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Six Areas of Conflict in Marriage Part 3 – Problems with In-Laws

By:  Donna Martin   #happytogethermarriage

The term “in-laws” has a negative connotation for many people.  We’ve all heard horror stories, jokes and even songs about mother-in-laws who interfere in the lives of couples. 

I was fortunate to have great in-laws.  They accepted me as a part of their family - as if I was their own daughter.  In fact, they made it clear that Mike was to “treat me right”.  I knew they loved me and I loved them.  Probably the reason that we all got along was that Mike and I and our in-laws followed the advice of Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” 

Sadly, problems occur when someone in the family fails to do this.  It can be the bride or groom or the parents who do not let go in some form or fashion.  Some brides run home to mother and tell her about all the faults of her new husband.  Some husbands are “mama’s boys” who are more concerned about meeting their mother’s expectations than their wives.  Some parents just won’t let go and are constantly interfering, giving advice, visiting, or trying to control the young couple by giving them large amounts of money or “things.”  In return they expect the couple to do just as they say.

When couples marry they need to form their own family and break the apron strings with their parents. 

On the other hand, many young couples have in-law troubles because they do not learn to “love” their new family.  The bride or groom may go to the opposite extreme and refuse to have anything to do with their spouse’s family.  The bride or groom does not want to compromise when it comes to holidays, birthdays, weddings, graduations, reunions and all of the activities that go with getting along with the in-laws.  They may be critical of their spouse’s family and not take an effort to really get to know them.

Both of the above scenarios are the basis for in-law troubles.

Couples need to remember that when they marry their spouse they are marrying his or her family.  It is not fair to expect your spouse to completely abandon his/her family.  Of course every family has that crazy aunt or uncle that no one wants to spend an extended period of time with, but husbands and wives need to do their best to get to know their spouse’s family and to love and honor them if at all possible.

Just little courteous things mean a great deal to your in-laws.  Calling them on a regular basis, sending cards and gifts for special occasions, going to special family events all help to improve relationships.  It doesn’t take much effort to be courteous and polite.  Treat your in-laws the way that you would treat your own parents and the way that you want your spouse to treat your parents.

When grandchildren arrive encourage them to build a relationship with your in-laws.  Remember that your in-laws raised your spouse, and your spouse survived.  Also, remember that your in-laws still want to spend time with you after you have children.  Don’t expect them to just be convenient baby-sitters.  Continue to have adult conversations with them.

A friend of mine calls her daughter’s husband her “son-in-love.”  I really like that title much better because, when you think about it that is really what our in-laws are.  If it hadn’t been for love in the first place we wouldn’t have a mother-in-law or should I say a “mother-in-love”.

The Martins currently present “Happy Together” marriages seminars for churches and organizations.  To schedule a seminar call Michael at 940-735-1515. They also publish a weekly “Happy Together” Blog about family and marriage issues.  You can order copies of their new books Dancing With Death and 366 Tidbits We Have Learned in 14,610 Days of Marriage, read, and subscribe to their “Happy Together” Blog by logging onto the Martin’s website at





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