Season: 2 Episode: 023
Summary: Do you have trouble getting along with your in-laws? Have you gone into marriage with preconceived ideas that your in-law relationship will be strained? Today, Shanda talks about how to make the in-law relationship work and she introduces her audience to her MIL, Debi.
“When we stand before our spouses and make a commitment to them in holy matrimony … we commit to all that he brings with him.”
“When we’re committed to our extended family, our in-laws, we ensure we don’t have double standards.”
“When we’re committed to our extended family, our in-laws, we ensure we don’t have double standards. “
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Welcome back, my friend. You are listening to episode 23, How to keep your in-laws from becoming out-laws. I’m not sure if you caught the introduction today, but I have several free resources available for all my listeners on my website. Like I said, they’re completely free and you can find all of the devotionals I write at shandafulbright.com/links. So, check that out.
Today, we are talking about a sticky subject … in-laws. These are those complicated relationships that you marry into. It’s kind of like you indirectly choose them when you purposely choose your spouse.
I think it’s important to talk about in-law relationships because let’s face it … I rarely hear anyone speak highly of their in-laws. And today, I specifically touch on the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship.
I can’t speak from a mother in law’s perspective, because I don’t have any. But I can offer some advice from a daughter in laws perspective and, of course, take examples from the Bible and apply that to our lives and our relationships.
And … I thought it would be fun to introduce you to my own MIL, so she’s going to be on with us today to give some advice and add a few things to the show.
Also, this is the first time I’m recording the podcast and it will go up on YouTube, so this is all new. And you can actually see me and my MIL.
So, before we get started, I want my MIL to introduce herself.
We are going to talk about:
1) Why you must choose your in-laws as your family.
2) How does culture set the tone for unhealthy in-law relationships?
3) Tips from both mother in laws, and daughter in laws to the listener.
I’m also going to share some of my own experiences with you about my relationship with my mother-in-law of almost 19 years.
So, let’s get to the first point: Why do we have to make our in-laws our family?
The word in-law has taken on such a negative connotation in our culture. I recently watched the movie Monster in Law with Jennifer Lopez where she was about to get married but the mother in law couldn’t stop sabotaging their relationship because she couldn’t let her son go.
There’s also the syndicated TV Show, Everybody Loves Raymond, where his parents live across the street and his mom is constantly sticking her nose in their business and barging through the back door.
Shows like these literally give me anxiety. The mother-in-law is always portrayed in the same light … condescending, over bearing, a meddler. And the daughter-in-law usually hates her and tries to stay away. In turn, she keeps her husband from his family too.
In real life, I’ve heard lots of my girlfriends complain about their mother-in-law. The relationship is usually very strained and they don’t have a great relationship. At some point, it seems difficult for them to rebuild and restore what they could have had if they would have started off on the right foot.
The best example we have in God’s word is the story of Ruth and Naomi. Naomi was a woman who had a husband and two sons but all of them died in the land of Moab. Before they died, the two sons married Moabite women. Naomi and her husband came from the land of Judah and once Naomi lost her family, she decided to go back.
Naomi’s two daughters in law, Ruth and Orpah, were attached to her. They loved her. Naomi knew God and she established a good relationship with her daughters in law, but she urged them to go back to their own families now. Naomi couldn’t provide sons for them. There was no reason for them to stay.
The girls didn’t want to leave her. They cried and told her they would stay, but eventually Orpah was convinced to go back to her family. But Ruth refused. And in the book of Ruth, ch 1:16-17, she says this:
“Do not urge me to turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17).
From Ruth’s declaration, we find several things and one of them is that she considered Naomi her family. She didn’t consider her just an in-law.
Again, not that the word “in-law” is bad, but that it comes with negativity attached to it in many ways. And when we say the words, in-law, it kind of excuses us from truly adopting our husbands family as our own.
What we learn from Ruth is that she considered Naomi her family. She couldn’t just walk away from Naomi. In many ways, I believe Naomi took it upon herself to make these women her daughters. She must have made quite the impression.
But again, I can only speak as a daughter in law, so as a daughter in law, I pull out several lessons from Ruth’s declaration to Naomi:
Ruth was committed to Naomi. When we commit to our spouse’s, we commit to his family. I always remember that Debi was Dean’s first love. She is his mother. He still loves her to this day. I must commit to making the relationship work.
When we stand before our spouses and make a commitment to them in holy matrimony … we commit to all that he brings with him. And that includes his family. If we expect he take on our family as his own, we must take on his family as our own.
Not only that, I have to commit to treating his family like I treat my own. Let’s be honest, we can be more patient with our family … our own mothers … than we are with our in-laws. We cannot have a double standard.
When we’re committed to our extended family, our in-laws, we ensure we don’t have double standards.
In Ruth’s declaration, she also shows determination.
Ruth is determined to make Naomi her family, because she says, “Your people will be my people.” Are you making your in-laws your people? Do you consider them your family? Do you treat them the same as your own flesh and blood?
When Dean comes to me and asks if we can do something for his family, I can get caught up in the “fairness” of what we do for his family compared to what we do for mine. But I ask myself this one question … “Would you do it for your parents?” And if the answer is yes, then I have to do it for his.
We must be determined to make his people our people, and love them and treat them like we do our family.
Ruth was determined to move forward and not dwell on the past when she said, “Do not urge me to go back. Where you go, I will go.”
We need to bury the past. If you have a hard relationship with your in-laws because of past hurt or past experiences, bury the hatchet and move on in forgiveness and restoration. That won’t be easy because relationships aren’t easy. But if you are committed and determined, continue to bathe this in prayer and ask God to make it happen.
