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Establishing Healthy Boundaries With Your In-Laws (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Cross Radio
July 18, 2022 6:00 am

Establishing Healthy Boundaries With Your In-Laws (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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July 18, 2022 6:00 am

Well-known psychologists and authors, Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud share broadcast advice on how to relate with your in-laws. (Part 1 of 2)

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Today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly will explore the issue of in-laws and how that relationship will impact her marriage and Jim there is a warning that we might have for women about extended families. I believe this was was guys as well. You know that when you married your friends who also in narrative, the king, the queen of the whole court and maybe even a court jester as well.

I think everyone can relate. There's always that weird uncle Bob.

But whenever this topic of in-laws comes up you can feel the tension in the air.

We've all heard the mother-in-law jokes and stories on social media about crazy encounters with her parents or his parents, sometimes those relationships don't go smoothly. As you might expect your perhaps hope for and like said we don't often think about the extended family were marrying into and how those relationships will impact our marriage.

So today we can offer you some practical ideas about how to establish healthy boundaries with your in-laws, and God honoring way when we address this topic in the past, Jim.

We pointed research that says that when you have a healthy relationship with your in-laws.

It actually helps your marriage pretty substantially what's right and that was certainly true for Jean and me, and I regret that my wife Jean didn't get the unlock experience because my folks had passed away years ago.

I believe Jean and my mom would've really hit it off and become close friends. I think they really would have on the other hand, that Jean's parents were alive. Up until recently, so we had that experience. And you know there's always those little things, but they were so kind toward us and I love when we would take the kids and they spend time with the kids usually appear in Estes Park in Colorado. They love, and there's just a great memory for us.

That's the kind of relationship we want to help you aim for. With your in-laws. It might not be perfect but it can be healthy and good. Yet we have some experts to help us better unpack and understand these dynamics Drs. Henry cloud and John Townsend were in her studio a while ago and they talked about marriage and in-laws in both men or psychologist authors and popular speakers in a breach of their sons-in-law's as well.

Their most famous for their series of books about boundaries in relationships. Now you can learn more about our guests and their book boundaries when you call 800 the letter a in the word family 800-232-6459 or check the program notes for details. Jim, here's how you began the conversation with Drs. Townsend and cloud on today's episode of Focus on the Family. Let's talk about general atmosphere out there when you're counseling and engaging couples.

How often is the in law issue involved in marital problems.

Jim, it's huge what you find a lot of times is instead a really good line about the space that they allow and there's a good appropriate space to allow where at the same time there's a commonality in a history and a friendship. No one else thinking about Ruth in the book of Ruth. Her her mother-in-law, Naomi had a wonderful relationship, so there really good relationships but it comes down to the problems being when something either the husband or the wife has allow them to do than leaving and cleaving they need, then the law problem gets worse and it comes in and feeling controlled feel and helicopter parented feeling tell what did they feel intrusive and you gotta be an advocate for your marriage. So it's a big problem. In fact, Cambridge University that came out of the study where they identified 60% of women felt that conflict with their mother-in-law caused long-term stress 60% of married women. That's remarkable in my mind in two thirds of women felt like there mother-in-law's were jealous of the marriage that's probably a common theme I would think that this mother has raised her little precious little boy and now he's in the arms of another woman and how does a mom deal with that in a healthy way, what's going on there. Well, you know, a lot of times you hear it talked about between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law right, but a lot of times what that really speaks to is a young man who has not properly separated and individuated from their own family and so the poor wife is getting pulled into this struggle that would have been there. You know whether she was there or not.

And so the Bible talks about leaving and cleaving and there is a balance that is very important. It is so important to have multigenerational in law great relationships. There's grandparenting relationships that are so important. There's help. There's all sorts of stuff and so you gotta have the high value of in-laws and at the same time get a couple of things right and it comes down in my view to governance in resources will what I hear.

You also implying and that is it's worth the effort to develop that relationship absolutely think a lot of pressure well and a lot of people when you enter the marriage covenant.

It's in their minds. The married spouse to say I did not sign up for this.

I did not sign up to have to engage your mother or your father and you begin to just immediately set that up as an adversarial relationship instead of a golden opportunity to treasure your spouse in a way that I think the Lord would be pleased with, and actually they are signing up for coinvest that NRA bitten no one while you're dating because you are signing up right that's a great point to take the time to spend time don't avoid them.

To be around you all on your lot. They should be friends I mean is one of the richest potential relationships that anybody can ever have. And it's very important to work earlier this year I asked a question on my blog.

