Even if you’re not married, you’ve probably heard a few in-law jokes in the past. The reputation for poor in-law relationships might be true for some people, but it doesn’t have to be true for everyone!
When we marry, we become connected to our spouse’s entire family—not just to him. This can be wonderful, or it can be incredibly trying, as any relationship has the potential to be.
But even when we make our best efforts toward peace, some in-law parents simply do not cooperate. When your in-laws are unsaved, contentious or overly involved, it’s easy for resentment to set in. In situations like these, we must remember our call to treat others with respect out of obedience to God—nothing more.
Whether you’re engaged or married, here are a few practical ways to cultivate healthy in-law relationships as far as it depends on you.
Remember Birthdays and Anniversaries
I’ve grown a bit lax on this myself, but a great way to tell family that you care is to remember birthdays and anniversaries. If your family is like mine, that is a lot of birthdays! Even so, a simple card, gift card or little present is enough to say “Thinking of you!” Another great way to commemorate family events is to make a photo calendar or album for the holidays.
Be Willing to Listen
Though it’s as practical as a handmade gift, listening is far harder! Sometimes this means listening to the same story again, or hearing out an external processor. Other times it means listening to advice you didn’t ask for when everything in you is resistant to it. Listening requires grace, patience and selflessness.
There are some often overlooked benefits to listening to your in-laws. First, you learn more about your spouse. There is always more to learn about their childhood and why they are the way they are—stories that are missed if we don’t listen. Secondly, listening to your in-laws cultivates the same attentive attitude you need for marriage. It’s a great discipline no matter how it is used!
Give the Benefit of the Doubt
This is perhaps the most important point of this entire post. Many people talk about their in-laws as if they are bent on inconveniencing them. When we perceive people as “against” us, nothing they do can be received with gratitude. You’ll always be doubting their intent.
While there is certainly a need to build trust and create boundaries, also extend the benefit of the doubt. Give your in-laws a chance to prove themselves, to change, to develop as people—and pray that they do! Just as you wouldn’t want them to write you off, don’t do the same.
First Corinthians 13 says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” We often quote this at weddings or frame it in the context of marriage, but we are called to love ALL people—just like Jesus did! This includes our in-laws. Since love is a choice before it is a feeling, this means you might have to choose to bear with, believe, hope in and endure beside your in-laws. The beauty is that God rewards your obedience.