10 Ways to Avoid Crazy In-Law Interactions by Dawn Wilson

In-law “horror” stories abound. I’ll be honest; I used to laugh at in-law jokes. But not anymore. I believe God can use in-law relationships to bless and encourage us, and also to rub off rough edges in our personalities. Looking at in-laws through Jesus’ eyes, I now hope for “honor” stories.

Sometimes, in spite of doing all the right things, in-law relationships can fall apart. We cannot “fix” other people, but the Lord can change us and fix relationship messes in His own time and way. In the meantime, we can choose to love others—even the unlovable—as Jesus would.

Given that disclaimer, there are powerful steps we can take to create healthy in-law interactions.

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1. Approach with humility.

1. Approach with humility.

A huge mistake with in-laws a prideful attitude. A “holier-than-thou”, judgmental attitude poisons any interaction, and it’s especially toxic in this sensitive relationship. Pride waits for others to make a mistake and then says, “I told you so.” Humility says, “We all make mistakes. I know you’ll do better next time.”

A Facebook friend reminded me of the importance of humility for older in-laws when she referred to Luke 14:10. The point of that verse, she said, is it’s better to take a lower place—to “sit at the foot of the table”—and be asked to move up, rather than to push for position. That’s an excellent concept for a mother-in-law. Humility says, “I’m here for you if you need me, but I’m going to back off until you do.” That doesn’t mean we aren’t involved in our family members’ lives. We simply practice godly humility.

A young military wife told me her mother-in-law taught her to love her husband the way he needs love, not the way she might think he needs love. Moms tend to know their sons’ love language and how best to approach them, and this young wife was wise to humble herself and learn from her caring “mom-in-love” in a Titus 2 relationship.

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2. Always show respect.

2. Always show respect.

Respect manifests in many ways. Respect listens with the desire to understand. It’s careful not to share sensitive information or gossip about family relationship issues, but rather goes directly to those involved for clarification or to express concern. It’s never wise to talk negatively about in-laws behind their back. In the words of a younger-than-me friend, “It will make it back to them, and the damage will be hard to reverse.”

Younger in-laws should always show due respect for their elders. Respect might include compassion, grace, and a desire to forgive—be a quick forgiver! No one enters marriage without personal flaws and some scars from parental mistakes.

Older in-laws should respect the new family their children are creating. This means cutting the apron strings (Genesis 2:24), allowing younger in-laws to grow in independence, and not competing for our married child’s love. It means accepting them as a couple and extending invitations to your child and their spouse.

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3. Aim for acceptance.

3. Aim for acceptance.

It’s easy to accept those who are like us, those who have a similar background or interests. But just as we often marry a spouse who is different than us—and that’s a good thing—we’re likely to marry into families that don’t do things the way we do. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn to love and accept them. Some people accept total strangers, but struggle to accept those the Lord has allowed to become part of their family. This should not be. Note: Acceptance is not the same as condoning poor or ungodly behavior.

You may be a saintly, welcoming person, and still be completely ostracized by your family. In some cases, it’s best to simply say, “I’m sorry you feel that way” and allow them to own or take responsibility for their responses. Aim for acceptance and peace, but recognize there may always be deep differences. Even within the body of Christ, we hear Paul say, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Accept things you cannot change. Accept your in-law’s different perspective and goals. Allow them to have the same freedom you desire for yourself. Pray they will know and live for Christ; but if they don’t, understand you are not the one to change them. God is.

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4. Avoid hurtful responses.

4. Avoid hurtful responses.

Nasty, passive aggressive words and responses are hurtful and have no place in in-law relations. What does passive aggressive look like? It’s the “I’m not angry” while you’re seething inside, or the sarcastic remark—“whatever” or “fine”—or the snarky comment with a smile. It’s verbally complying, but procrastinating or failing to act in order to express displeasure or anger.

If I want to create healthy interactions, I will choose to be considerate and kind. I will let my words be “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6) and life-building. I’ll avoid casting blame or humiliating my in-laws. I’ll avoid favoritism and genuinely seek to include everyone.

One of the best ways I know to avoid hurtful responses and embrace healthy ones is to practice all the “one anothers” of Scripture, like: love one another, serve one another, encourage one another, forgive one another, comfort one another and pray for one another. Imagine how sweet in-law interactions could be if these were always practiced.

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5. Advise with caution, if at all.

5. Advise with caution, if at all.

A common piece of advice given to in-law moms is: “Don’t give advice unless asked!” Young couples need to make their own decisions. We need to allow them to succeed or fail on their own. The truth is, the Lord wants to teach and mature them, and in-laws shouldn’t get in the way. I try to remember: their need isn’t always an invitation for my solution!

We all mess us, but we appreciate freedom to make our own choices, even if it means learning the hard way. Think how you’d feel in the same situation. A young wife says this about advice from elders: “We don’t always ask for advice, because the danger in asking and doing something different is sometimes seen as advice not valued or taken.” Similarly, if you are a young in-law, don’t assume your elder relative wants your advice. Always ask!

When an in-law feels comfortable with you and does ask for advice, counselshould be shared cautiously and with great care and wisdom. Pray first! No critical, nit-picking, or controlling behavior allowed!

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Source: Crosswalk