To have life-giving, healthy relationships with your in-laws or anyone, you must constantly pay attention to boundaries. In Psalm 16:6, David reminds us that the Lord established his boundary lines in beautiful or pleasant places. In other words, God wants the places He gives us to live to be lovely and beautiful.
Your home is one of those sacred spaces. They are the places set apart for us to create and develop a family. When couples get married, they become one and create a new family, so they have to figure out what their sacred space feels and looks like. They should also be willing to “leave and cleave” to each other, meaning boundary lines should be established with family and friends.
Sadly, healthy relationships with family can be the most difficult to form and create. If the in-laws are disrupting the pleasantness of your boundaries, maybe your boundary lines should be set or evaluated. Here are some ways you can set boundaries with your in-laws.
Set boundaries ahead of time.
Discussing boundaries with others can be challenging if both spouses don’t clearly understand the limits. Sometimes, we don’t take the time to define our limits but respond in anger when we suddenly realize that someone has overstepped them. We isolate or withdraw from the relationship or cut it off altogether. Establishing your boundaries together is an essential first step. It would help if you asked questions like, “How often will we visit my parents and your parents?” “What holidays will we spend with whom?” and “What are the parents’ expectations?” These questions are only a starting point, so feel free to come up with questions that apply to your situation to help determine your boundaries.
Talk about boundaries with your spouse.
Discuss boundaries for your in-laws with your spouse before getting married. You and your spouse should talk about what topic you will discuss and what you’re comfortable with when it comes to visiting and any other necessary topic. You may learn the hard way what some ineffective issues are to discuss. If you have a close relationship with your parents, they might become your confidant when marital problems arise and might begin developing unforgiveness toward your husband or wife. Luckily, you might realize that it may not be best for your marriage to share these problems with your parents. This way, your parents can stay a fan of your relationship, support you in your role as a wife or husband, and honor their son or daughter-in-law.
Find unique ways to interact.
Typically, families won’t agree on every matter. Still, tension comes up when you spend too much time together and are too close. One of the simplest ways to set boundaries with your in-laws is to find other ways to interact with them. You may have to limit your interactions with your in-laws to only family occasions, family dinners, or a phone call now and then. It would help if you understood that not every father-in-law is intrusive or overbearing, and families will disagree occasionally. Still, changing your interaction method will ensure you’re comfortable with your in-laws.
Don’t compete for affection.
Your wife or husband might have a soft spot for some of their family members, like sisters or parents. It could feel not very comforting to you, but for them, it’s natural. So try your best never to compete for your spouse’s affection. If you feel yourself starting to compete, it could be time to consider talking to your in-laws about your problems. This research highlights how in-laws’ relationships change before and after marriage.
Avoid unnecessary arguments.
You may not like how your in-laws dress, talk, or lead their lifestyle. Still, they’re individuals with different personality traits. Their beliefs and ideologies may not live up to your standard every time. However, there’s no reason to argue unnecessarily with them about what they’re doing differently. These disagreements could cause rifts that you might not be able to repair. Instead, try to divert your anger and attention. You could take a walk, watch TV, work on an office project, or work in the kitchen. You might realize that you can set healthy boundaries with your in-laws if you fight less.
Talk about your boundaries with your in-laws.
Talk about your boundaries with your in-laws if possible. Parents often have expectations about visits, holidays, and everything in between, so be sure to tell your parents about your choices to avoid issues down the road. For example, before getting married, you could tell your parents that you and your spouse won’t join either family on major holidays. For you and your family, it’s essential to establish family traditions, travel, and be together on holidays. This may be painful for your parents to hear, but it’s your choice, and your parents will appreciate knowing this upfront so they can prepare for the upcoming holidays.
What if your in-laws don’t honor your boundaries?
If your in-laws choose not to honor your boundaries, look again to David for counsel. It can’t get worse than your father-in-law trying to kill you. However, David didn’t stop honoring Saul. David had numerous opportunities to speak against, kill, and seize Saul, but David chose to wait on God without demanding anything from Saul. Also, David never backed away from who God called him to be. A stubborn in-law doesn’t change who you are as a wife or husband. Also, Michal saved and supported David, which is essential to note. Michal defended and protected her husband from her father. She might have lied to save herself, but she went the extra mile on her husband’s behalf. It would help if you didn’t dismiss the importance of a couple standing in unity.
Couples should feel happy when they work together to set their boundary lines. The home is a space that should feel safe, pleasant, and lovely. Without a couple presenting a unified front and agreeing, these boundaries will be challenging to set and impossible to keep. Let your in-laws know that you love them, but it’s time for you and your spouse to make your life together.