In-Laws: Expectations, Boundaries and Love
When you hear the word “in-laws” what immediate emotion comes to mind? Is it frustration, anger, bitterness, apathy or maybe adoration and gratitude? No doubt, your in-laws can bring about some raw feelings and opinions. But if the emotion you are feeling about them is less than positive, you probably have some unmet expectations that are driving a wedge into your relationship.
Hebrews 12:14-15 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
This verse packs a big punch…living in peace with ALL men, be holy because without it “no one will see the Lord,” don’t allow others to miss the grace of God or allow bitterness to take root and cause trouble. Ouch! You can see how much a selfish action and attitude can create a ripple effect in your relationships, specifically with our in-laws. It not only affects you, it can “defile many” like your spouse and your kids.
So where do you begin? How do you “make every effort” when things seem irreconcilable or impossible to change? Let me encourage you to try these three strategies as a way to soften your heart towards your in-laws and put some healthy tactics in place for more peaceful living for the long haul.
1) Set Boundaries – It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel. Proverbs 20:3
- Setting boundaries is a healthy way to put some parameters in place to clearly communicate the rules of engagement. Some helpful boundary ideas are:
- Be a unified team with your spouse that’s not easily divided.
- Be the main communicator to your family.
- Don’t be a wedge in your spouse’s relationship with their parents.
- Don’t use your children as weapons with your in-laws.
2) Manage Expectations – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
- Managing expectations is a challenge because everyone has different expectations, which makes them personal, not universal. Self-awareness and considerate communication are the keys to success! Some helpful ideas are:
- Identify your expectations and discern what’s really important. Let the small stuff go!
- Discuss them with your spouse and come to a compromise. Remember that you’re different and that’s what makes you a great team.
3) Love Them Well – We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:19-21
- You can’t just love the people that love you back. Loving others well, even when they appear to be unlovable, is the key to “making every effort” and not allowing the root of bitterness to grow in your own heart.
- Control your tongue.
- Keep doing what’s right.
- Seek godly advisors and don’t isolate.
- Recognize your limits and pray instead of retaliating.
- Use the ultimate weapon of deliberate, focused love.
Like all relationships, the choice is yours – you can make the effort or pull away. Your relationship with your in-laws is worth the effort and the cost, because it’s worth it to your family and the legacy it will leave behind for generations to come. It’s worth it to your heart and your relationship with Jesus. What next steps can you take to “make every effort” towards living in peace with your in-laws?
For a deeper dive into the topic of in-laws, listen HERE for a message given at The Nest on the Dallas campus by Casey Uphues.
About the Author
Casey Uphues married Creighton in 2005 but their house hasn’t been quiet for over a decade because they have two very spunky boys. When she’s not stepping on Legos, she’s on the sidelines or in the stands cheering on her boys, and dreaming about the beach or some scrumptious pimento cheese. She serves at The Nest and Watermark’s Women’s Bible study because pointing women back to the truth of how much they are adored by their Savior is her jam!