Q: My in-laws are not believers. They don’t like the fact that Christ is so important in our marriage. What can we do to make visiting bearable?
A: It’s difficult enough to try to build a Christian marriage. It’s very hard when you have to add in-laws who are not supportive or are even attempting to undermine your faith. Listen to Adam:
“My wife and I are Christians, married a little over a year. My in-laws are not Christians. It’s very hard for me to speak the truth in love. That’s the struggle I’m having. I’ve just pretty much avoided them since we got married. I keep conversations short. When they come over, I usually go into another part of the house after saying hello. I’m avoiding them because I’m afraid we’re going to end up in a conflict. I’ve seen the way they react before. Once a debate about faith comes up, they start getting loud and angry. I’m a pretty easygoing person, but if they start getting loud and calling me names in my own house, I’m liable to say something that I’ll regret.”
You may not like it, but you should probably realize that you and your spouse may be the very people that God is positioning in your in-laws’ lives in order to love them in spite of themselves.
We would encourage you to get one-on-one time with each of the in-laws (father, mother, sister, brother, etc.). In other words, divide. Not divide and conquer, but divide and serve. And as you divide, love on them. Accentuate the positive things. Let them see the characteristics of Jesus Christ in your life. We’ve discovered that when people have these difficult kinds of family relationships, they can really make some headway if they can get one-on-one with the most difficult people. Before long, you may find your in-laws sneaking some compliments about you to your spouse! Imagine that! And then, when they are back together in a group, you might be stunned how they will align with you and some of those other contentious issues will begin to simmer down.
It won’t be easy, but it will be well worth it in the long run. Your in-laws are going to be around for a long, long time!
*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!