Unfortunately, many people marry into toxic, abusive families without knowing it until it is too late. This is because most people are on their best behavior when you first meet them. It is only AFTER the wedding, etc. that you begin to see another side of them that is horrible, terrifying, and has the capacity to ruin your life and your marriage.
If life were perfect, we would all marry the perfect person who had the perfect family, and everyone would love each other. But unfortunately, that is seldom the case. Very few people are perfect.
In fact, no one is perfect in this world, except for Jesus Christ. The problem comes when we expect perfection either out of ourselves or out of others. And it appears when it comes to "inlaws" and how they view us, and vice versa, we always come up short.
There are varying degrees of inlaw problems, some of which are normal and to be expected, and then others which are completely crazy and "off the charts."
These problems arise from how our inlaws view their children, how caring they are of their child's feelings, and how interfering they can be in their child's life. It all depends on how possessive and controling they are of their child's life.
You have to admit that when you spend 18 years raising a child, not only do you grow extremely attached to your child, but you have a hard time letting go, and giving up the parental role that you have played for so many years. ( See my article on the "Empty Nest Syndrome ) That role entailed loving them unconditionally, helping your child to reach his/her dreams and goals, and protecting them from just about everything.
If the inlaws have "hang-ups" themselves, like being too possessive or suffocating of their child (your spouse) they will tend to think that no one is good enough for their child.
Some mother-in-laws are frankly "jealous" of the new woman in their son's lives. And they tend to think that no woman is good enough for their son, and that all women will lead him down the wrong path. If things go wrong in his life, they blame his wife, etc.
So they purposely look for things to criticize his wife for. And many times this criticism is done behind her back, and to her son in private. The goal being to break them up so that the mother-in-law can go back to being the sole confident and advisor for her son.
When an inlaw is purposely trying to break up their child's marriage, especially if it is the mother trying to win back her son, then the son is caught between his mother and his wife. A "Catch 22" situation is born.
In other words, God knew a long time ago that marriages can get into trouble if the parents interfere. But many men have a hard time standing up to their mother's influence because she has been influencing him her entire life. However, God makes it very clear that a man is to be loyal to his wife.
In the same token, another typical scenario is a father-in-law who thinks no man is "good enough for his daughter" and the poor husband lives in the shadow of his wife's father. The same rule applies here also. Many women compare their new husbands to their doting father's who treated them like they were the "princess" in the royal household. And then when the handsome prince shows up and whisks her away, a dysfunctional father can find himself very jealous.
There is a saying that is very true. "When you marry someone, you also marry their family." Which is why it is so important for young people contemplating marriage to be very observant of the dynamics in their future wife/husband's family. How does your future spouse relate to his/her mother and father. Do you see respect and trust, or do you see control, envy and power???
Another thing to be observant about is to spend time with your future spouse's parents to see how they treat you. And most important, how do they treat you when your spouse is not around? And do they treat you differently when your spouse is present? If there are two ways of treating you, then you can expect that to continue or even get worse after you are married. Are you listened to, respected, or ignored and judged??? Get to know them and see if they maintain the same attitude towards you whenever you are with them, or is it just superficial charm? Do they show a genuine interest in you as a person, and your life, and are they interested in hearing about your family? Or is your time with them spent listening to how they expect you to treat their child?
In-law problems can be worked out. Here's how to start:
1.) Keep your contacts with them to a minimum. Spend as little time with them as possible. Do not invite them over unless it's absolutely necessary. If they want to come over and visit, then let them be entertained by your spouseand your children while you go run an errand, or make yourself scarce somewhere around the house. This removes you as their target.
2.) Your spouseneeds to be supportive of you. If their parents snub you in any way, it's their responsibility to put a stop to it. They are their parents, only they can speak up. Otherwise, it just gives the in-laws more reason to disapprove of you. Your spouse's support of you is not being disloyal to their parents. It simply shows their parents that they respect you, and they must as well.
3.) Do not invest yourself emotionally in them. Do not hope for a close relationship with them; their actions show it will never happen. Keep reminding yourself that they are the ones with the problem. Do not go out of your way to please them. For example, if it's their birthday, it's your spouse's responsibility to buy the card/gift and send it to them, and have it be from the both of you.
4.) When around them, act pleasant so as not to give them any ammunition with which to use against you. Being pleasant, does not mean you allow them to insult you. If they do insult you, shrug it off in a humorous way, then leave the room and busy yourself with something else. By doing this, your spouse will see who the bigger person is.
These are just a few examples of how inlaws can interfere in your marriage and in your life, but there are many other scenarios of how marriages can be destroyed by them if one or the other of the spouses allows them to.
If you are dealing with difficult inlaws, please do not hesitate to contact me via an e-mail question, or you may schedule a Telephone Counseling Session with me. Please see below for instructions on how to contact me, so that you can have peace in your marriage.
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