We have all heard terrible stories about in-laws, so when I saw Deborah DeArmond’s book “Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships” I knew she was someone I wanted to include in this series on loving our neighbors. May her insights offer grace — and healing… What is most often at […]
We have all heard terrible stories about in-laws, so when I saw Deborah DeArmond’s book “Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships” I knew she was someone I wanted to include in this series on loving our neighbors. May her insights offer grace — and healing…
What is most often at the root of in-law problems?
Two primary root causes for the problems that exist are competition and the way we’ve been “culturalized” about the MIL/DIL relationship.
Being a mother is a life-long vocation. But God never meant for moms to be the most important woman in a man’s life. That role is reserved for the woman he marries. He was yours to raise, but never to keep. When our sons marry, the role changes and many women are unprepared for this transition. They have dedicated much of their time, energy, and attention to raising a wonderful young man – and just about the time we see the fruit of that labor, some “other woman” snatches him right out from under our nose! Mothers cannot be replaced, and he’s not looking to do so when he marries. But for those women who’ve spent 20+ years as “Tommy’s Mom,” they may feel lost and unclear about their place in his heart and his life. And so the scene is set to compete with the other woman for the affection, time, and attention of the man in the middle.
We’ve also seen the role of mother-in-law maligned in movies (“Monster-in-Law” with Jane Fonda) and television (Marie Barone of “Everybody Loves Raymond”). We’ve been fed the idea that the relationship is always bad, and when it is, we’re not surprised – and we do little to change it. It’s damaging marriages and breaking God’s heart. If the enemy can divide the family, he can divide the church – and I’m not talking about the worship center on the corner.
We should be doing this better. As believing women, God expects far more from us.
For those who have been hurt — those who have felt ignored or left out or badgered — what steps can they take today to help the relationship?
• Pray for the other woman. It’s tough to hold someone before the throne of God and curse her at the same time. It’s not easy to do, but it’s an important beginning.
• Ask God to show you anything you may have done to provoke the other woman or extend the brokenness in the relationship and ask God to forgive you. Then ask her for forgiveness. God will honor your humility in the situation.
• Communicate your disappointment about the relationship without being critical. Let the other woman know you would like to start over, put the past behind you, and become family together. She can’t be wrong about everything – you both agree what a great guy that man is!
And, after they have taken those steps, what should they do if they feel their in-laws aren’t working on the relationship?
• Continue to pray. We heard many stories of women who faithfully prayed for their woman-in-law. Some found that the softening was gradual over time and others saw a dramatic turnaround when they continued to set their heart on a God-honoring relationship.
• Read the short book of Ruth, which is an amazing biblical example of what the relationship should be. Although they were different in a multitude of ways – customs, homeland, ethnicity and even different Gods – these two women learned to work together, and Ruth became committed to Naomi’s God – the holy one of Israel.
What is the one thing we can all do — where ever we are in our relationships — to show love to our in-laws?
• Choose your behavior with a commitment to honoring God and His word. Remember the Lord asks us to love those who despitefully use us, those who set themselves against us. The Bible instructs us to love others as we love ourselves. Obedience to the Word of God extends to this relationship – it’s not optional. Conduct yourself with the focus of honoring Christ, even if there is no reciprocation. Continue to walk in love, and let God deal with her behavior.