Whether you’re a newlywed or an “oldie-wed”, like me, dealing with the “in-laws” and “outlaws” can be a challenge.
Your “in-laws” have profoundly shaped every aspect of your spouse’s life. Your parents, the “outlaws,” have impacted yours. When the two of you start making decisions, both of your family of origin’s views and values can clash. Add some unsolicited advice from the in-laws and/or outlaws, and a showdown begins brewing between the two of you! But you’re not feuding over the decision; it’s all about supporting or defending your parents!
So, how do you treat your in-laws and outlaws? .
Leave and Cleave: Genesis 2:24 states that you are to “leave” your parents and “cleave” to your spouse. “Leaving” means you are to run from the arms of your parents into the arms of your spouse. “Cleaving” means that you’re holding onto one another so tightly that nothing, including your parents, siblings or even your own children, can squeeze between you!
The fact is you grew up in your family of origin for a season … and then you choose a spouse to live with for life! You leave your temporary family to establish a permanent one of your own.
So you need to re-prioritize your relationships. Your spouse is to be the number one person in your life! Yet, God’s command to honor our fathers and mothers is still in place. You don’t stop loving, honoring or respecting them, but you do need to establish some new relationship boundaries.
What are some of those boundaries? Here are three suggestions:
1. If you are sharing too many details of your marital problems with your parents, you are out of bounds. Conflicts between couples need to be resolved privately together as a couple. Your spouse will feel betrayed if you share intimate details of your marriage with others. In-laws and outlaws will feel they are forced to take sides. Neither of these things help to bring a positive resolution to your marital issues.
2. If you are seeking to have your emotional needs met by your parents, or anyone other than your spouse, you are out of bounds. If you are seeking to meet the emotional needs of someone other than your spouse … you are out of bounds. Guard who feeds your heart.
3. Finally … If you are relying too heavily on parental help to make important decisions for your marriage … you are out of bounds. There is no doubt that you can benefit from parental wisdom and experience … just be sure you tap into it together … and that you make a unified decision.
Here’s a question to help you see if there is a boundary issue in your marriage…Are we in any way too dependent on our parents for physical, relational, emotional or financial support? If so, you probably have a boundary issue that needs to be explored.
So, if you’re dealing with in-law or outlaw boundary issues, the old adage “good fences make good neighbors” might come into play here. If in-laws and outlaws are getting too invasive and involved, it’s time to have a talk about setting boundaries … and once these boundaries are in place, insist that they are respected.