In-laws and Outlaws: 5 Fundamental Rules of the Road in Living with In-Laws

Since every marriage is unique, it should be almost a ‘no-brainer’ that one’s in-laws would be quite different from you and your family of origin. However, we (collectively as human beings) at times have such difficulty with dealing with them. An alien species? Not quite… but foreign to us – yes.

Every married couple has them. They can be both blessings and curses at times. The following are some tips I have found in smoothing the rough road that can be encountered when dealing with in-laws.

  1. Marriage is the priority – If there is ever a conflict of priorities between your marriage and what any particular in-law wants, your marriage is the priority. Scripture tells us to leave our parents and cleave to our wife. Any decision you make relative to in-laws must first take serving God within the context of your marriage as the highest priority. Likewise, reflexively, as an in-law, you should make decisions based on your understanding of the best for the marriages of others. If it means that you are less involved in their lives, you should remove yourself from being around them for a time, or forever – whichever would be best for the marriage in question.

    There will be signs that go along with and are consistent with the direction that you should take… halo data. Pay attention to the context of the marriages in question so that you can make an appropriate decision.

  2. What type is the in-law? There are very few good illustrations of what it means to live with in-laws in a helpful and mutually beneficial way. Take your cue from the type of ‘in-law’ the person is, and order your life and expectations accordingly. As an example, a ‘mother-in-law’ should be honored as a mother, which means you give a proper and appropriate deference that a parent should receive, while at the same time maintaining a healthy distinction between your marriage and the in-law’s marriage. Try to seek common ground, but realize that at times it will be tough to make some decisions.
  3. What are your Family Values? Traditions? Mission? If you are personally clear on what you, your wife and your family is all about, it will help you to make decisions as to what you will do and be involved with… as a matter of course. You know the old saying, “the best defense is a good offense” – well, what is your offense? If you plan and set your calendar in advance with the familial ‘non-negotiable’ events, you will insure that the important things are completed. You should make these plans in advance of any plans made with an in-law, and then stick to it. Unless there is some type of medical necessity that requires that you tell your in-laws any specific information, then info given to them is optional.
  4. Seek areas of common ground – with some family members, it may be extremely difficult to find any common ground at all. Regardless, the more things you have in common with the person, theoretically the easier it may be to get along with the person. Having a common faith is one important key to having understanding. But even then, there are such strange aberrations at times between a person’s stated theology and his practical theology that it can be at times difficult. In some situations, it may be easier for separation to occur in order to maintain peace. Paul and Barnabas exemplified this priority of peace when they separated company for a time in order for them to individually do the things that they were both called by God to do.
  5.  What to do when conflicts arise? – Loyalty to your or her family of origin is the test that at times must be failed. For the sake of your marriage, you at times will need to make decisions that go against both your wife’s and your own family of origin loyalties, priorities, philosophies and other family of origin values. This place is where the rubber meets the road – are the things that you value consistent with the things that your or her family of origin values? keep in mind, we are talking about values as not those things that are publicly stated, as much as the behaviors that are obviously practiced. It is easy to call Jesus, ‘Lord’ but not do what He says to do. According to Jesus, He didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword. That sword at times divides, especially in the presence of sin.

Well, I have listed 5 thing above that I have found important to keep in mind when dealing with in-laws. What are some of the things you have personally encountered in trying to live with in-laws?

Leave a Reply