Are you dealing with difficult in-laws? Do they seem overly demanding or impossible to please? Have you grown weary of even trying to satisfy them?
Imagine how much easier your life and marriage would be if everyone could just learn to get along!
Although now (in 2023), I enjoy a wonderful relationship with my husband’s parents, that has not always been the case. We butted heads in pretty significant ways during our early years of marriage.
But those rocky first years taught me a lot about extending grace to folks who often seemed less than thrilled to have me in their family. In this podcast, I share the seven strategic steps I took to turn things around.
Most of the material for this podcast was taken from a post I wrote nearly 13 years ago (which you can read in its entirety below today’s show notes). I hope you’ll glean some helpful tips for dealing with your in-laws — or any other difficult people in your life!
- “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18)
- “Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel.” (Proverbs 20:3)
- “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” (Proverbs 17:14)
- “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
- “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16)
- “Treat everyone with high regard: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:17)
- “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, as He already existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself by taking the form of a bond-servant and being born in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:3-8)
FOR FURTHER READING:
- How to Pray for Your Parents – works equally well with parents-in-law
- What I Most Appreciate about My Father-in-Law – focus on the good!
- Our Wedding Portrait – so you can judge for yourself how sick & pale I looked 🤪
- Weekly Newsletter – join 19K other subscribers to Flanders Family Freebies
- Love Your Husband, Love Yourself – my life-changing marriage book
- Flanders Family Home Life – my family blog, full of free printable resources + parenting tips
- Loving Life at Home – my marriage blog where I discuss topics of interest to wives
7 Surprising Secrets for Dealing with Difficult In-Laws
A friend of mine recently asked my advice for dealing with an overly-critical mother-in-law. No matter what my friend does, it is never enough, and she is growing tired of even trying to make this woman happy.
We’ve all known people who are overly-demanding, who seem keen to criticize but incapable of showing appreciation. It takes a lot of grace to deal with such people — and doubly so when they are relatives and cannot be easily avoided.
In coping with difficult in-laws, I suggest you follow a few simple guidelines.
This strategy works equally well with difficult bosses, neighbors, or spouses, so give it try next time you find yourself dealing with anyone who seems impossible to please:
First, take their comments at face value
Don’t always be trying to read between the lines. Deal with what they actually say, not what you assume they must mean.
[For tips on matching your body language to your words, click here.]
Second, avoid conflict, if you can.
As much as possible, try not to do things you know will upset her. If your father-in-law hates to be kept waiting, don’t show up two hours late for lunch. If your mother-in-law resents the time your kids spend with their other grandmother, don’t flaunt the fact that your mother accompanied you on your last family vacation.
[For 10 ways to quit quarreling with your spouse, follow this link.]
Third, carefully weigh their complaints
If your in-law’s criticisms have no basis in reality, dismiss them. If amid all their faultfinding you discover a legitimate concern, address it. Apologize if you have wronged them, adjust your attitude, and mend your ways as needed.
[For 5 more tips on responding to negative comments in a positive way, click here.]
Fourth, forgive them.
If you feel weary of even trying to please her, she has undoubtedly hurt your feelings. Let go of any bitterness you may harbor toward her for past cutting remarks. Wipe the slate clean. In the future, approach your mother-in-law as if you had no bad history together, but were meeting for the first time. If it is necessary to limit the time you spend with her, do so only to protect yourself, not to punish her.
[To read the wise counsel Elisabeth Elliot once gave me on forgiveness, click here.]
Fifth, prayer for them.
Your in-laws are people, too, with their own histories and concerns and insecurities and worries and struggles. And they need prayer, just as surely as you do.
So pray for them. Pray for your relationship to them. Ask God to help you see your in-laws with His eyes and love them as He loves and bless and honor and forgive and care for them in a way that accurately represents Christ’s care for us.
Prayer changes things. And, even if your in-laws manage to resist changing in the way you might desire, your prayers will undoubtedly change your own heart toward them. And that may be the most important change of all.
[Want a free printable prayer guide to help you prayer your spouse’s parents? click here.]
Sixth, show consideration.
Pick one or two things you know are important to her and make every effort to do them consistently. Birthdays and Mother’s Day are a big deal to my own mother-in-law. She wants us to remember her with a pretty card, signed by her son, and delivered precisely on the big day. The most important thing to her (getting the card on time) and the most important thing to me (including a long, newsy letter from home) are two different things. If I can’t do both, she’d much rather I send the signed and sealed card in a timely fashion and save the news for later. So that’s what I do.
[Click here for the #1 rule for building a happy relationship with your spouse (or anybody else).]
Seventh, always be respectful.
Someday when you are older, you may be a little cantankerous yourself, so treat your mother-in-law with the patience you’d want your daughter-in-law to show you. It may be impossible to keep her happy, but at least you can keep your conscience clear by behaving toward her in a way that is above reproach. Base your actions on love. Season your words with grace. Hold your opinions in humility. And make it your goal to do right by her, whether it pleases her or not.
[For 25 ways to communicate respect to your spouse, follow this link.]