We did a blog on this idea of in-laws and how is your relationship with your in-laws. We had hundreds of people respond both in a positive direction, but also in a negative direction. About 40% of those who responded reported positive in law experiences, but among wives. That number dropped almost 10 points. Today it seems that the tension between wife and mother-in-law is higher than the other combination with the husband to her mom and dad what is unique about that. What is driving some of that. Thanks that's particular to a wife and the parents of the husband. Well, there's a couple things going on. Once what Henry mentioned was the mom whose son has not really done the leaving and cleaving it so she still his golden child or his little boy Ernesto thingy to be 35 years old, but the other thing is, I think that sometimes when the wife will experiences at a deeper level because she's more made for relationship than we are.

You know than men are. She's more the connector and the attacher. So any kind of disruptions in the relationship affect her more, but let me cut to the chase on this.

I think Jim is if you've got that problem very best thing you can do it through the middle of it and you got the feeling intruded upon and feeling left out is that the spouse who's got the intrusive mother-in-law has got to have the talk and say I love you guys, but I prefer my spouse and she comes number one or he comes number one above.

You and I gotta put them first because so many wives special say what he never says that he just lets him do they want name and and he never says that I come first and I feel so like I don't matter that I would think many husbands.

They don't want that battle. They just have learned to live with the newly emotional relationship with their moms and they haven't done anything to leave and cleave and to build that healthy distance yeah and I think it's important for him in all to sit down together and say, let's talk about because what's really important is that we have really good relationships and we want time with you guys and we also have to figure out you know how to establish our own family and so vacations or you know holidays, all of that.

Let's really talk about how we can have a really good balance here to to have our own family and have the extended family that let me read one of the quotes that came in on the block cited is the one woman wrote and said my mother-in-law is meddling, intrusive and overbearing. And worst of all she lives with us while she's got a deal with this. If that is the underlying reaction that she's having to her mother-in-law's presence. Done the right thing, in my view, which is to take in your elderly parents that that's a great thing to do.

It's one of the worst things in Western culture. We don't do that well here. In essence you've invited that what she perceives to be the cancer into the home. What would you said our but is like having any kind of person in your life. There were To be some covenants and ground rules set about the nature of the relationship, how much time we spend together in the nature of that.

A lot of times this discussion, it was never handed so you do want to welcome them into and if she's experiencing mother-in-law is a cancer sometimes a suggestion on the mother-in-law because the wife herself hasn't been able to be clear about expectations and what works and what doesn't work and in Jim at the same time I I have seen a lot of situations where it may be from the families of origin that they come from, but where the daughters-in-law or the sons-in-law's they've never have good models that they do have a responsibility and a duty to the spouses parents into extended family and sometimes go to training the other way is not always the mother of the father-in-law sometimes summarize. Gotta be trained how does a multigenerational family operate, you can have justice total detachment and you know, don't care attitude will it's fascinating to you.

I studied in Japan it was SATA for a year when I was in college and I lived with the Japanese family and I got a really interesting insight into that culture, living it, and the deference that they paid to mother-in-law's and particularly in the Asian culture.

It can the tips in the other direction. There's a very high expectation of the daughter-in-law that the daughter-in-law will clean the home and do the grocery shopping and actually in many ways almost be a servant to the mother-in-law and mother-in-law's had to do it when they were daughter-in-law, so if the expectation is quite high in Western culture were so independent. It is about the immediate family.

I don't really care that much if I'm connected to the extended family. I met some of the attitude at her and that's that. In those you see you missing out. The two extremes. You know that it you actually become almost a slave in that a Asian context or your totally disconnected in the Western context. What's a biblical framework widening to biblical framework is that there is a multigenerational tie and that's very clear in the Bible. At the same time there's a leaving and cleaving in terms of where the primary unit is and I think one of the ways to think about. This is where the governance is note for each family unit is gotta be in control of making his decisions about parenting and about, you know all the values and all that kind of stuff and at the same time permeable boundaries where there is input in discussions and learning and all of that, but ultimately where they govern their own family unit without losing the ties in the relationship that I think it's time some of us can kind of shake this off because we don't have bad experiences in this regard and we could imagine a marriage being on the line because of in law issues.

But again, let me read to quotes we got off the blog and have you respond to this in general. One was from a woman, she writes, my mother-in-law expect my husband to put her needs first over mine we can just stop right now Searcy that that just doesn't work right and so that wife is struggling because the created order to guide design as being vile in the husband needs to know is the husbands from exactly what she goes on to say, I don't think our marriage will survive this. That was the point I want to drive to. This is such a deep wound in her that she's not being placed in the right position. They relationally that she's willing to give up right.

These valves will be go back to who's got the take the next step and it's really the husband you really don't blame the mother-in-law for those things because she may not know what the ground rules are, she may not know the expectations are and she's just maybe she has no boundaries and she's sort of you know over involved, but the husband needs to stand up and in a loving way to let his mom know that his marriage comes first. But he really wants revolved and so when the daughter-in-law trying to solve with the mother-in-law this kind of a no win there, but it seems that that there's a tough conversation. It has to happen then for that wife to address her husband to say this is not working so much so that I don't think we can make it and then for the husband to go against 30 maybe 40 years of training from mom that if he sits down has this conversation, I can just imagine the fireworks that he is to face.

