Getting Along with In-Laws

 by Chuck Snyder
 co-chaplain for the Seattle Mariners


Dear Chuck
I have been married to my dear husband for just a year and lately we have been struggling with the boundaries we are trying to set with his family. You see, none of his family members are believers and they partake in a lot of behavior and attitudes that make us uncomfortable from drinking and cursing to lying and gossiping. We have set distance between us and them because of this but find it difficult to deal with their guilt trips and manipulation. What does the Bible say about relationships with in-laws in this circumstance? Please help me, we want to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.

Chuck's Response
Thanks for the note concerning the differences between your in-laws and yourselves. Just being with them does not mean you have to partake of the things you think are wrong, does it? They can't force you to drink, or swear, or tell dirty jokes or whatever else they are doing that you don't like. What I would suggest is to call on them either as a group or singly (which is probably better) in person if possible, but email if you are not strong enough to face them. Ask their forgiveness for being so standoffish. 

I fully understand your feelings, but the Bible says that we are to treat our non-Christian friends with tolerance, acceptance and unconditional love. Our whole purpose is to live "Christ" in front of our precious non-Christian, atheist, agnostic, profane, blasphemous, immoral, heathen family and friends. How are they going to be touched by Christ unless they taste a little of His unconditional love? When you hear them take the Lord's name in vain don't correct them or radiate disapproval, just pray to yourself something like "Thank you Lord for trusting me with these precious people who do not know You personally. Help me give them your love and acceptance because of Your Son Jesus. Amen." You don't have to participate or pretend to go along with something you hate. Just try to radiate Christ's love, and I know that God will help you. Just asking their forgiveness will make them want to smell your breath to see if you are finally on some controlled substance because it will be so out of character for you. 

This is easy for me to say, and hard for you to do. But you could transform your entire family by some good old unconditional love. At least it's worth a shot. Let me know if you want to talk further.

Chuck Snyder



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Updated 05/24/2005