2) How does culture set the tone for unhealthy in-law relationships
I touched on this briefly at the beginning but I want to dig deeper into how culture ingrains in us the difficulty in in-law relationships.
When it comes to in-laws, we can carry preconceived ideas into the relationship because of how the in-law relationship is portrayed in American culture.
We tend to separate our spouse from his family and look at him as coming into the relationship detached from his own family and in reality, he brings with him an entire family that loves him as deeply as your family loves you.
In relationships, we have to remember that the only person we can control is ourselves. We only have control over what we say, what we do and how we handle ourselves in response to others.
If you have preconceived ideas about your in-laws, I recommend taking those things to the Lord in prayer. It’s really the only way to get the ingrained ideas that culture bombards us with out and to allow God’s word to take over how we think about our relationships.
We also have to remember that every verse in the Bible .. love your neighbor as yourself, think of others more highly than yourself, and EVERY verse that talks about how to treat others also applies to our in-laws. Including the verse, “Honor your father and mother.”
That may surprise you because some don’t see their in-laws as their parents. I think of my in-laws as a set of parents that also watch over Dean and I. I have to treat his parents with respect because they are my parents too.
When we’re committed to our extended family, our in-laws, we ensure we don’t have double standards.
That also means you are their daughter. And they have to treat you as such.
This is so counter cultural. American culture does not teach this at all. The American culture is more driven and goal oriented and can tend to be less family oriented. Now, before anyone’s hair rises on their necks, I’m not at all saying that we don’t value family. But I am saying that we may not be as open to living with our extended family as other cultures may be.
Multi-Generational households are not as popular in America as they are in other cultures. I know the Indian culture has multi-gen households as well as the Asian culture, and Hispanic families.
So we have to be very careful about the message culture sends. And yes, culture speaks loud and clear these days .. including when it comes to the in-law relationship.
In my own experience, my MIL is a wonderful and godly woman. She is only one year younger than my own mom and they share the same birthday. How coincidental is that?
I give credit for the success of my relationship with my MIL to her. Because I am not that easy to deal with. When I’m tired, I’m grouchy and when I’m busy, I am short. My MIL goes with the flow. She makes it clear that she is there to serve her children. She has always been my babysitter and she has pulled me out of jams with bringing me items I left at home to work.
But more than that, I can confide in her. She is a friend to me. She cheers me on. I get text messages from her after podcast episodes and she calls me to talk about the messages I preach or devotionals I give.
She teaches me how to make jam, sew, and she sells my books and merchandise at speaking engagements. The lady is wonderful.
Do we have our ups and downs? I wouldn’t call it that because Debi is not confrontational or a fighter. On the contrary, she is very passive. So, I don’t actually know when she’s upset with me but I can guarantee you she has been before and I have been with her too. But we talk about it and resolve it.
She and my FIL live behind us and that means we are very close to one another in distance. She comes over often and I see her a lot because she comes by the house. Debi has inserted herself into our lives and that’s easier for me because my boys keep me busy. It’s easier for me that she comes over, calls me and texts me because she keeps the relationship strong because she tells me all the time she remembers what it’s like when she had kids.
But not everyone has easy relationship with their in-laws and I know I’m blessed.
With that being said, I want to bring you in here, Debi, to give advice to other MIL’s and DIL’s and how to make the relationship work.
- What is the number one thing to remember as a MIL when trying to get along with your DIL?
2) Who has the greater responsibility to make the relationship work or is it an even playing field?
3) What do you think a DIL should consider when she marries into her husband’s family?
So that brings me to our last point. Tips from both DIL’s and MIL’s to the listeners.
I want to thank my listeners for these tips and for sending me your thoughts and experiences. A lot of them were positive and it usually came from the ones who have been married for a while longer. So maybe experience also had something to do with their good advice.
Let’s start with the tips from DIL’s:
*Never complain about your marriage to her or complain about her son to her. Reach out for them to see the kids.
*Don’t think of her as an enemy but an ally. You’ve just added to your extended family and you should look at it that way.
*MIL that’s hard to talk to, doesn’t listen. Tells stuff about kids that you already know. Realize that she is who she is. This can be a pride issue. Don’t compete.
*Pray over the differences .. cultural, hurts, etc. Be patient and be honest. See things from her perspective. It’s easier to be gracious when you put yourself in their shoes.
*Don’t involve you in-laws in your relationship. You have to extend grace a lot.
*Pay her respect. Don’t create unrealistic expectations on what you think you should get out of a MIL.
*Create boundaries, communication and understanding.
*Look at her as a second mother.
*Understand that when your MIL is opinionated and controlling she just wants to help and if you think of it that way it makes it easier to take.
From the MIL’s:
*Remember Mark 10:8 … your son and DIL are now one flesh.
*Tell your son that his relationship comes first and then respect it. When a MIL respects their marriage, the relationship with the DIL can grow.
*Respect your children’s opinions on grandchildren. Peace in the relationship is most important. Also remember that you mate is still a beloved child to their mother.
*Step back and allow them to lean on each other. Don’t give advice unless asked.
*Learn the art of biting your tongue. Pray for your children’s future spouses now.
*We have to remember we raised our children to the best of our abilities. We’ve raised them to make choices for themselves, so when they choose their life mate we need to trust them.
*We need to get rid of any preconceived ideas about MIL’s.
*We didn’t lose a son or daughter. We gained a son or daughter.
*Do not voluntarily give advice, but wait to be asked.
*Pray for your DIL or SIL.
I hope that helped many of you out. Just remember, the in-law relationship is vital to a happy marriage. Make. It. Work. Pray a lot! Control yourself and make sure you won’t have any regrets.
I want to thank my MIL for facing her fears and coming on with me today. Debi, I appreciate you so much!
I’ll catch you on the next one, my friend!