We think we all need to read more positive images of in-laws. Send us your positive in-law stories and read Jenna D. Barry's article on setting boundaries with in-laws.
Full Article: Growing a Strong Marriage: Tips for Dealing with In-laws by Jenna D. Barry
Growing a Strong Marriage: Tips for Dealing with In-LawsLast spring I was trying to decide what to do about some green grass that had crept into my flower garden. To pull out the grass or not to pull out the grass…that was the question. I thought to myself, grass isn’t really a weed, but I don’t want it to grow where it is growing. Just then my husband walked up and made the profound statement “A weed is anything that grows where you don’t want it to grow.” I decided that he was a genius and pulled the grass out from around the flowers. Then to prevent the same problem from occurring again, I put in some decorative rocks to serve as a boundary between the flowers and the grass.
When it comes to relationships, a ‘weed’ is anything that gets in the way of maintaining a strong, healthy marriage. That day in my yard I realized that my marriage is like that flower garden and my in-laws are like the grass that had crept into it. Ever since I put in that boundary of rocks to keep the grass out of my flowers, it has been easier to maintain my flower garden. Likewise, ever since I established boundaries (AKA limits) with my in-laws, it has been easier to maintain a strong, healthy marriage.
You may have the most wonderful in-laws on earth but if you have not set any boundaries with them, then they may cross into territory where they don’t belong. Eventually this will take a toll on your marriage, as you may have already figured out. To have a strong marriage and a healthy relationship with your in-laws, you must set and maintain boundaries.
Setting boundaries is a way to protect what is most important to you. It’s a way to stay on alert and tackle problems early so that nothing creeps in and destroys your marriage. You can set boundaries with your in-laws about advice, money, phone calls, visits at their house, visits at your house, holidays, vacations, gossip, raising your kids, etc.
In a perfect world, you and your spouse will unite as a team in order to set effective boundaries with them. However, if you are not living in a perfect world, then you may need to gain your spouse’s loyalty so that he will make you a priority over his parents. (I realize that often the wife is the one who has difficulty transferring her loyalty, but I’m going to use the husband as an example here just to make the sentences easier to read).
It can be extremely difficult for a man to transfer his loyalty from his parents to his wife when he marries, especially if his parents try to make him feel guilty for doing so. He may want to transfer his loyalty to you but just doesn’t know how.
On that day when my husband and I were out in the back yard, he said, “I want to help you pull weeds but I can’t tell which plants are weeds and which ones aren’t.” I could’ve snapped at him saying, “I can’t believe you can’t tell which ones are weeds. If you loved me, you would know which ones were weeds and help me pull them.” Unfortunately when our in-laws cross our boundaries, we tend to snap at our husbands instead of lovingly explaining our needs. Be patient and persistent with your husband. Gently tell him what you would like for him to say and do in specific situations with his parents.
Used With Permission by Jenna D. Barry
Columnist and Author