Learning to Love Your In-Laws

Learning to Love Your In-Laws

I liked her from the very first.

She was strong, straight-forward, and no-nonsense.  A real pioneer woman.  Hard-working and resolute. My husband’s mother welcomed me into the family with few questions asked.

We got along just fine, she and I.

Because of dad’s heart trouble, we invited her and dad to move in with us. That would be nearly 15 years ago now. And we’ve been through a lot together since then. Birth, sickness, laughter, late-nights, and loss. Good times and tough times. Two strong women living in the same house.

And, yes, I still like her.

But there’s no denying that getting along with your in-laws can be one of the more challenging aspects of your married life. Can’t it.

Will you believe me when I say I know? ‘Cause I do.

Yet I’ve learned a few things over our years together. Things I wish I would have understood better before. At least 15 years ago.  Because I think it would’ve helped. Would probably have helped us both actually.

So maybe sharing some of these will help you too.

Learning to Love Your In-Laws

1.  Remain one with your husband. Remind each other that you’re both on the same team. Talk through issues together beforehand and form a united front. Make it your priority to go along with him – rather than to go against them.

2.  Your in-laws are on the outside, looking in. Sure, they can have input and opinions, but they are not on the inside. That is a special privilege and responsibility reserved for you and your husband. So welcome their wisdom, but their role is limited to a supportive one.

3.  Let the little things go. For some reason, a mother-in-law (or father) can say or do things that trigger a reaction like no one else can. But you just can’t let it get under your skin. She wants to give your children candy when you’ve stipulated “no sugar, please”?  Disappointing, perhaps. Irritating, yes. BUT.  Not the end of the world. Don’t let it have power over you.

4.  Don’t budge on the big ones. Stay true to your convictions. These fall in a different category than preferences (“no sugar”). You don’t want your children watching certain programs? Or, talking about certain subjects? Than draw the line and stick to it (the line that you and your husband agreed to). Be kind and gracious – but unbending.

5.  Don’t assume they understand. Here’s the one we probably miss the most. We assume our in-laws “get it” but are pushing against us anyway. But it’s quite likely they don’t understand you, or where you’re coming from. So give them the chance to track with you. Explain your perspective as best you’re able.

But even then, they might not be able to get you. They’re coming from a different generation. A different background. And a different experience. While not always easy, try to appreciate those differences.

6.  Give them a chance to grow too. Maybe it’s because they’re older than us. Or that they’re the “parents”. But it’s easy to forget that they might have some growing yet to do. And that they might be slow-growers. But don’t give up on them altogether. Talk to them. Pray for them!

7.  Love on them. Yes, really. “The Law of Love” applies to our in-laws. Maybe especially to our in-laws. I’ll confess that there’ve been moments when I became too engaged in the battle and left off with the love part. And I’m sorry for it.

Because love always wins.

So what’s it like now? Between Mom and me? Well, in some ways it’s the same. She’s still strong. Resolute. A pioneer woman.

But it some ways it’s different. She gets disoriented. Doesn’t always know what day it is or who people are. Alzheimer’s has changed a few things for her. We’re walking through times that neither of us ever anticipated. Good times and tough times.

Here’s something that hasn’t changed, however: I still like her.

In fact, it’s more than that.  I’ve learned to love her.

And her, me.

Love you Mom. Always.

In His grace,
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  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your post. You are ahead of me in this game of Life and I appreciate hearing your heart in preparation for what’s to come.

  • Debbie B

    Thank you Lisa for such an inspiring writing on loving your in-laws. I’ve been married 35 yrs and had those “battles” that everyone has with her in-laws. I find your advice on letting go of the little things and not budging on the big ones good advice. My husband & I battled over both those things with his parents when our children were young and found it to be so wearisome. We often thought if they went behind our backs on the little things then what are they doing with the things that really matter. We often felt betrayed. We had talks with them, it changed for a while, then right back to doing what they thought was best. The Lord has been so gracious to us and our family, for that was many years ago and we have all survived those “hard” years of parenting and instilling God’s characters in each one of them. My father passed away at the age of 63 and my mother 74 from Alzheimer’s (6 1/2 yrs). What a tough road that was for my mother and our family. She lived with us for a while until the time came when it became too hard to take care of the issues that came with her disease. My heart goes out to you & your family as you watch and live this progression of forgetting. As the Lord reminds me, I will pray for you and your family. You will be so blessed to know that you were a part of her life and in helping her walk through it. We now have only 1 parent living and it is my mother-in-law. What a blessing she is from the Lord! Thank you for your inspiration. I will practice loving on her more as I found myself in the confessing part of #7 all too often. We are so blessed aren’t we! Sorry so long!

