Dealing With Difficult In-Laws: 6 Tips For Christians

by David Peach on February 8, 2013 · Print Print · Email Email

Dealing with difficult in-laws is a bit harder than dealing with people who are not related to you or your spouse. However, I think all the principles that apply to dealing with other difficult people can help in this situation too.

Here are 6 tips for dealing with difficult in-laws that you can use in conjunction with the information from the article: Dealing with difficult people.

Build a Personal Relationship With Them

Try and be friendly to your in-laws like you would with anyone else. You can’t force them to change the way they think of you, but with a right attitude and proper response to them you can influence the way they think. Try and build a personal relationship with them. When you married your spouse you were inserted into a long-standing relationship. Some people in the family will see you as an outsider trying to steal the loyalty of one of their members. Work towards a relationship with the in-laws that cause them to not see you as an intruder, but as an addition to the family.

You can’t rely only on your spouse’s relationship with their family. If your relationship with them is only because of your spouse, then they will always see you as an outsider. You too will begin to feel like you are trying to pull your spouse away from them if you maintain a distant connection to the family.

Allow for Differences

You and your spouse should be unified even if you cannot always agree with your in-laws.

You and your spouse should be unified even if you cannot always agree with your in-laws.

You won’t always agree with your in-laws. That is okay. But you should still treat them with respect.

There are people that you don’t agree with, but that you have to work with anyway. This can be the case when you have a boss that you do not get along with. However, you can still respect their position and authority. You find ways to work around your differences. Try to do the same with your in-laws. Allow for them to think differently and have different opinions. You and your spouse should be unified even if you cannot always agree with your in-laws.

Set Boundaries for Respect

If you are getting resistance from the family of your spouse, don’t try to force yourself into their events. You should try to build a relationship with them, but that does not mean you show up uninvited or unannounced to their Sunday dinner. Respect their independence and kindly ask them to do the same for you.

When my wife and I were first married we lived in the same town as my parents. Though I did not understand it at the time, I learned to appreciate that my mom and dad would never drop in and visit at our house unannounced. They honored that we were a couple and deserved the same level of respect and privacy they would extend to any of their other friends.

You may need to set boundaries and ask your in-laws to respect your time and privacy. They can come and visit, but courteously ask them to not drop in without warning. Make sure you extend the same courtesy to them.

Ask Your Spouse to Help

Your spouse will naturally be pulled between the two factions. Your spouse certainly understands their family better than you do. Your husband or wife should also understand the needs of you two as a couple. But, they may have trouble knowing where the tension is or what is causing the problem.

Your spouse should jealously protect the relationship with you. But sometimes a wife or husband doesn’t know what that means. Work to educate your spouse on how you feel and what stress is being caused by their family.

Enlist your spouse’s help in learning how to deal with their family. Ask them to educate you on some history that may make it easier for you to understand your difficult in-laws.

Don’t Try to Change Your In-Laws

People become resistant when they feel like they are being manipulated. But if you will try to think of their needs and try to put them first, then you may be able to win them over with love. You can’t change your in-laws, so there is no point in even trying, But you may be able to make them fall in love with you as a fellow family member. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Do what you can to make them want you to be part of their family. This does not mean you serve them hand and foot, but that you show them love and kindness that wins their hearts.

You Can’t Please Everyone

You may never win them over. That is a fact that may have to be faced. Realize that you don’t have to be buddies with everyone. Not everyone in your church is someone you choose to spend your weekday evenings with. The same may be true with your spouse’s family. But like you would be cordial with others at church, you should be kind and show the love of God to your in-laws. You may have to resign yourself to the knowledge that you may never be close friends.

You and your spouse need to work on having a strong personal relationship with one another. In the process of building a strong relationship together you will hopefully see your in-laws begin to trust that you will take care of their beloved family member.

