Adventure in the In-Law Journey

In-laws often get a bad rap, and some deservedly so. Some in-laws are way too involved in their adult children’s lives. Some make rude comments or give unwanted opinions. Some reject the son or daughter-in-law outright and create a family rift. Some see only the weaknesses of their adult child’s spouse and treat them with contempt.

But most in-laws just want the best for their son or daughter. Most want only to provide wisdom or insight, to help them avoid mistakes that they have made. Most dearly love and care for their adult child’s husband or wife.

We’ve recently spent time with several young couples who find their in-law relationships challenging. They are frustrated, even offended, and they’re not sure what to do. Understandably, there’s often a learning curve in in-law relationships.

Being an in-law has a learning curve as well. My son-in-law is a treasure, a godly and good man who stole my heart when I first met him. I know he’s not perfect, but who is? And I have to give him a lot of credit—as a single mom of my precious only daughter and best friend, he graciously endured four grueling hours interrogating him when they got engaged! Thankfully, he was honest, sincere, patient, and openly revealed his flaws and foibles—and he won my heart.

So when I watched my daughter and him walk down the aisle five years ago, I knew that I was “graduating” from being “Mom”, from being the authority and guide I had been for a quarter of a century. I knew I had to step back and let him lead, and he’s done a great job. They’ve had challenges, to be sure, but they’ve worked together to keep their marriage strong.

Now they have two beautiful children—my grandchildren—and they are working together to parent well. So as a grandmother, I am aware that I need to continue to let them lead their family as well.

The journey of being an in-law (or having in-laws) is just that—a journey. It’s a journey of love, trust, forgiveness, boundaries, care, and concern. It’s letting the younger generation learn and grow together, even while making a few mistakes in the process. And it’s letting the older generation learn and grow within a grace-filled relationship that the younger couple provides.

To you who are struggling with your in-laws? Be patient, please. Understand that your parents love you and want the best for you. Know that there is no textbook for knowing how to bow out and step back from the parenting journey, so give them grace and forgive them when they fail. Family life, whether as a nuclear family or within the extended family, is a lifelong journey and worth the ride.

How has your in-law relationships affected your marriage? I’d like to know.


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