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How to handle the influence of in-laws

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James O. James

There was a story recently on the Internet about a bride who slapped her mother in-law at her wedding reception. It was said the boy’s mother slapped her over serving of food but she replied with a “dirty slap” of her own. No matter the level of provocation, I believe the bride ended her marriage abruptly because she didn’t know how to handle in-laws.

In Africa, couples are not get married to themselves alone; the marriage is actually between both families. Therefore, the in-laws tend to play a prominent role in the couple’s affairs. To ignore the relevance of in-laws can lead to dire consequences. Let’s examine some facts about in-laws:

• They will continue to be part and parcel of their children’s life.

• You’re not the only one who loves your spouse. They’re also loved by their families and sometimes even more than you.

• It’s sometimes difficult for in-laws to relinquish their attachment to their children even after marriage, especially if they’re a close-knit family.

• The behaviour of in-laws towards couples is sometimes influenced by our traditions and culture. In some communities, the wife is expected to serve her mother in-law by cooking for her and washing her clothes.

Therefore, handling in-laws is a delicate and sensitive issue, but based on Bible teachings, here are some suggestions that will help you succeed with them:

• Honour your in-laws. Every couple must realise that when they marry they’ve automatically acquired extra parents. The way you treat and honour your own parents must be transferred to your in-laws. The key word here is honour not necessarily to obey all their wishes.

• Man be in charge! The man must let his family know that he is the king of his home and his wife the queen or second in command. The man must set boundaries, especially for his siblings who may be living with him. I’ve always counseled that if you want anything from your brother, just make sure you befriend the wife and you’ll get what you want through her. The notion that “this is my brother’s house” and so his wife is beneath you is wrong, childish and unscriptural. It can only lead to conflicts.

• Never report your spouse to your parents. If you do so, you may forgive your spouse after some time, but it’ll be difficult for your parents to forgive. Always resolve your conflicts between the two of you.

• Apply the principle of leaving and cleaving. Once you’re married, you must leave your parents physically, emotionally and otherwise and be joined to your spouse. The influence your parents once had over you is now the right and prerogative of your spouse.

• Jointly own your home. The house doesn’t belong to the man or the woman but to both of you. Therefore, never allow any external influence to interfere in your affairs. When the man is not around, the woman should be in charge. I have seen many cases of brothers taking over the businesses and homes of their late brother because the woman was sidelined in running the home when the man was alive.

• Never criticise your spouse’s parents. This could create the kind of hurt that may take a long time to heal.

• Always visit your in-laws or call them as often as possible. In-laws always treasure such things.
Enquiries: Elshaddai Covenant Church, 7, Social Club Road, Off Charity Road, Abule-Egba. Tel: 08080929292 (Calls only); 08182281184 (WhatAapp messages only).


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In-LawsJames O. James
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