Relationships between married couples and their parents can come with a unique set of challenges. There are many factors involving personalities and life experiences that shape how family interactions will transpire. These relationship intersections are something that most every family will deal with at some point and I believe it is beneficial to have a strategy in mind when maneuvering through these waters.
Identifying The Tension
One of the first steps in this strategy, and probably the easiest, is to identify the tension. When a man and women leave their father and mother and cleave (attach) together in marriage, they are becoming a new family unit. Their loyalty is to each other, and their parents take on a new role as more of advisors.
As some of you may have experienced, this is not always an easy transition. When my wife and I first got married, I realized my mom had some unhealthy ties to me because in her eyes, I was still her baby boy. Inadvertently, she would say protective comments about me to my wife regarding her asking me to do certain tasks.
One year, in our first house, my wife asked me to hang Christmas lights and I had to climb to the top of the ladder to reach the peak of the house. My mom said to my wife, “How could you let him do that?” At this stage in our marriage and where my wife and my mom were in their relationship, these comments were hurtful to my wife.
The tension was this: my mom had not quite let go of her former role in my life as protector and nurturer, and my wife was impacted by what felt like an attack on her character.
Have A Conversation
The next step in working through this was to have a conversation with my mom about how comments like these affect the heart of my wife. I approached my mom in this conversation with much grace and love, because at the core of her concern there was not a hatred for my wife but a love for me and for my safety.
Most people don’t like to have these types of conversations because they fear the interaction: they don’t like conflict or they think it will make things worse, but if you don’t ever talk about tensions or misunderstanding you never have the chance to find a place of resolution.
Be brave and take a step towards reconciliation. You might be surprised what comes from it.
Give Each Other Grace
Nobody comes into these types of scenarios with perfect understanding. Both parents/in-laws and married couples can be at fault or cause misunderstandings. We must show grace to each other just like Christ has shown grace to us. The Scripture says Jesus came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
I believe it is said in that order on purpose. Jesus begins relationships with grace and that softens their hearts to receive the truth. Remember the woman caught in adultery? Jesus challenged anyone without sin to cast the first stone. Everyone departed, then Jesus asked the woman, “Where are your accusers?” and she said, “I have none, Lord.” Jesus said, “Then neither do I accuse you.”
After that unbelievable showing of grace, Jesus said to her, “Go and sin no more.” Grace paved a path to the truth. This kind of grace changes relationships and even though it can be extremely hard at times to show grace, it is the best option to reach a place of understanding.
Come To An Agreement
After our conversation, my mom was more aware of her role in our relationship. We agreed that we needed to be mindful of how our comments and actions affect each other.
Also, my wife was able to see my mom’s heart, and walking through this situation opened up a door for them to have a deeper relationship. They have a great relationship now. Of course it’s not perfect, but there is much more grace and patience offered as we work through new conflicts that arise over time.
You Are Not Alone
Maneuvering through these relationships can be easier for some and more difficult for others. Whatever situation you find yourself in, I pray you take these thoughts to heart and that they help you walk through the challenges that come.
Rest assured that you are not alone. Everyone deals with issues like this on one level or another, but remember that God is not unaware and He is here to help you through every part of the journey.
By Josh Stewart