A fresh perspective…
Tobi Layton, married 7 years

I learned when I was in fifth grade that I can insult my family all I want, but woe to the outsider who dares follow suit. My dad was the coach of my basketball team. He is highly competitive. Fifth grade girls are not. I don't remember exactly what atrocities he committed during one practice, but they probably involved telling us to watch the ball or stop talking about boys.

Either way, it resulted in tears for my best friend, Laurie. I was furious with my dad! That is, until my other best friend, Tiffany, told me that my dad was mean. I couldn't have agreed with her more, but for her to say so unleashed a protectiveness in me that I have rarely felt since. That was my family she was dissing! I've often thought about this incident when the topic of in-laws comes up.

Ryan and I are each blessed to have wonderful in-laws. There have been very few conflicts between our little family and one or the other's family of origin. That's not to say that there are no differences in our upbringings. There are. But Ryan and I have always been careful to respect each other's families.

Our biggest source of in-law conflict arrived with the birth of our son, who happens to be the first grandbaby on both sides of the family. Since he came along several years ago, it seems that everyone is a lot more eager to see us (or more accurately, him). There aren't many weekends that we don't visit Ryan's folks, who live less than an hour away. Several times a year, we also make the 500-mile trek to see my family. This represents a significant increase in in-law traffic. And it has also caused an increase in in-law arguments.

After working a five-day week, I can be quite jealous of my weekends. And Ryan is none-too-fond of driving most of the nine long hours to Kansas. We value time spent with each other's family, but when it comes to putting the rubber to the road, we are both a little reluctant.  Neither of us resists family visits because we dislike the family. On the contrary, we thoroughly enjoy the time spent getting to know the parents who raised our spouse. But we both often balk at the suggestion of another trip to Mom and Dad's. Either trip means giving up time. And time is incredibly fleeting on weekends and vacation breaks.

It's hard not to take it personally when your spouse doesn't want to visit your family, no matter how legitimate their reason. "What do you have against my family?" Ryan will think, when I simply want to stay home for a weekend. And the answer is nothing, of course, just as I know Ryan has nothing against my family, other than the fact that they live too far away.

We both have great relationships with our parents and we are blessed to have in-laws who respect us as grown adults, capable of making our own decisions. Many of our friends cannot say the same. Many parents have refused to let go of their son or daughter, though the Bible commands that a man (or woman) "leave his mother and father and cleave unto his wife." Those are tough cases that will no doubt require prayer and resolve on a couple's part.

The rest of us should count our blessings, watch our attitudes, and do what all good couples in conflict do--compromise. We may not be totally up for an afternoon away from home or a weekend road trip, but more often than not, once we get there, we'll have a great time stepping into the environment that helped our spouse become who they are in this new family our marriage created.

A seasoned perspective…
Deborah Raney, married 34 years

There are three hot-button topics that are a source of conflict at some point in most marriages. Sex and money vie for first place, perhaps. But arguments about in-laws must surely be close behind. The issue of where to spend holidays, whose family traditions will win out, whose side of the family the kids will be named after, etc. are questions any couple with parents and siblings still living will have to deal with at some point. Even if your in-laws are deceased or uninvolved, you still deal with them—for better or worse—via the influence they had on your spouse.