Caught in the In-Law Crossfire

 by Chuck Snyder
 co-chaplain for the Seattle Mariners


Dear Chuck
My mom and my husband had a huge blowout a few days ago, and both have said that they don't want to see each other. They are both Christians, but tempers flared. He yelled at her, she grabbed his shirt and arm once. He then said some swear words and even pushed her away once. He does feel how he reacted to her "attack" was wrong and sent my parents an email apologizing, but he still does not want to talk to them. My parents don't think that they have done anything wrong. They want to go to our pastor and tell him what happened. I am stuck in the middle and don't know exactly what to do. All I can think is to pray. But both parties try to get me on their side. Please advise.

Chuck's Response
I was sad reading your note about being caught in the middle of a squabble. Sounds like you have three children to deal with, and I'm sorry. At least, they are acting like children. They might say they are Christians, but the Bible I am reading says that we will know if a person is a true, sold out, born-again, dedicated disciple of Jesus Christ by their LOVE not their angry abuse. For sure, we all make mistakes. Your husband's attitude is very immature, but there is nothing you can do about it.

If your parents tell the pastor so be it. Change churches. Your husband is your first priority, but I think there is a middle ground that you can take. When one party tries to bring you to their side, just say, "I'm not part of this controversy and I'm not going to take sides. I recommend that you both ask forgiveness, and let's get on with our lives." They might not listen to you, but at least you will have tried. They are acting like children, and I know you are sad to see that.

I don't have any solutions for you personally, other than just staying out of the way. For sure YOU visit your mom from time to time to honor her, and be the best wife you can for your husband. Don't put any pressure on him to ask forgiveness or whatever. He will resist your instruction. Just try to be neutral and reflect back any emotional feelings your mom or husband expresses with some statements like these:

  • That really ties you up in knots, doesn't it? 
  • Tell me more about that. 
  • That was really frustrating, wasn't it? 
  • My, my. 
  • And then what happened? 
  • And what else do you feel? 
  • That was real difficult, wasn't it? 
  • Isn't that something?
  • For goodness sake.
  • I'll bet you couldn't believe it, could you?
  • I'll bet you felt helpless, didn't you?
  • That made you so sad, didn't it?
  • What else did she say?
  • How did that make you feel?
  • How about that.
  • Did you expect that?
  • That must have hurt.

In this way it will appear that you understand what they are saying, but you are not actually agreeing with them. I wish I had an easier answer, but these are my thoughts for your consideration.

Chuck Snyder



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Updated 05/24/2005