As we all know In-laws are commonly the focus of blame in many marital disputes, but this can be put to a minimum when taking into consideration and implementing the following tips for the sake of God’s love and to maintain a healthy, pleasurable relationship with them.
This past month, a loyal Eaglesforesight subscriber emailed me to asked, Prince Lahbash, would you address the topic of in-law etiquette. Admittedly, my first reaction was to laugh. Then I realized this is something we all joke about, yet is a real issue many people face.
In-laws include mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, from both sides of a married couple. So here’s my best shot at this topic, from my own experience:
While in-laws often mean well when offering their opinions and advice, where they go wrong is when the advice becomes an intrusion. There’s interference, meddling, invasion of privacy, domineering, bullying, and whatever else you want to call it.
As much as in-laws may think they know better and only want to be helpful in making a couple’s life better and easier, couples must live their own lives as they choose. I believe my life with my husband belongs to only us. No one else—including in-laws—has a right to make decisions for us on how to manage our life and home.
In-laws may share comments because they want to be heard, helpful, and—sometimes—run your life. Regardless, your response should be the same, shared with respect, consideration, and honesty:
“Dearest in-law, thank you for offering comments and advice. I promise I will respectfully listen and hear you out with whatever you want to share with me. However, please be equally respectful of the fact that the final decision is mine. If I make the wrong choice, I hope you won’t say, “See, I told you so,” or use this outcome as the justification for future decisions I make. I love you and want to honor what you have to say. Yet please understand that ultimately, I will make my own decisions.”
Couples must “be together as one” with this approach. It won’t work if either of you buckle. The two of you must understand that you are no longer a part of the in-law’s household, where they have rights to tell you what to do, nor obligated to do as they say. You are building your own path in life together, no matter what.
Beyond this, here are a few tips everyone should follow, regardless of being in the company of in-laws.
1. Know that when you marry a person you marry such person with their background, family situation, financial situation, health situation and all.
2. Your in-law is closely related to your spouse. They are his/her parents or guardians.
3. The Bible admonishes your spouse to honour his/her parents or parent figures and you must do the same. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth- Ephesians 6:2-3
4. Your in-laws are like adopted parents to you.
5. You must believe God to love them unconditionally as in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 even when you think they don’t like you. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things, charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away-1 Corinthians 13:4-8
6. No spouse should make the home of their parents his/her real home. The Bible admonishes the couple to leave and cleave to each other.
7. Try not to discriminate between parents as to care, upkeep, finances, etc.
8. Recognize the reality that not all sets of parents have the same needs, so do not try to make their needs identical. For example, one parent may need remittances but the other may need to be remembered only on birthdays.
9. Do not complain about your spouse to your parents. They are likely to be biased against him/her. Let love cover the multitude of your partner’s faults and seek pastoral counsel when you need help. Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covers all sins-Proverbs 10:12.
10. Usually, the woman may prompt the husband on care for the home. He should provide these needs with love.
11. Remember that your newly created family comes first: He who does not care for his own household is worse than an infidel. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel-1 Timothy 5:8.
12. Know that your in-laws can do unacceptable things just like your parents. The difference is that you may not be able to tell your in-law your real sentiments without stirring up trouble; so learn to overlook certain things.
13. Be yourself with your in-laws so far as you are not offensive.
14. Do not allow your parents to develop a habit of saying bad things about your spouse to you directly or indirectly. You are one.
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15. Your in-laws can pronounce a blessing on you depending on how you treat them. Naomi blessed her daughters-in-law when she had to return to her own people. And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me-Ruth 1:8.
16. Give grandparents easy and reasonable access to their grandchildren, remember that all our time here in this world is limited.
17. Be forgiving, patient and keep your sense of humor. The Holy Books says, “those who control their rage and pardon other people. God loves the do good-doers,” The Almighty says, “But if someone is steadfast and forgives, that is the most resolute course to follow.”
18. Remember that nobody can interfere or influence your marriage unless you allow them to.
19. Keep regular contact, invite the in-laws at least once a month for a meal,visiting and checking on them when you can personally and by phone and encouraging your spouse to visit his/her parents also. This shows genuine concern and care and is always much appreciated by them and your spouse even if it is not always said out aloud.
20. When parents become aged, sick or dependent on their children, a serious discussion with all parties present or involved should take place. Expectations and requirements for care, duties and living arrangement must be worked out and put on an agreed and approved timetable. This prevents feuds between siblings, arguments and misconduct in marriages and distress and hurtful feelings to the parent when seeing, feeling and hearing such things.
21. Let respective parties settle their own disputes. For example, if your mother-in-law has a problem with her husband, let them deal with it between each other, don’t interfere or allow your spouse to complain to you about them, this may cause your heart to harden against them without even realizing it.
22. Don’t tell your spouse how to improve their relationship with their parents, just remember to give them the option in joining you in a thoughtful act when you are doing it for your own parents.
23. Expect and give some adjustment time for parents after marriage to adjust to this new relationship too, they have always had their child with them until now and not used to them having other priorities and commitments.
24. Remember that mothers are naturally skeptical about daughter-in-laws and fathers about son-in-laws, kind gestures or gifts towards them from your behalf will soften the hearts.
25. Always treat your in-laws with compassion, respect and mercy, if you pick up something like a scarf for your own mother for example, why not pick the same up for your mother in law also.
26. Maintain a balance between your needs and that of your in-laws.
27. Never compare your wife to your mother or your husband to your dad, this can feel degrading in some ways as we are all different, we are all brought up different and think differently, it doesn’t mean that just because they don’t show their love in the same way that they don’t love or care for you as much.
28. Do not go to your parents with your quarrels. This really is a no no, your parents are not with you when you are being spoilt and shown affection by your spouse because this is done in private, so they will only see and hear what you show and tell them, if this is all negative it will give them a bad impression on your partner and give you a headache when you go back to them. Not to mention remind you of it long after you have forgotten.
29. If you are supporting your parents financially inform your spouse as a matter of courtesy and clarity. This is very important especially if you are the only child.
30. Do not forbid your spouse from seeing family unless you fear for their religion and safety.
31. Do not divulge family secrets of any sort that you have been trusted with or have found out unintentionally or unknowingly.
32. Make time to get to know your in-laws but stay out of their disputes.
33. Maintain the etiquettes of decencies with your sister- and brother-in-laws (i.e.no hugging or kissing, using foul or disrespectful language).
34. You are not obliged to spend every weekend with your in-laws but if for some reason you have been spending more time than usual with them find a sweet and caring way to express wanting more time with your spouse or to do other things, rather than making a very clear impression of your entrapment while in your in laws presence.
35. In all, love your in-laws
So there you have it, it’s very difficult to conclude everything into one blog post so we appreciate any additional points that we may have missed and any feed back and comments that will assist. This is just a quick over view of some things we can bear in mind at the moment. It’s always important for one to realise and be well informed of such things even before being married to a future spouse in order to gain the required good antiquate that would be expected of them. And God knows best!
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