Perhaps graduation also put a ring on your finger, or you know engagement is coming soon. If so, congratulations! This is an exciting season of life! As you look forward to wedding planning and, more importantly, the new life you’re building with your husband-to-be, there’s one part that can’t be overlooked.
There’s an old adage: “When you marry a person, you marry their family.” It means that while you are starting something new with your husband, you’re also connecting yourself long-term to those closest to him.
We hear a lot of jokes about in-law relationships. It’s true; they can be difficult! But as a Christian bride, you can come to your wedding day with a heart prepared to love them. Here are a few tips to help you along the way.
Learn to hear their side
You might not encounter many issues pre-wedding (or maybe you will) that require navigating conflict. But sooner or later, there will be a disagreement or misunderstanding. In those moments, learn to hear the family’s side. This doesn’t mean you have to agree, just that you have to listen. Give them the respect you’d like to have. Acknowledging their thoughts and feelings can go a long way.
Do. Not. Compare.
If you came from a wonderful family with whom you’re very close, it can be easy to compare your experience to what you see on your husband’s side. But this is not fair. Every family dynamic is different. And even when there are sin issues at play, you must remember that, at the end of the day, the man you love came from these people. Show grace. Don’t compare.
Refrain from expectations
While it would be nice if everyone we interacted with fulfilled what we expected of them, that’s not reality. Setting expectations (even basic social ones) on your husband’s family can lead to frustration, disappointment and bitterness.
I once received an email from a bride-to-be distraught that her future sister-in-law was emotionally distant. The bride had always dreamed of having a sister, and her SIL’s distance was not what she expected. This is an example of an expectation that led to disappointment. Instead, the bride could have been pleasant, friendly and engaging, but not expect her future SIL to become her best friend. That’s not within her control.
Let your husband’s family be who they are and begin to get to know their traits, quirks and qualities. You won’t be close with everyone. In some families, you won’t be close at all. But by letting them be who they are, you set no one up for disappointment. (This is in nontoxic relationship situations.)
Create boundaries and respect theirs
Lastly, create boundaries. It’s not okay for your mother-in-law to frequently invade your home unannounced to see her son—boundaries matter! But it’s also important to respect the boundaries of the family you’re entering, once you learn what those are. Is it not okay to tease about certain topics? Is it important to respect privacy about certain things? Learn and implement these to show respect to your new family.
This will be an adjustment, but the beauty of these new relationships is how much they tell you about your husband—and how much joy they can bring in the future. And even when there is no joy, you can learn strength, wisdom and fortitude through difficult family relationships. In both, you can bring your witness, growing closer to Christ and closer to your husband through it all.