In the last post, we talked about the tug-of-war that comes with learning to live with your in-laws. In this post, we’ll look at 5 steps to improve your relationship with your in-laws. You may be thinking, “It can’t be that easy!” Well, notice that I said 5 steps to improve the relationship, not 5 steps to make the relationship the way you want it to be. So, let’s look at the 5 steps.
1. Grace – Give them the same grace you desire from them. This will be easier to do this if you keep the following things in mind.
- Your in-laws are not weird. Their backgrounds and customs are just different than yours. And different is not necessarily wrong.
- Your in-laws must continue to adjust to losses and changes in loyalties…some of which are brought on by your marriage. Some parents do this better than others, and some parents continue for years trying to adjust to this.
- Your in-laws make positive contributions to your marriage. It’s easier to focus on the negative, but remembering their positive contributions will help your attitude towards them.
- Don’t forget, your time is coming! One day you will be the in-law. Think about how you will want to be treated when you’re the in-law.
2. Expectations – Keep your expectations realistic. So often, the thing that gets us in trouble with our in-laws is not what they do, but our expectation about what they should do.
- Don’t expect your in-laws to be like your parents. They are not supposed to be like your parents, nor can they be. have different histories, different view points, different experiences, etc.
- Don’t expect them to be different from your parents. This may sound confusing after the previous point, but here’s what I mean. Sometimes people have really difficult parents, so their expectation is that their in-laws will be different…sort of the parents they never had. This is great if it happens, but setting your expectations on this could leave you disappointed.
3. Communication – Communicate with the right person, at the right time, in the right way.
- Who’s the right person? If there’s a problem with parents, each spouse should communicate with their own parents. And if it’s a problem with a spouse, talk to the spouse…NOT your parents. Your parents will have trouble being objective and it taints their view of your spouse. If you need outside help, seek out a pastor or a counselor.
- What’s the right time? The right time is not in the moment of frustration. Cool down and get some distance from the situation. Think through the real problem and how you would want to be addressed. Then pick a time and place when heads and hearts are cooler.
- What’s the right way? Always seek to speak the truth in love. (Eph. 4:15) If you can’t speak to them from a heart of love, then you need to work on your own heart before you speak to them.
4. Contact – Determine and maintain the “right” amount and type of contact. This is about setting good boundaries. Often, when there’s a problem, our first tendency is to stop contacting them. But this is not helpful for you, or them, or the marriage. Instead, continue your contact with them, but take some control over the when, where, and how of that contact. Here are just a few examples…
- Call them on your way home from work. Your call shows you care, but the amount of time you can be on the phone is naturally limited.
- Text them more frequently.
- If you don’t have time or energy to clean the house and cook a meal for them, invite them out to eat occasionally.
- Send them a card at unexpected times.
- Stop for a milk shake on your way home, but get extras and drop them off with your in-laws.
5. Acceptance – Accept them for who they are. Allow your in-laws to be themselves…whatever that means. Here are some things to think about…
- It’s not your job to change them. This is both disrespectful and arrogant.
- You may need to forgive them and let go of any resentment you may be harboring. (Note…this is something you can do on your own, without talking to them about it.)
- They have been this way a long time. If their own children couldn’t change them, you’re probably not going to change them either.
- You can accept who they are, even if you have trouble accepting what they do. You already do this with your spouse. You can do it for them.
- Be respectful and accept their input, ideas, and suggestions. You don’t have to follow all their advice, but neither do you need to be so prideful that you fail to take their advice when it’s good. Remember, they are older and have more experience in some things.
I wish I could tell you I’ve always done a great job with these 5 steps, but that would be a lie. What I can tell you is that working on these 5 steps has made things better, and it will make things better for you also.
In the next post, we’ll wrap up this series on in-laws. Be sure to watch for it.
Examine your life against these 5 steps. How are you doing? Which step is easier? Which step most trips you up? Leave a comment and weigh in on the 5 steps of how to better live with your in-laws.
Copyright © 2014 Bret Legg