How to Protect Your Marriage from Difficult In-laws


Everyone knows that when you marry your spouse, you gain more than just a life partner. You gain a whole new family. Unfortunately, the people your spouse holds so close to their heart can sometimes become just a little too close for comfort in your marriage. 

So, how do you protect your marriage from other people who think they should have an all-access pass to your relationship?

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Why peace is important-Shift your mindset

First of all, recognize that these people are here to stay. No matter how annoying they are or how much they meddle in your marriage or try to get your spouse to prioritize them over you, you will never be able to separate yourself from them completely.

It’s your responsibility to try and keep the peace between yourself and your in-laws. And if your spouse feels hurt by your family, it is also your responsibility to keep the peace between them. 

There’s a pattern here. You are responsible for doing everything you can to keep things peaceful. Sometimes, you have to be the adult in the room.

You can’t control what other people think, say, or do. You can’t make your in-laws like you. It doesn’t matter if they do or don’t, but it is much more important to make sure your spouse is happy with you.

Sometimes we get a little too obsessed with our own rights in marriage. Yes, you have a right to be happy. You have a right to have your needs met. But what is more important, keeping your commitment to your spouse or your “rights”? Your answer to that question can reveal your real priorities in your marriage. Is it the answer you want?

Take on the Mind of Christ

There’s no doubt that Jesus wants us to treat our in-laws with the utmost respect, no matter how dysfunctional the relationship may be in the beginning. This verse applies to both your own parents and those of your spouse. (It’s that one flesh thing!)

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12

You can protect your marriage from many issues with the in-laws by developing a mindset of showing honor and respect, even when it’s not how you feel. You are the one who controls your actions. Not them. They can do things that hurt you, but you have the final say in how you deal with it.

Realize this: Your spouse’s family is its own little universe. The interactions, history, environment, and relationships are unique to that family, and, like it or not, you are the outsider. 

Being in that position can make you uncomfortable and wonder what in the world is going on with these people. It doesn’t look like the world you grew up in. Remember, their family is full of a mixed bag of people. Some you will get along with, and some you won’t, but they are all loved by God, and you have a responsibility to treat them that way.

Make a plan to reduce conflict

When there is a conflict between you and your in-laws, remember, your spouse often can’t choose sides. No matter what they do, they are going to make one of you mad. That’s not a fair position to put them in, unless the situation is severe.

(That being said, I believe that we should put our spouses before our families. So, if there’s a problem between your spouse and your family, you need to be on your spouse’s side. Why do I say you should do this but not expect your spouse to? Because the only person you can control is yourself.)

You have to accept the role that your in-laws are going to have in your life. Hopefully, if the relationship is messy, it will improve over the years. Until then, you should decide in advance how you are going to react when things get tense. You have to be willing to make an effort and to continue making that effort until progress happens.

Make a list of specific things that happen that make you feel infuriated or offended. Do these issues directly affect your whole family, or mostly just you?

Whole family problems with the in-laws

If the problem affects your whole family, you need to get on the same side as your spouse as soon as possible. 

Talk to your spouse. Decide your joint positions on the issues that affect you both or your children. Discuss these things at a neutral time, not when you are agitated and annoyed. 

Make joint decisions that will protect your marriage from outside influences.

When your in-laws create situations you feel are detrimental to your family, set aside some time, and create a family platform for these issues. It’s worth having a hard conversation if you will be able to protect your marriage in the long run. 

Individual problems with the in-laws

If the problem only affects you. If your spouse doesn’t understand why it bothers you, it could be a part of that “two different universes” metaphor I used before. Prepare yourself for the next time things like this happen: 

  • A member of your spouse’s family bashes you on social media.
  • Someone tries to pull your spouse away from you.
  • They give you a guilt trip because you “don’t let your spouse come see them.”
  • They mock or disregard your beliefs.
  • One of their family puts you down.

What will you do when it happens? Get a plan ready when you are calm, and when it happens, carry out your plan.

For example, suppose your mother-in-law continually reminds you that she liked your husband’s last girlfriend much better than you. In that case, you could prepare yourself to say something like, “I understand you feel that way, but your son chose me, and we are very happy,” and then walk away.

Be prepared to face situations with your in-laws ahead of time to protect your marriage.

If the issue continues, ask your spouse to intervene, but remember, they may not feel like they can because they don’t want to choose sides. Respect that and move on. Put your energies into your spouse and your family and protect your marriage from their influences. 

I’m not saying you should allow your spouse’s family to abuse you in any way. If your spouse talking to them about the issue doesn’t solve it, you may need to limit the amount of time you spend with them. 

You only can only control yourself. Don’t let the enemy create a huge divide between you and your in-laws that will eventually spill over into your marriage. 

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18

When you know you will have to spend time with an in-law that tries to provoke you, try reading the love passage from 1 Corinthians 13. Look at how you need to act toward everyone when you are showing God’s love to them. 

How can you get started?

If your in-laws are causing trouble in your relationship, you may wonder if it’s worth it to continue trying to protect your marriage when it doesn’t seem to be working. However, you are torn because you know that God desires for you to keep your relationship together (except in the worst of situations).

The truth is, no matter the condition of your marriage today, you can create one that is strong, healthy, and based on the Word of God.

At Marriage Confetti, we are committed to helping you build a marriage that will last a lifetime. We do this by focusing on God’s word, creating a positive mindset, and forming new marriage habits.

It’s all about building a better future, starting where you are today.

If you are interested in finding out what we have to offer, please take us for a test drive! 🚗 We offer free, private 45-minute marriage breakthrough sessions on Zoom.💻

Answer a few questions, so we can get to know you, and we’ll schedule a time to chat online! No strings, nothing. We just want to help as many couples as possible move forward in their marriages.

Click here to get started: 45-minute Marriage Breakthrough Session.

Want to read more about making peace with the in-laws? There’s a great book out there called In-Laws: Married with Parents that gives great biblical examples and helps you set boundaries. It’s a short read, only 48 pages, but very helpful!