QUESTION: My in-laws are overbearing. Help!


In-laws are those individuals we inherit when we marry. The Bible tells us that a man and woman leave their parents and cleave to one another becoming one (Genesis 2:24) and thereby create a new family. This new family is not an extension of the parental family; rather, it is a new unit.

If there is an in-law problem, who holds the responsibility? If it is the husband's family that is controlling, then it is the husband (with support from his wife) who needs to lay down boundaries for his family. In like manner, if it is the wife's family that is controlling, it is the wife's responsibility (with support from her husband) to lay down boundaries for his family.

Regardless of which set of in-laws the interference comes from, it is an assault upon the sanctity of the marriage outlined in the Bible. A man who allows his parents to interfere with his marriage is not living up his responsibility to love and protect his wife. A wife who allows her parents to interfere with her marriage, is not in a right relationship with her husband. She is to respect him and put his needs before her family’s needs or demands.
  • Set boundaries and agree upon them. Send a clear message and then consistently implement the boundaries. This means that the in-laws are not the final arbiters of the relationship -- the husband and wife are. A couple has a right to privacy and when that privacy is violated, they have the responsibility to see that it is protected. In-laws do not have an inalienable right to insinuate themselves in their married children's business. However, it is up to the married children to make their desires known and then be consistent.

  • If the in-laws continue to try to thwart the boundaries that are jointly set by the married couple, then there must be consequences for that action. A temporary separation from all contact with in-laws may be a painful time, but it may also be needed to protect the marriage. The responsibility of the husband to the wife and the wife to the husband is paramount in maintaining a healthy relationship.

    Remember, we are not responsible for other people’s actions or attitudes, only our own. Romans 12:17-18 tells us that we are not to return evil for evil and we are to attempt to live at peace with all. Sometimes in order to live in peace, we must separate ourselves from those who are "self appointed overseers in other men's matters."
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