As we close out our month of marriage, I thought we’d end with a look at in-law relationships. I asked my friend, Mandy Sisco, to lend her wisdom to this topic. Mandy and her husband, Lance, speak about in-law relationships to seriously dating or engaged couples at our church.
Thank you for this awesome guest-blog, Mandy!
When my husband and I first married, we lived 10 hours from my family and about
36 seconds from his, but who’s counting, right? Years of fun memories with his family are sprinkled with some hard conversations, awkward moments, and lessons learned.
My favorite in-law moment came only months into marriage. One busy Sunday afternoon, we hurried home to find a basinet mysteriously placed on our back patio. After several Hollywood movie scenarios burst through my mind, we got the guts up to see if there was, in fact, an abandoned baby on our back porch.
To our relief there was no baby, just a letter placed inside. We opened it to find the words, “Please fill and return. Love, Mom.” Letting our massive frustration of the pushiness wear off, we began to think of things we could fill it with. Maybe frogs. No, cats! Yes, definitely cats!
In-law relationships can be tricky. Depending on your circumstances, you may find yourself part of an extended family that functions completely different than your own. Although there are many things that could take this unique relationship to a healthier place, there are three “Rs” that are crucial for loving and caring for your spouse’s parents.
Realistic – John 16:33 tells us that “in this world you will have trouble” and it is no different with our extended family. All relationships take time and work. You typically have a very short window of time to get to know your in-laws before marriage. After marriage you are suddenly spending holidays and discussing plans with people you don’t know well. If we are setting realistic expectations, we can be certain of two things. One, it will take years to know and understand them and two, difficult moments and/or seasons are inevitable.
Respectful – The merging of two families is also the merging of two sets of traditions and ideas. For this reason, how you navigate the holidays or big events that include the extended family is important. Romans 14:19 encourages us to “pursue what makes for peace and mutual up building” and Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” I urge you to be gracious and humble in your timing, approach, and words. I also believe that each spouse should address his or her own family and use the word “we” when doing so. This shows that you are united in your decisions, big or small.
Relational – Your in-laws gave life to the person you adore! For that reason and hopefully so many more, you want to build a solid relationship with them. Think of ways that you can invest in it! Be a good student of your in-laws. Learn what they like and don’t like. Communicate with them on a regular basis. Make an effort to love and care for them. Look for ways to serve them in your home and their home. Your effort to build the relationship is vital! It’s your way of living out Philippians 2:3-‐4. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
My mother-in-law and I have come so far since the bassinet drop of 2002. She no longer feels the need to communicate nonverbally and I’m not as easily offended. I’ll still work hard in this area, but in the last 13 years we have come a long way. What once was a massive effort now comes much easier.
We’ve grown in our understanding of one another and I look forward to time spent with my in-laws.
Thanks for the wisdom, Mandy! Friends, are there any additional tips you have for navigating in-law relationships? Please share!