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However, at a minimum, if one spouse is uncomfortable with an in-laws’ interference in the marriage, then some change or compromise must occur. Are you willing to listen to your spouse and make the necessary changes? Or, will you resist any change or counseling help? Your reaction will determine how quickly you will be able to resolve this issue.

2. Discuss God’s plan for in-laws. One of the best places to begin to resolve this issue is to determine what the Bible teaches about your relationship with your in-laws. What Scripture teaches on this subject must be your standard of truth concerning what is right and wrong. Notice the first thing God declared after He created Eve and brought her to Adam and she became his wife. God said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Therefore, from the very beginning of time God saw the importance of giving this direction to couples. It is the leave and join principle. The word leave is one of the strongest Hebrew words meaning to forsake, leave behind, let alone, or abandon. The word joined is another very strong word in the opposite direction. It means to stick like glue, pursue, or hold fast to. God is giving you a direct command to cut the cord with your parents and to be glued together as one with your spouse, thus creating a new family structure independent of all others.

Therefore, honestly consider, have you abandoned your previous way of relating to your mother and father? Are you more concerned about your parents’ favor and respect or your mate’s respect? Have you forsaken the influence of your parents’ opinions or are you still controlled by what they think about you? Or, about your spouse?

More importantly, have you pursued a new relationship with your mate that supersedes the one you have had with your parents? Have you sought to be glued together with your spouse in your decision making by pursing your mate’s opinion first? If you have not done these two things here are the major reasons why there is conflict with your mate.

3. Set reasonable boundary lines. The next step in resolving the in-law issue in your marriage is to set reasonable boundary lines that both husband and wife agree upon. What do I mean by boundary lines? These are predetermined limits that you set so both husband and wife knows what will be allowed in regard to their in-laws. God has set national, moral, and physical boundaries to give us guidance and protection (Num. 33:37; Ex. 20:14; Job 26:10). Let me give you some examples of in-law boundaries. (a.) You must set informational boundaries so you both know what information will be shared with your parents. This boundary will keep you from disclosing information to your in-laws that your spouse desires to remain private. Many conflicts arise between marriage partners simply because this boundary is violated. According to Scripture certain information should not be shared with anyone: “Debate your case with your neighbor, and do not disclose the secret to another” (Prov. 25:9). (b.) You must also set time boundaries so that both will know how much time will be spent at the in-laws’ house and how much time they will be in your home. Sometimes husbands and wives fight because the in-laws are always over at your house and you don’t seem to have a moment to yourselves. Or, your spouse is daily at their parents’ home and not taking care of responsibilities at home. Or, there are constant phone calls by the in-law to find out what you are doing that impose upon the time and privacy of your marriage. (c.) You must also set decision-making boundaries so that both husband and wife understand that they will make the decisions in their marriage without having to consult the in-laws first. Or, once a decision is made you should not allow your mind to be changed because one of the in-laws voices disapproval. Taking such action can lead the couple into constant arguments because one spouse wants to back out of the decision. (d.) You must also set boundaries concerning the discipline of your children so that the standards you set at home are not contradicted when they go to your in-laws’ home. If these boundaries are not set, communicated, and upheld it creates confusion for your children and conflict for the couple. Additional conflict occurs when a spouse refuses to correct their own parents for violating the couples’ boundary.

4. Communicate the boundaries. Once you have agreed with your spouse concerning what the boundaries will be, then you must communicate that information to your in-laws. This can be done when the issue comes up or when the need arises. For example, when you drop off your children at the in-laws’ home, remind them of your rules for their behavior and what they are allowed to watch on television. If there are specific things you are trying to address in the children’s’ discipline ask the in-laws to reinforce your decision. Or, if you have made a decision that the in-laws don’t like, communicate that you appreciate their concern but this decision was carefully weighed by both of you and this is what you have concluded is best for your children. I have found that it is best to have the blood relation communicate your desires with his or her own parents. You could begin something like this: “My wife and I have decided” or “My husband and I have decided.” Then your parents know that this is a unanimous decision.

Therefore, if you have not kept the agreement made concerning the family boundaries then sit down again with your mate and discuss the issue. Ask forgiveness for violating your agreement (Luke 17:3-4). Clarify again your concerns and agree together about what should be done. Then keep your commitments. This is essential if you want your spouse to trust you and your word. When you keep your word your spouse will safely trust in you (Prov. 31:11).

Good luck and tell me how you are doing. Let us know.

How To Set Boundaries With In-Laws  was originally published on

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