According to Wikipedia the institution of marriage predates reliable recorded history. Christians may tell you this is likely because the first marriage was between Adam and Eve, a couple who many still believe were merely characters in a bible story. Nonetheless it remains fact that people have been getting married for a LONG, LONG time. It baffles me that as long as people have been getting married on this Earth, we haven’t figured out how do deal with the often “dreaded mother-in-law”. Its completely unacceptable and outright shameful that some mothers-in-law are still reeking havoc in their children’s marriages by being intrusive, demanding, controlling and overall completely out of line. Is this your situation? Is your mother in law driving you and your spouse apart? Is she always offering her opinion about the way you spend your money? Does she undermine you when it comes to how you discipline your children? Is she always offering her advice or opinion about your marital problems? Are you finding yourself restricting her visits, avoiding her phone calls or holding your tongue when she’s around? Why is she allowed to have a say in the matters of your marriage at all?
Now obviously these things doesn’t always have to be the dynamic of the situation. Your mother-in-law may not even be purposely intrusive. She may honestly believe she is “just trying to help” or that she butts in because she cares and loves you both. Either way, the best place to start is to have a firm heart to heart with and let her know how you’re feeling. Most mothers-in-law behave the way they do because no one has set up a realistic boundary for them. She may not even know she’s causing so much turmoil…but then again, she could know and not care. Whatever the case, the Word of God give us a strict guideline for how we are to deal with mothers-in-law or ANYONE who tries to turn our marriage triangle into a marriage square. You did know there are only 3 beings in a marriage right? That means your mother, your father, your family, your neighbor, your coworker, your children, even your best friend don’t have a place in the matters of your marriage. HUSBAND, WIFE AND GOD. Those are the only 3 who NEED to be a part of your marriage triangle and we need to keep that perspective if we are to have Christian marriages that are pleasing to God. This triangle is simple: The closer to God you get as individuals, the closer you get to each other. The word says, ”A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 A marriage is covenant with God. This means it is far greater than a commitment. In this life there will be many things that come up against this covenant but as long as God is in the at the top of our priorities and in the center of our lives we can withstand anything. So how can we deal with meddling mothers-in-law? You’ve got to arm yourself with the Word of God and take this step:
“Leave and Cleave”
A man will leave his own family, become united to his wife and that is now his new family. This may sound harsh but anything that goes up against this is in direct violation of God’s will (Genesis 2:23-24; Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31). It is now the couples’ responsibility to love and care for one another. The bible does not tell us to cut off our parents, it simply tell us that we are no longer under their authority and that our primary concern must now be for our spouse. Some of you guys aren’t going to like this, but a husband who allows his own mother or his mother-in-law to cause problems in his marriage is not living up to the biblical standard and commandment that God gave to husbands in Ephesians 5: 25-33. No one has the right to invade the privacy of our homes and it is the the full responsibility of the husband to ensure that this does not happen. A husband should be a firm but gentle leader. With respect to the firmness, he should explain to his mother or mother-in-law that her behavior will not be tolerated. He can and should remind her that it is God who gave him the responsibility over his family. She should be made aware that when he relinquishes any of that responsibility, he is being disobedient to the God who bestowed upon him the blessings of a wife and children. With respect to him being gentle (Ephesians 4:32), he should also let her know that while she is a loved and valued member of the family, he is in charge of HIS OWN family. He may need to gently explain that the dynamics of their relationship (as mother and son or on behalf of his wife and her mother, whatever the case) is permanently changed and that this is God’s design for family. Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a cure all. Your mother-in-law may still choose to ignore your request or it may even take her a little time to adjust but having this conversation with her will give you and your wife a sense of peace and strength (Ephesians 6:11-17).
Get Your Spouse on the Same Page
Let’s revisit setting boundaries. Did you know that a whole lot of us are bringing our mother-in-law problems on ourselves? Yeah, I said it! Do you know how many wives get angry at their husbands or vice versa and then they run to their mother and tell them ALL of their marital/family business and then, they have the nerve to get upset when she decides to offer her opinion. Worst of all when you’ve decided that you are ready to forgive your spouse for whatever indiscretion, guess what, she’s still mad! This is dangerous because it is opens us up to the opinions of other people and leads us away from observing that only man, wife and God make up a marriage. It also distracts us from how the Word of God says we should handle conflict in our marriage (I’ll blog/link to this later). Often times we don’t even want their opinion, we just need someone to talk to about our frustrations and while this is okay and often necessary, speak to someone who knows how to LISTEN. What we end up doing is taking home the opinion of others, getting ourselves amped up and not handling the problem between the two of us, because there are 5 or 6 of us involved. If you actually take the time to sit down with you husband, put him in the awkward position of having to so called put his mother or his mother-in-law in her place, please do not call her next week pulling her back into your drama once again. The same goes for the things you choose to tell your friends and family about your marriage. Some things are meant to stay between husband and wife. Speak with your spouse and figure out what things should only be spoken about between the two of you. Don’t just do this out of respect for your husband/wife, but do it out of respect for God. He made the husband the head of the home and these same leave and cleave principles that he has spoken to his mom or mother-in-law about…you need to abide by them too. If not, you could be perpetually putting your husband in a position where he is battling you for his God-given headship. Husbands, the same goes for you…keep your the dealings of your marriage inside of your marriage. People have been marrying for generations and generations. Its time we learned how best to deal with the people outside of our marriage in order to establish and/or maintain the strength within.