Boy that is a real dilemma especially for this 34 years of training me out.

Now we will do that night he may need to sit down with somebody you trust and talk about what life is really about. Like why did you get married because it's clear.

Leave all others forsake all others in the kind of return to that and and kinda get a new perspective on his values and I think a lot of these problems can be avoided when there is a very loving, respectful conversation that happens where the couple goes to the end my parents in and says you know what, we love you guys and we want to spend time with you.

We want to hang out.

We we want to figure out how that works… Kinda talk about what that would look like and what everybody's expectations are and have an adult conversation about it where they really feel valued and cared about and then you have heard a lot of this sounds like that poor wife might have to come alive through her teeth though to say something so forward to say I want to spend time with you a minutes.

It seems pretty apparent from the comment that Jim read that there's not a real desire for relationship to their well she's certainly not wanting more time because it's like she's getting more more than she needs, but I don't want no time but she doesn't want no time in and I think that to reassure you know everybody that the relationship is desired is just how were structuring the relationship right now isn't working. But let me ask this question on behalf of the wife who is right there and she struggling in this area. How does she talk to her husband about that difficulty what she's experiencing in her feelings about it. I think it's very important that she starts from the vulnerable position and not the angry position that she talks about how sometimes I feel a little ignored in our relationship and sometimes it feels like your your little more attuned and caring about what your mom wants than sometimes what I need and I end up feeling lonely and sad. That's very different than coming at it with you don't pay attention to me and you don't do it you know is just a totally different conversation. Well, it's good advice.

Again, it's so natural, you know, when we look at this and we apply all of these things. All these truths that we been talking to the life.

Isn't it interesting that when we rely on our flesh to resolve the conflict. Meaning we go to anger. We go to more radical expressions of our motion rather than a biblical expression of our motion which is this is how I'm feeling. This is how your hurting me.

Can you help me.

It's amazing how much more trauma we create, but were working out of our own fleshly nature in that regard are right and whenever you know the Bible says the wrath of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God in there very few problems that leading with anger is going to get a good result.

Why do we keep going to that well well because I think it's, you know, we experience loss or frustration. We want to protest. It is a natural emotion to protested and protests is good, but what the anger should kind of give us the signal to. I've got to get proactive and protest this problem, but do it in a way that's going to have a good resolution in God's formula is speaking the truth in month nine. Your book boundaries in marriage, you talk about some of the things that can create problems between the husband and wife that I think you call that intruders you include in-laws on that list. Yeah well, think about what is required to have a good marriage when you got to have the love and the truth between you give building a family of building a culture working on finances and parenting and all the things that create the next 40 or 50 years.

There are all sorts of intruders that come in and kind of undo what you're doing. There's cultural intruders. There's there's sometimes friends that are kinda toxic and if you haven't done the leaving and cleaving.

Sometimes the mother-in-law and father-in-law can be seen that way so your first job is to guard what you're trying to create in this family structure and that your primary responsibilities. The garden intruders. But you don't make the mother-in-law and the father-in-law of the bad guys here, you make the fact that you're vulnerable to that are still need them in some way and you fix it within the couple will let let's go back to some of those examples we talked about from the blog post we did you if there is that kind of conflict that deep conflict right think my marriage is going to survive. Let's role-play little bit on the husband and talk to me and my wife about how we need to address this issue just help me understand we were at the brink of divorce. And it's because them as we can still love each other but this frustration runs so deep. What would you counsel me to do what can I do first to engage the problem leading to very first thing is it's not about the and loss is a symptom. Yeah, if their marriage is about to break up. There is something that he is not getting about the level of distress that she's in and whether it doesn't matter what the topic is if you got a guy that is so unplugged from the amount of misery that she's in.

That's the first point. Okay so you how to work on that.

You gotta look at there's a say in note. Your marriage is in a lot of pain and something is breaking down in the two of your's ability to hear each other's needs and pain and to respond to that. Well, we can figure out the practical part of solving in of the family relationships later. But how have you guys gotten so a part in this, because that's the first part of the problem and the second part of the problem is your view of the function of marriage as God designed it so many people think that marriage is supposed to make me happy. So my wife or my husband. Their task is to make me happy person.

God never intended that way marriage is supposed to make me grow and sometimes growing means confrontation and dealing with reality, and then I get happy because were growing together with got to get happen itself as the primary goal of marriage.

