Ask Dr. Ron: So, What about the In-laws?


IMG_7570_1024Over many years of marriage counseling I have had a plethora of questions like the following:

  • My mother-n-law gives us NO privacy, what am I supposed to do?
  • My father-n-law tries to make financial decisions for us, how should we respond?
  • Our parents like to tell us how to discipline our children, what’s up with that?

Whether it’s your nosy mother-n-law, or a father-n-law who thinks he can help you with your finances, relationships with in-laws can trigger some serious tension in your relationship.

First, remember that you are not alone in this situation. Most marriage relationships suffer from time-to-time with stress brought on by in-law relationships. You are not the first nor the only couple this has happened to.

Second, recognize that it’s very easy for you to be critical of her parents, but not as easy to see the stress your family causes her. The point is this; we often have “blind-spots” in certain areas of our lives.

Third, apply the marriage principle God unveils in Genesis 2:24 where He gives this critical instruction to ALL married couples,

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” NASU

The first step in applying this principle is the “leaving” part. The closer your partner’s family is the harder this is sometimes. Unfortunately this is not a step that you can just decide to “skip.” It’s impossible to “join” something new when you have not “left” something else. The word picture portrayed in this first step of “leaving” is that of loosening the grip on something, or in this case . . . someone. So, God isn’t telling newlyweds here to sever their relationship with their parents. He isn’t suggesting they never see nor talk to them again. That is not the “leaving” He is talking about here. He is, however saying, you need to loosen your grip on dad and mom, stand on your own two feet, allow you and your partner to make decisions that before may have been made by your parents. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask parents for advice after to say your “I Dos.”

The second part or step in this principle is the “joining” step. God says after one has left the parents, he/she is to “be joined” to his wife or her husband. The word used here has the idea of catching someone by pursuit and then clinging to them. Certainly the physical consummation of the marriage is involved here, but it goes beyond just physical union. The new husband and wife must also get on and be on the “same page.” Just to mention a few, here are several areas couples need to get on and stay on the same page about:

  • Finances
  • Raising the children
  • Marriage roles
  • Communication / Conflict Resolution
  • Relationships (personal & family)

Although these two steps (leaving & cleaving) are both sometimes more of a process than a push-button act, when the leaving & cleaving are pursued God promises, “they shall become one flesh.”

So, when any married couple is determined to obey Genesis 2:24 and become one flesh, that is their greatest defense and antidote for the many “in-law issues” they may face throughout their marriage.