Jul 302013 11 Responses

What Every Mother-in-Law Should Know

My wife lives next door to her mother-in-law.

If I had it my way, my in-laws would live behind us.

Few relationships are as important, yet dicey as in-law relationships.

When they are good, relationships with in-laws can be life-giving.

  • They provide support when a marriage first begins.
  • They provide security when questions arise.
  • They provide relief when a baby is born.
  • They provide encouragement when times are tough.

When they are good, relationships with in-laws add to the beauty of family.

But when they are bad, there is nothing which compares.

  • Marriages are destroyed.
  • Feuds are waged.
  • Every moment becomes toxic.

Being an in-law is tough, but it’s manageable. (See: We Are Happy with our Decision, Thank You)

With a little thought, consideration, and effort, mothers-in-law and fathers-in-law can have a life-giving relationship with their children and spouses.

Here are what my in-laws have done to provide a strong relationship with me:

Build a strong foundation. Nothing helps your child’s future marriage as much as raising them on a strong foundation of family and exemplifying a strong marriage. The emotional health of a child raised in a solid family is striking. If I had to pick one characteristic of my child’s future spouse, it would be someone who is emotionally healthy. While a strong marriage does not ensure emotionally healthy children, it is a start. Coming from a strong family greatly increased the likelihood of a child building a strong family of their own. (See: A Checklist to Gauge Your Emotional Health)

Continue to provide a challenging standard. After your kids have gotten married, the most important thing you can do to help your children’s marriage is to continue to strengthen your own marriage. Not only does this provide a challenging standard for the young couple to emulate, it also encourages them to know marriages can last. (See: How Parents Influence Their Children)

Mind your own business (Part One). This is true in two ways. First, literally mind your business so your children won’t have to. Financial trouble, marital trouble, any struggles which can be easily avoided should be avoided so the pressure will not be passed onto the younger generation. When parents struggle, it often causes stress in the marriages of their children. By taking care of your business, you are keeping your kids from having to worry about your issues.

Mind your own business (Part Two). Mind your own business also means to stay out of the business of your children. Your role is that of friend and advisor (but only when asked). Never volunteer information until your opinion is sought (unless someone’s personal safety is at risk). Nothing hurts the in-law relationship as much as failing to respect proper boundaries. So many well-intended in-laws destroy the relationship with their children and spouses because they will not keep their mouths shut. While the intent is good, the outcome is often bad. Submit the issue for the sake of the relationship. Stay quiet and let your children figure out life. Obviously if abuse is involved or some dramatic issue, you can speak up, but if the issue isn’t life threatening, be quiet. (See: How to Parent an Adult Child Who Is Making Bad Decisions)

Encourage. One way to keep quiet when you see your kids making mistakes is by channeling all your energy to encouraging what they are doing right. Few things are as encouraging as hearing about the mistakes you have made. This cannot be done in a passive-aggressive manner where you are telling about your mistakes because you see your children repeating them. This must be done in a honest, heart-felt way. By revealing your mistakes and weaknesses, you help your children understand that no marriage is perfect. Besides confessing mistakes, you can continually communicate your pride for your children and their spouse. This encouragement will go much further in assisting your children in building a strong marriage than any critique or criticism would ever do.

In-laws do not cause marriages to end. A marriage is determined solely by the two people involved. Yet in-laws can greatly influence a couple. Your relationship with your child and their spouse will either be a positive one or a negative one. Without intentional effort, it is easy to have a negative impact. With a little thought and effort, a positive contribution can be made.

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