I’m going to give you some quick rules to help you better love and communicate with your child’s spouse and benefit your relationship with your child in the process.
Rule #1: If you fail to communicate, you’ll fail.
Whatever the circumstance, the way to overcome any conflict with your child’s spouse is through good, direct communication. But far too often, you find yourself afraid to confront them or, worse yet, just prefer to pretend the problems don’t exist. This can allow resentment and anger to build to the point that the easiest solution is to avoid your own child and grandchildren. Remember, your child’s spouse is an extremely important member of your family. If you’re wise and value your relationships with your child, you’ll do everything you can to ensure you have a long and healthy relationship with their choice for a mate. Clear communication is the key to making that happen.
Rule #2: You can’t control them.
In-law relationships are the one major family relationship you can’t control. When your child gets married, you must respect their choice for a spouse. Hopefully, you make every effort to get to really know the person and develop your relationship with them, perhaps even before they are married.
But when your child voluntarily and willingly marries, several involuntary, and at times unwanted, in-law relationships are automatically created. Your child and their spouse both have another set of parents, brothers and sisters, and extended family—most of whom they usually don’t know, or perhaps haven’t even met. You just have to jump in immediately and make them work. Accept that responsibility, and understand it will require time and effort to be successful.
Rule #3: Expect some personality and value conflicts.
Have you ever driven away from a family gathering shaking your head? How did my child ever choose someone so completely different from our family, you wonder (hopefully not loud enough for anyone else to hear).
Don’t let these clashes in personality surprise you. There are also value conflicts to tackle: your child’s spouse may have addiction problems, financial issues, they don’t know how to parent or they don’t share your faith in Jesus Christ. You can sometimes feel like your child messed up everything! Guard against that attitude.
Rule #4: Remember to support your child’s spouse.
Never do anything that would display a lack of support for your child’s spouse with his or her family members. In fact, your job is to help your new son or daughter-in-law become successful with their relationships with the rest of his or her new family.
If you criticize your child’s spouse, it creates a problem for them. You may be correct or justified in your accusation, but you are not there to point fingers or fan the flames. Instead, you need to do all you can to support your child’s spouse. In doing so, that lends support to your child and helps other family members move toward reconciliation, no matter how you may feel about the situation.
Rule #5: Realize there is no shared history.
You have little-to-no previous shared history with your new son or daughter-in-law. Remember that you can say certain things, or act a certain way, with your child or immediate family members that may easily bring offense or misunderstanding if you say or do it with your child’s spouse. Be cautious, use good judgment, and be quick to apologize if you’ve caused offense, even if you don’t feel it’s necessary.
Rule #6: Set loving standards with your son or daughter-in-law that doesn’t share your faith.
Special relationship dynamics exist when your child’s spouse is not a believer in Christ. (This can also be true if your child does not have a relationship with Christ.) It is imperative to nurture your relationship with your unsaved daughter or son-in-law.
You need to stay sensitive to spiritual issues. If your non-Christian son or daughter-in-law is prone to use obscene language, live a carnal lifestyle, or try to directly influence you against Christian beliefs, you need to step in and address the situation as lovingly as you can.
Your goal here is not to change your child’s spouse, but to get them to alter their behavior as needed to protect your relationships with all your family members. You can often encounter difficulty in your relationships with people. Much of the time it can be with the people you’re supposed to love the most!
Follow the rules suggested and you will hopefully find the love in your relationships with your child’s family that God intended you to have.
Did your child marry a non-Christian? How did you handle your differences? We’d love to hear your success stories. Post your comments below.