The primary goal of marriage is to grow at there's a collective sigh as people here that John Amis because so much of our culture even in Christian circles is about my happiness, my joy, not necessarily with the Lord wants for me and you don't make me happy the way my mom made me correct and Eric Harrison and that need to step up and eat. We've lost the covenant relationship and marriage and turned it into the contract and your your hitting on something I think is a core problem not just an in law relationships, but in our marriages that it is about my happiness and about what I want and what I perceive I need. And while that is a whole bucket of issues that we need to deal with.

Let me say though in the role-play. Let's say I want to hear. You know, my wife and I are one year better patients and so we've tried to mend these big issues.

She feels better defended in their relationship with the in-laws. But now how do we finish that process and what kind of discussion do we have with father-in-law and mother-in-law. How should that play out. We go to dinner with the dinner table, what should we be say what I would do this at dinner. That's a dumb idea that no seriously I mean if it is it that what what is wrong with going to the in-laws and saying you know what, we love you guys and and we want our relationship to be strong. We've had some struggles in figuring out what you want from us in and what we need from you and all of that and we haven't done a good job. It talking about it so we'd like to invite you to sit down and let's talk about our expectations and talk about how we can have a good relationship and what all of us need here and then I will go further. Jim that this is worth it to say in if we can't do that alone we go see a good family counselor together all four of us. You know so many problems with the in-laws can be solved when you do the hard work as a couple and the in-laws just most of them on this is really serious like and what he was talking about must appreciate that. I remember when our kids were really young and my mom on the first floor so my mama never had grandkids before and so she's kinda trying to figure it out and were at dinner and my wife and kids and my parents and on my kids acted out and I'll talk to Lowder something or whatever and my mom came in as the mom disciplining my son and I thought okay I got a nip this in the bud so my mom and I had a little sidebar conversation I just said this is new for all of us but can you just come to me and say you know Ricky's doing whatever and she got a she gospel thanks and scan kinda trying to figure this out to so it is that the conversation doesn't have to be bad. They appreciate sometimes that, structure and value you know with the blog post. There was one that caught my attention. It was so positive and I think it's important the letter really know this example, this young man rode in and said I became engaged a week ago and my future in-laws are part of the reason that I propose goes on to say they've always been kind and hospitable to me and they were overjoyed when I asked him for permission to marry their daughter. That's a very positive statement is that this is a young man who's looking to the future and actually that's part of his proposal is looking at the relationship with the in-laws.

That's healthy, don't you think I was very healthy and it it really bodes well for the future relationship that you have. If you're starting out on a good track and outside all the singles out there are the engaged couples get this right from day one, you know, this is actually said healthy relationship and show them caring and respect them and all that will go a lot better later as Dr. Henry cloud our guest today on Focus on the Family, joined by his colleague Dr. John Townsend, their sharing insights about marriage and family relationships be written so well about these topics in the book boundaries when to say yes when to say no to take control of your life, and John, this is been a great conversation today about some of the common pitfalls husbands and wives can experience when they haven't navigated that relationship with their in-laws very well. That's probably why we have so many law jokes right in the core message we keep coming back to is the importance of good communication not perfect. You can expect to have healthy boundaries in your marriage or with your extended family. If you haven't taken the time to sit down and talk about it. I bet your spouse has some great insights about your in-laws that this issue is so important for couples to get right and we plan to come back next time with more from Henry and John will discuss how you can reap the benefits of a healthy loving relationship with your in-laws how that will strengthen your own marriage and be a blessing to your children, but in the meantime, I want to recommend you get a copy of John Henry's book boundaries. This is a must-read resource for every marriage and every Christian because there's so much more content in this book about healthy relationships be on the topic of in-laws that we can send you a copy of boundaries when you make a pledge of any amount Focus on the Family today your ongoing support. Every month helps provide the fuel we need to strengthen marriages, equip parents and share God's love with hurting people and if a pledge is more than you can do right now I get it one time gift is fine.

Just let us know and will send the book as our way of saying thank you your request book boundaries by doctors cloud and Townsend when you donate generously, call 800 letter a in the word family 800-232-6459 or check the program notes to learn more.

It might be that this conversation has surfaced some concerns that you have about your own marriage or family relationships.

Please know that we have a team of caring Christian counselors here at Focus on the Family ready to help donors make it possible for us to offer you a one time phone consultation with one of those counselors called today and request to speak with one of them are number again 800 K and the word family. Next time you'll hear more from doctors cloud and Townsend about healthy ways to interact with your in-laws for now on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team. Thanks for listening to Focus on the Family I'm John Fuller and Buddy back as we once more help you and your family driving Christ, you know, nearly 60% of American adults don't have a will in place big number and having a well can leave a heavy burden for family left behind if you need a well but don't know where to begin. Focus on the Family help download I resource 15 questions to ask when preparing a well it's our gift to you@focusonthefamily.com/prepare my well that's focusonthefamily.com/prepare my well