Q: I don’t get along with my spouse’s parents/family. Is there anything I can do to make the holidays and other times together more bearable?
A: In-law problems are not unusual. We have heard from many couples about this very issue. Listen to Kate:
“I made a decision about four months ago to no longer speak with my mother-in-law. We’ve never gotten along and there’s been a lot of hypocrisy there. I finally decided that I didn’t want to deal with it anymore. So we’re in a situation that, when we go home to visit (which is about two hundred miles away), I don’t go see her. Just the rest of the family goes. I just really feel convicted that the Lord is trying to tell me this isn’t a long-term solution, but I don’t know where to go from here. I know my pride gets in the way because I’m hurt. I’d like to restore my relationship with my mother-in-law enough so that at least we can be civil. I’d like to be able to visit and stay the night there.”
In-law problems are insidious because, even though it seems like they’re outside the marriage, your attitude toward your in-laws can undermine your relationship with your spouse. Your spouse feels pulled to protect and love you, and yet at the same time probably feels pulled because he or she wants you to love his or her parents. You both want to be able to have a nice time with the grandparents and the grandkids. Everyone wants to have peace and harmony in the family.
Sometimes, however, a situation is so difficult, personalities clash so strongly, or other reasons cause such friction between you and your in-laws that being together is nigh unto impossible. So what can you do if you’re facing that kind of problem?
First of all, you might first go to the in-law one on one—after you’ve done a lot of praying, of course! (In fact, ask your friends to pray about this.) Your mother- or father-in-law needs to look into your eyes, hear the tone of your voice, and see your humility. Explain why you feel hurt. Reach out. Explain that you want to make it right for the sake of your spouse and your kids. Let the focus be on you. Take responsibility.
Realize that you won’t be able to change your in-law, no matter how much you may want to or how much he or she needs it. Romans 12:18 says, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Of course, as you do all of this, ask God for wisdom. You need boundaries so you don’t allow yourself to be walked all over or torn apart in front of your kids, or whatever. You need to be clear, concise, and honest. You may not be able to solve the situation, but you might at least be able to come to a truce that will allow your spouse and kids to be able to visit the grandparents.