Faith and Family Friday–Don’t be an Outlaw to your In-Laws

The Waltons–In-Laws at their Finest

Good in-law relations aren’t something you see portrayed in movies, TV, or books very often. Generally, you see the exact opposite. Yet it’s a topic that’s heavy on my heart, and a recurring theme in all my (still unpublished!) books.

I realize that not everyone is blessed with the kind of in-laws I have. I have in-laws who take you into their family and treat your kids like their own. My in-laws joke with you and cry with you and support you, no matter how hard life gets. I thank the good Lord for mine.

It breaks my heart that not everyone has in-laws like this. But I think understanding has to run both ways. Here are some ideas to avoid being an outlaw to your in-laws: (I want to hear your thoughts, too!!! Prepare to comment at the end!)

1) Be respectful. Respect your FIL and MIL’s work. I’m including stay-at-home moms as a “work” category. Listen to their opinions. No one said you have to agree with all of them. But they’ve been around longer than you have.

2) Be helpful. If it’s hard for your MIL to plant flowers, get out your shovel and get dirty. If it’s hard for your FIL to clean out the gutters, climb up on the roof and do it. Help with the dishes if they let you. Bring food or send cards when they’re sick. Doubtless, there will be times when they help you out, even if it’s inconvenient or difficult for them.

3) Be communicative. Send them pictures. Call them. Unless your parents-in-law are regular recluses, they’re going to want to know what’s going on in your life. Especially if you have kiddos. They may not live nearby, but those DVD videos you send or those photos help them feel close to their grandbabies. And if they’re Christians, they could be vital prayer warriors for you and your kids.

4) Try not to favor one set of parents over the other. Easy to do, if you agree with one set of parents’ viewpoints and not another. Still. Shoot for equality, especially in the way you talk about them to your kids. You might live closer to one set of parents than the other. But make sure you travel to see the far-flung parents on a regular basis. (Regular meaning however often is convenient for them). We’re living in the days of Skype and Facetime, which provide a great way to feel close.

5) You are married into that family. FOR LIFE. That means you help your in-laws as they age. You be there for them. You keep them at their own homes as long as possible, because that’s what you’d want, if you were them.

My mom lived this one. (She’s not going to like me putting this up for all to see.) She was instrumental in making sure her MIL could stay home as she became less mobile, getting a hospital bed in place. She looked in on her regularly. She was right by her bedside with hospice and family when those last hymns were sung as Grandma died.

Which brings me to the last point:

6) Sacrifice yourself. It might not be convenient to take your FIL to that doctor appointment, but enjoy the extra time with him. It might not be comfortable to make that family reunion, but you’ll wish you did someday. It might not be easy to bite your tongue, but don’t shoot your mouth off when things aren’t done your way. You might learn a new way, and it might be better.

Sorry if this sounds preachy. It’s just something I’ve had on my heart for a long time. Ruth treated Naomi with respect, even when Naomi was acting all morose and bitter. After all, Ruth had suffered loss, too. But she put herself under and served Naomi. She was thankful for the family she married into.

I know there are exceptions to each of these admonitions. Still, I want to encourage you to make the most of your in-laws. They are your spouse’s parents and your kids’ grandparents. Their blood flows through their veins. Embrace the heritage they have to offer, and make the most of their time on earth. You won’t regret it.

****Any things you’ve learned along the way about in-laws? How do you refrain from acting like an Outlaw? And for those of you with nearly impossible in-law relationships, how have you learned to deal with those? Any helpful books or verses you’ve found? Looking forward to your answers!****

5 thoughts on “Faith and Family Friday–Don’t be an Outlaw to your In-Laws

  1. I need to hear this, over and over and over. It's especially hard having a step-MIL who is only 15 years older than me. It's also going to be hard when we have kids, because I feel like they'll still be parents too much to be grandparents (Joy is only 4 now). Any suggestions? 🙂

  2. Wow–don't know if I have great advice on that one, but I hope someone here does. But I will say that their child and yours will probably be great friends, being so close in age. It also might work to your advantage–more like a sister who's one step ahead of you with the child-rearing. And I know you have wise parents who will make up for any losses in that second set of grandparents!

  3. I'm really blessed to have amazing in-laws. My MIL tells me all the time that she thinks of me as her daughter, not her daughter-in-law. She's always ready with a hug and a servant's heart. I have a great stepmom too. Even though I miss my own mother terribly, I am so blessed to have those two ladies as mom figures in my life.

  4. Great points 🙂 I love it. We are blessed with another family in our in-laws. That is something to be thankful for. My own family is not perfect, so I should not expect my in-laws to be either. (Besides, I like a little dysfunction! It keeps things fun)

  5. Wow, Heather! Awesome post; God-inspired thoughts!And I love, love, love The Waltons! One of my fave shows. You're right–they demonstrated family unity despite times of hardship and occasional discord. Just like we all should because at the end of the day, they gifted us with their child–OUR spouse.

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