Intersection of Life and Faith

10 Things Your In-Laws Want from You

  • Sue Schlesman Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
10 Things Your In-Laws Want from You

The trickiest relationship in most families is the in-law relationship. If you’re married, you’ve heard the in-law jokes; you’ve probably told in-law jokes. You know that parents-in-laws can be possessive, clingy, and intrusive in their dealings with you. In-laws might disagree about child-rearing, housekeeping, careers, politics, faith, family traditions, and so much more. Maybe you can’t find common ground, so you keep your distance instead.

But they might also be your biggest cheerleaders. The parents you never had. An enormous blessing to your marriage and your children. If this is what you want, read on.

While complete harmony may not be possible in every family, you can enjoy more peace if you understand that your in-laws have longings for their relationship with you as their son or daughter-in-law. (Yes, they really do want to get along!) Here are 10 things your in-laws want from you:

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  • 1. That you serve God.

    1. That you serve God.

    Slide 1 of 10

    The most important desire for Christian parents concerning their son or daughter-in-law is that he/she loves and serves God. Parents realize what many young people are still figuring out: If you serve God, He will bless you and bring you success, in one form or another. And parents want God to bless their children.

    “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord.” (Psalm 128:3-5)

     

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  • 1. That you serve God.

    2. That you love my child.

    Slide 2 of 10

    Universally, loving parents desire for their children’s spouses to treat their children with kindness, generosity, and care. These actions are representations of genuine love. When parents see their child being treated disrespectfully by their daughter or son-in-law, they will feel compelled to intrude - either to rescue their child, or to undermine or to confront their child-in-law. (No matter how old you are, your parents will never stop being your parents.)

    “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)

     

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  • 1. That you serve God.

    3. That you love my grandchildren.

    Slide 3 of 10

    It’s painful for grandparents to watch their grandchildren being neglected, overwhelmed, ignored, criticized, or treated harshly. While there’s a fine line between the advice and support that a grandparent should offer, be careful not to assume that your in-laws are against you. They may just be empathetic towards their grandchildren, whom they love. Calmly have an honest conversation about what they perceive and what you believe is best for your child. Your differing perspectives can provide an opportunity to share wisdom with one another. Your parents, after all, are ahead of you in life experience.

    “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

     

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  • 1. That you serve God.

    4. That you take good care of my child.

    Slide 4 of 10

    The definition of care varies according to family values. Buying a big house or expensive clothes doesn’t necessarily reflect care; neither does a tight budget with no margin for spending reflect a lack of care. All loving parents will watch for signs that their children’s needs are being met, that you are encouraging and respectful of one another, that you are making their child happy. 

    If your definition of care is different than your in-laws’, have a conversation (each child should address his/her own parents) and explain what you value and why you make the choices you do. Generally, parents respond better to their own children; you will take heat off the in-law situation if you approach disagreements in love.

    “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.” (Ephesians 5:28)

     

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  • 1. That you serve God.

    5. That you give me time with my grandchildren.

    Slide 5 of 10

    Most grandparents want more time with their grandchildren. They miss the fun of parenting, and they don’t miss the work. They now have the perspective and time that they didn’t have while raising their own children. Over the years, they’ve likely learned a lot from their mistakes and they might want to spend time doing it “right” with their grandchildren. 

    As long as your parents and in-laws are trustworthy and responsible, give them ample time your children, even time without you present. The grandparent-grandchild relationship offers a depth of richness that’s different than the parent-child relationship.

    “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 2:5)

     

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  • 1. That you serve God.

    6. That you love and respect me.

    Slide 6 of 10

    It’s easy to ignore your in-laws’ advice, perspective, and emotional needs as they grow older. But even if you’ve heard the same story a million times or know what your in-laws are going to say about every topic, show respect for their position and their perspective. Remember, your kids are learning how to treat you as their parents by watching how you treat yours. Often, an in-law’s interjection is more about wanting to be heard than it is about needing to be right.

    “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

     

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  • 1. That you serve God.

    7. That you trust me.

    Slide 7 of 10

    This concern goes both ways. Grandparents want to be trusted with the grandchildren, and sons and daughters-in-law want their parents to support their decisions about faith, discipline, school, finances, etc. While it’s good to have a conversation to air any concerns about the other party’s decision-making, the best response to a difference of opinion is to explain and ask for support, even if they don’t agree with you. Give them trust, and they will give you trust. 

    (The caveat here is to never give trust when warning signs tell you to be careful. Not all men and women make safe, reliable parents, grandparents, or spouses. Be sure you know what kind of in-law you have.)

    “Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise—so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2-3)

     

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  • 1. That you serve God.

    8. That you include me.

    Slide 8 of 10

    Not all in-laws want to be best friends with their children and their spouses, but many do. They have worked to raise adults they enjoy being around. You are the fruit of their labor. Kindness and respect would dictate that you invite them to events and special occasions. They can always say no if they don’t want to come; giving them the option reassures them of their value (which makes them more supportive and less intrusive). 

    “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” (Proverbs 17:6)

     

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  • 1. That you serve God.

    9. That you accept me.

    Slide 9 of 10

    In-laws, both the kids and adults, spend the first few years after the wedding trying to feel accepted as a parent or child in a new relationship. Each must adapt to a new family culture and new family traditions. Although a spouse may have known his/her in-laws prior to the wedding, marriage changes the relationship and adds more expectation and possible disappointment. 

    Parents undergo the same transition. They may feel that they have to lose a son to gain a daughter; any perceived loss causes some heartache. You can help them adjust to this new relationship.

    “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it.” (Hebrews 12:9)

     

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  • 1. That you serve God.

    10. That you forgive me.

    Slide 10 of 10

    All relationships require forgiveness. Hurts and misunderstandings will occur. Don’t be afraid to apologize for misinterpreting or misjudging your in-law. And definitely apologize any time you’re rude to them. In order to have acceptance, trust, respect, and love in your relationship, both parties must embrace honesty and forgiveness. When you give your in-laws permission to be human, grace and love has room to grow.

    “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

     

    Sue Schlesman is a Christian writer, teacher, and speaker. Her blogs, Bible studies, fiction, and non-fiction reach a wide audience. You can find her philosophizing about life, education, family, and Jesus at www.susanwalleyschlesman.com and www.7prayersthatwork.com or email her at sueschlesman@gmail.com.

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