Probably the biggest in-law issue (both parents-in-law and children-in-law) that we've dealt with over the years of our marriage is how much time would be spent with each set of in-laws. Of course, we each have tended to want to spend more time with our own family, to celebrate holidays the way they were celebrated in our family of origin, to prepare foods or keep our home the way our mothers did.

Fortunately, over the years, we've seen our separate family traditions meld into our own individual Raney family traditions—the ones our children will probably argue about with their spouses. Hopefully, we've honored each other's right to treasure and carry on meaningful family traditions. 

Thankfully, the in-law problems in our marriage have been few and far between. We believe there are several reasons for that:

• We both come from large families, so the attention of our in-laws has been "diluted" between numerous siblings and grandchildren.

• One set of in-laws lived 1500 miles away for many years and we only saw them once or twice a year. The other set of in-laws was involved in mission work and spent winters out of state or sometimes out of country. (If you have a strained relationship with your in-laws, it might be helpful to limit the time spent with them as much as is lovingly possible.)

• Both sets of our in-laws took a very hands-off approach. They were there if we needed help or advice, but they've never been overly involved in our lives. If anything, there have been times we wished they would visit us more often.

• Neither of our parents have ever sided with their child against the in-law. Instead, they have respected and honored our marriage and sought to encourage us in our relationship by praising the good qualities of the person their child chose to marry.

•Our parents pray for our marriage and for our spouse, and began doing so even before Ken and I ever met each other.

We've been blessed by the attitudes of our in-laws toward their relationships with us, and feel they have been very wise in their perspectives. Their thoughtfulness and maturity has all but eliminated a potential source of conflict in our marriage. We desire to adopt similar methods and attitudes with our own children and their spouses.

Discussion:

Read Matthew 19:4-6 and Ruth 2:10-12 (The entire book of Ruth is a wonderful study of in-law relationships.)

1. The Bible has many passages that refer to in-law relationships. Read the example concerning Simon's mother-in-law in Luke 4:38-39. What does this imply about Simon's relationship with his mother-in-law?

2. Read Matthew 10:34-36 and Luke 12:51-53. Jesus says that he has not come to bring peace, but to turn members of families against one another—including "a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." What do you think this might mean? Have you seen examples of this in your own family or other families you know?

3. Have you struggled with your relationship with your in-laws? Has your spouse struggled with his or her relationship with your parents? Have you had conflict with the people your children chose to marry?

4. What is the source of those struggles? Competition for attention and affections? Envy? Pride? Disagreement on how life should be lived or how children should be raised?

5. Have you tried to be a peacemaker in your relationship with your in-laws? It's important to remember that all the Scriptures that apply to getting along with others also apply to getting along with in-laws. If there is strife in your relationship with in-laws, are you willing to take the first step toward reconciliation?

Make a list of the things you admire, respect and enjoy about your in-laws (either parents-in-law or children-in-law). Ask the Lord to help you concentrate on the positive aspects of their personalities and of your relationship with them.

Originally posted in March 2007.