Last week our pastor wrote an article on the challenges of being a parent-in-law. He and I are obviously in different places in life as I have an 18-month-old and he has three grand children. I can’t speak to the challenges of being a parent-in-law, but I have been a child-in-law for the past eight years and I have made my fair share of mistakes. The in-law relationship is one that should rank with importance and value within your marriage.
Let me start by saying that I am one of the lucky ones. My in-laws are great people. They are loving and supportive of what my wife and I decide to do with our lives and our family. Are they perfect? No; just like I am not perfect. From time to time we disagree about decisions being made or have differing opinions on how things should be handled, but nonetheless my wife and I feel their support and love.
I am learning and hopefully becoming a better son-in-law every day. What has helped is acknowledging and reminding myself of these three things.
Remembering the Common Goal
There is no doubt much angst between in-laws is based on a difference of opinion about how a situation or decision should be or has been handled. As the son-in-law or daughter-in-law, you frequently have to remind yourself (especially in conflict or disagreement) that more than likely you and your in-laws have the same goal. You both want the best for your spouse. How you arrive at the desired result, may differ, but you want the best for your spouse and your family and your in-laws want the best for your spouse and their family as well.
Establishing Your Family within Their Family
Once married, your new desire is to establish a life and family with your spouse. While that includes your in-laws, it also doesn’t. You and your spouse begin to become your own family and there is nothing wrong with that. However, you can’t ignore the wisdom and love that existed in the previous stage of your life or theirs. There will certainly be differences in the way you and your spouse were raised and in marriage you are merging those differences to into a new independent family. It’s no longer my way and your way, it’s our way. Add to this the fact that you are also being added into an already existing family that has operated a certain way for years. It becomes obvious why things have the potential to explode! Yes, you must establish your own way of doing things between you and your spouse, but it is also important for you to do your best to become a part of your spouse’s family. For many, family is the most important part of their lives. Getting married shouldn’t change that, it should help it grow.
Realizing Change Is Not Easy No Matter Which Side You Find Yourself On
This one pretty much speaks for itself. As difficult as marriage can be between you and your spouse, imagine watching someone you have known since they were born change and no longer depend on you or need you as much. The very nature of marriage brings a lot of change for everyone involved. Change is not a bad thing, it’s necessary, but it is often painful. Don’t add to the pain by isolating yourself or your spouse simply because you think you need to establish your family. In the excitement of marriage, don’t rush change or even force change. Allow time to be on your side and learn to be empathetic with your in-laws. Chances are one day you will be in their shoes.
In all of this, it’s important to try and understand and put yourself in your in-law’s shoes. They may not be right, but they are going to be facing challenges too and you can help them navigate. If your in-laws are good, let them know and show your appreciation. If they aren’t the best, pray for them, learn to take the high road and show appreciation for them anyway. As the saying goes, “You’re not just marrying the person, you’re marrying the family.”