  • http://club31women.com/ Lisa

    Thank you for sharing a little of your story too, Debbie! There’s much that you’ve said here that I know many of us can relate too.

  • http://club31women.com/ Lisa

    Another reader shared the following:

    “Thank so much for this. I have had a really hard time lately with my in laws, and I know that it hurts my husband. My MIL has some issues and has taken them out on me repeatedly. She often makes fun of me or tells my husband she doesn’t understand “how he could have married such a slob” (when I left a pair of socks on the floor).

    I am always so hurt by the things she says and does, and it causes our visits to be really stressful. Worst of all, my husband doesn’t enjoy his visits home anymore because it is always so stressful between his mom and me. I feel awful, because I feel like I have caused the problems, even though I know they are due this mom’s drinking. We only see them twice a year, but I dread those visits all year long. It’s gotten to the point where I get sick every time we go out to see them because I am so stressed.

    I am not sure how to handle this spiritually. I know that prayer can transform, and that is something I haven’t worked on. I need to learn some skills for just letting her comments slide and not letting it hurt me so deeply.”

  • http://club31women.com/ Lisa

    Oh, that is so hard! You’re right though, praying is probably the best thing you can do in that situation. I’ve seen prayer truly work miracles in transforming a situation and/or a person. And you can pray for protection as well – that the Lord will protect your heart. I’ll be lifting you up as well, Amy.

  • Tara H

    Great post! My husband and I have been married for 12 years, and the last 9 years we have lived with his parents. We’ve had up and downs, but praise God, He has helped make everything ok. I still want my own home, but we have a great relationship with my in laws. Thanks for these tips!

  • Jenny Griebenow

    I would add to #5, that you should always assume the best, and know that most likely, they are coming from a place of love. Just that the generational gap may make it hard to see it, but trust that the love is there, and respond to them and initiate with them under the assumption that they love you, your kids and want the best for all.
    Wish I had known this 20 years ago — took awhile to learn!

  • Kim Allen

    Lisa, God has given you such a beautiful testimony in this relationship. Thank you so much for sharing. May He continue to receive the glory as you love your mother-in-law all of her days remaining here. It has been a blessing to watch your relationship bloom over the years. Praise God! Love, Kim

  • http://www.womenabiding.com Tehila

    Lisa, this is an excellent post! One thing that my hubby and I decided to do even before we were married, was that if I had something against one of his parents, I would tell him, and HE would tell them… And if something was bothering my hubby about MY parents, he would tell ME, and I would pass it on…

    We just figured that parents would be alot more open to hearing “criticisms” from their own children, than even a son or daughter in law.

    I must say, that even though (now that I think about it) – this is not entirely scriptural, it has worked WONDERS! Our relationship with our in-laws has always been great, because direct confrontation was avoided, but on the other hand, the issues were resolved as well…

    This may not suit everyone, or every situation for others, but it has worked really well for us…

    God bless you my excellent-blog-posting friend! xx

  • Becky

    Mil lives w us for more than 25 years now. She has other children & none have ever invited her even for some weekend to stay with them. She is a wonderful woman, but still there are times when I really long for our own privacy, as a couple and as a family without her hearing & knowing every single thing that’s going on within our family.

  • http://club31women.com/ Lisa

    I can sure appreciate that longing, Becky. Have you talked it over with your husband? While I don’t know the particulars of your situation, I’d be inclined to directly communicate with the other siblings about how they might help you out here. Also, you can be loving and welcoming, but still set it up so that you and your family have some “private time”. It’s important that everyone’s needs get met – especially in a long-term situation like yours.

  • Becky

    Mil always take it as we don’t want her anymore anytime we mention for her to stay a few days with her daughter at least. It really puts us in a hard spot. Other siblings seem to just think of their own family as they’ve been used to.
    This subject has caused a few arguments between me & hubby. Can’t blame mil as my hubby is the most caring & responsible from all her children.

  • Danya Tapolcai

    I know you wrote this over a year ago, but man oh man did it help me. My mother-in-law and I are polar oposites and the only two things we have in common is that we love her son and Jesus. These are good things for me to memorize and attempt to put in practice. Thank you!

  • http://Club31Women.com/ Lisa Jacobson

    So glad to hear it helped! I know it can be challenging, but that makes the victory all the better! :)