaving and cleaving, you can not get angry when you have problems. I think so many problems would be resolved much quicker if everyone involved would start off saying "What do I need to fix here?". As I said, this is such a tricky relationship! :o)

Whitney said...

Thanks for posting on this infamous situation! I have a bit of a variation on the in-law issue. I'd love some input on how to manage in a biblical manner. That is, if you don't mind. You seem to have gleemed some wisdom from your experience that may be valuable to my case as well. Thank you!
-Whitney (

Jamie said...

Whitney- I wouldn't mind at all! Feel free to email me at joinmeforcoffeeblog(at)gmail(dot)com anytime and I will do my best to give you any advice or information I can. :o)

Also, I don't know if you saw this or not but I wrote another post on things you wish you could tell your mother-in-law that you might find useful. You can find that here...

I look forward to hearing from you!