Have you seen our collection of tips and advice? Take a look:

Advice and Tips for the Christian

Resource – YouTube video “Family of God”



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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Patricia Schneider February 8, 2013 at 6:48 am

Mr. Peach, your advice was head on! Insightful article!
Unfortunately, my Mom-in-law did NOT like me because she didn’t think I was good enough for her first-born. Even when she came to live w/us for two years before entering a nursing home, she resented my caring for her, even my cheerfulness! Often she would say to my hubby (in front of me!) that she didn’t like the way I talked to him, etc. NOTHING I did or say helped in building a relationship with her. Yes, it hurt terribly and left me frustrated.
‘Til the day Mom died, she disliked me. (May Mom be resting
in peace with Our Sweet Jesus. Amen.)
How do I let go of the hurt inside? I’ve forgiven her through Jesus’ love, yet feel such disappointment that things were so difficult between us. (BTW, my hubby & I have been married 38 years last September. God has blessed us immensely!)
Always in Christ, Jesus….Patty

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Oskey May 27, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Most of the problems seems to be expressed by daughter-inlaws or the younger generation with the older. In my case I find it difficult the other way around. I am mother-inlaw to a woman who thinks the world evolves around her and only what she thinks. She and our son invited us to move interstate to help out with the young grandchildren with suggestions that they would like to build a closer bond with us. Luckily we have our investment home in the same town and setting it up to achieve this was expensive, nevertheless we did on our own expenses. She calls only when we are needed; conversations are often about herself or too confronting; we cook, clean and help out with cleaning at their place as well as taking care of our own home. I am beginning to feel we should let them know we are not doing this for the rest of our lives. We miss our friends and doing the things people of our age do…retire!!

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David Peach May 30, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Oskey, You are right, this was written from the child’s perspective. I am not an in-law yet, so I did not even think about the other side of the relationship. Maybe we will have to get one of the older authors to write something from that perspective.

Hard conversations are never fun. And they often hurt deeply in the moment. But I think you are right that you need to let them know how much they are asking of you. I know you don’t mind being there with the kids and grandkids, but there needs to be some greater benefit to you and your husband.

I trust God will give you wisdom in confronting the situation and talking with your children.

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Oskey June 11, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I often wonder if this is the generation that we as baby boomers indulged and spoilt. Talking to this generation of ‘give-me’ is foreign and straining. God has been good to us and I believe He will provide wisdom and discernment. We are now in a situation where whatever we say could be taken as selfish from their perspective.
Thanks for letting me air my frustrations.

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kylie February 28, 2014 at 8:31 pm

My issue with my in laws is a bit different- it isn’t unusual for us to come home to find them fixing or painting at our home. While we appreciate their help, it is overstepping bounderies to let themselves around our place. For that matter, bringing it up to them, even lovingly, it causes quite literally a world war 3 in which they yell very unloving words and are very unreasonable and childish. Eventually my husband always gives in and it makes me feel very lonely and sometimes angry. For that matter, I am beginning to feel that their relationship isn’t something I want my children around. How do I handle this?

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Jack Wellman February 28, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Kylie, I am not the author of this fine article but I suggest, speaking as a pastor, that you go with your husband and speak with your pastor about this. In the first marriage ceremony in Genesis it is said that a “man shall LEAVE his family” and the two shall become one flesh and they’re to become a new family. He is to leave and cleave. Cleave to his wife and leave his family. You in-laws are way, way out of line doing this. I would even change locks if necessary. This is interference in the God-ordained sovereignty of your and your husband’s family. Try telling your husband this…and then say that it is putting pressure on you and your family, children included. If that doesn’t work, have your husband speak with your in-laws, and I get the feeling that he won’t do that…then ask if he minds if you do. How would THEY like it if your in-laws came home and found you redecorating THEIR home.

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kylie March 1, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Thank you, Jack Wellman, I appreciate your response. Unfortunately we spoke with a couple who council at our church a couple years ago when we were first married who said something similar but my husband hasn’t come around to that yet. And nothing has changed. I have spoke to my in-laws myself but it just makes me the, in essence, “bad guy” from all points of view, and for my effort I usually get cold shouldered by all at the family reunions afterward. I am working on trying to empower my husband to take more of the lead in all aspects of our marriage but I don’t think that he is ready for that yet. Perhaps in time- thank you for your advice, and maybe I will try the couple again later. At least I understand that perhaps this relationship with them isn’t the most healthy and I’m not the only one who would feel that way. We’ll keep chugging along! Thanks again.

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