We want everyone with in-laws to have the healthiest relationship possible with them. Last week we began by listing the first four of nine axioms, or truths, for in-law relationships. We are blessed to still have all four parents and have a strong and vibrant relationship with them. This may be more due to their spiritual and emotional maturity than ours, at times!
However, these nine truths can take even the best of in-law relationships and increase the grace and depth of your connection with them. The Apostle Paul wrote simple command saying, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)
In other words, it isn’t always possible because the other person(s) may not cooperate. But their response is their responsibility. Our response is our responsibility. Here are the final five axioms to follow to infuse your in-law relationship with God’s peace:
5. Don’t rule them out
Sometimes the sinful behaviors or dysfunction you married into can be painful. It may be that your family never would have treated each other the way you are being treated. Therefore, your initial desire is to write your in-laws off and have nothing to do with them.
We want to encourage you to think twice about pulling way. Remember, they ARE your spouse’s parents and have been key influencers in the life of the one you love. Instead of pulling away, you may find the greatest value by leaning in with Christ’s love. Perhaps a regular prayer like, “God, through your Spirit give me strength, peace and grace to love like you love” will be all you need to stay engaged.
6. Choose Your Battles
There are some issues that have to be addressed and others which call for grace. As a couple ask yourselves: “Is this issue one where we simply give grace, show love and let it go? Or is this a place where we have to speak the truth in love?” Asking these two questions can protect you and your spouse from unnecessary conflict with your in-laws.
7. Set Loving Boundaries
Setting boundaries takes courage and sometimes tenacity. But in the long-run, it will provide all of you with healthy parameters for your relationship.
As you set boundaries, be reassuring to your in-laws that you are simply choosing to focus on your marriage. You love and respect them. You want a healthy relationship with them.
Be reasonable in your boundaries. Perhaps you need to run your boundaries past some trusted friends or mentors to be sure you aren’t being too restrictive or too lenient. This will give you greater peace and confidence as you communicate the “new normal” in your relationship.
If they show manipulative or controlling tendencies, you can be sure those behaviors will come out in full force when you establish boundaries. Threats, crying, stonewalling, name-calling may all be part of their modus operandi to achieve your compliance. Be loving, united, and consistent.
8. Communicate clearly
Whether it is your marriage, your children, your work or your in-laws, lack of clarity eventually creates greater conflict. First, communicate clearly with each other about what you expect as an outcome with either set of parents if you are facing a conflicting situation.
Agree together about what should and should not be said. The goal is to “live at peace” with your in-laws.
If an in-law tends to isolate one of you to achieve their desired outcome, be ready to say, “Let me get back to you after we’ve talked.” Or, “No, I’m afraid that won’t work if you need an answer right this moment, but thank you for thinking of us!”
When communicating boundaries or outcomes or your plans, be as specific as possible without being rude or disrespectful. You are representatives of Jesus to them and your attitude, words, and even tone should exude love—or you need to wait to have the conversation until that can be the case.
9. Be patient
You may be dealing with family dynamics that are deeply set and even generational. Change, understanding, and adjustments can take time. Patience includes having a forgiving spirit—with all the forgiveness you yourself have been extended by Christ.
As you apply these nine axioms to your in-law relationships, you will find greater peace and unity between you as a couple as you build your marriage!