I once heard someone say that the top 3 issues that can cause strife in a marriage are sex, money and in-laws. I think the first 2 seem obvious in that they can cause strife, but it is the 3rd one, in-laws, that we joke about but can really cause pain and hardships in marriage. In fact even when I joked about this post on Twitter I received advice to be cautious in how I word it. Last week I took a vacation with my wife’s family, brothers and all, and I learned some valuable lessons when it comes to a relationship with your in-laws.
Before I do, let me just say, I am blessed to have a great relationship with my amazing in-laws. They are generous, patient and loving, never once has there been a time when I felt real tension as I know many do. For this I am thankful and truly blessed.
Ok here are 3 lessons I learned by spending 5 days with my in-laws:
1. Pride is Deadly
Ok we all know that to be true, but it is really true when it comes to being with the family you married into for 5 days. I found myself at times being overly sensitive in how I perceived I was being listened to. Instead of giving others the benefit of the doubt I found myself getting frustrated quicker. This also came out when I felt that my wife would side with her family over me. These were not big issues, most the time they were small little things, like where to eat for lunch, but what it revealed in me is a deep pride and lingering idol of control that I still must fight.
2. 2 Become 1 is a Tapestry not a Hostile Takeover
Marriage involves 2 families blending together into a new creation really, a new family. What this means is that characteristics, personalities and traditions from both families coming together and this can get messy. My family was always active, on the go, or when home we were watching TV, usually sports, my wife’s family like to just sit and talk. This past week was a lot of sitting and talking, something at first I was really uncomfortable with. However as the week went I learned to enjoy those moments more and more. It was when I started to let go of “my way” and appreciating new ways of just being. There are still quirks and differences that at times can cause conflict but I am learning that I need to learn to compromise just as much, if not more so, as my wife in those moments.
3. My Family
This was huge this week. Yes I have been married for over 8 years and should have had this already figured out and in theory I did, but it took on flesh this past week. I still had lived viewing my in-laws as “her family”, but after spending a concentrated amount of time I realized and embraced that this was “my family”. These were not just my wife’s family, this was my family, I loved them, they loved me and that realization changed everything. I am more willing to forgive, speak up, love, enjoy being with my family than with “her family”. Seeing them as my family allowed me to feel more comfortable being me and adding my voice to the family.
In the end I believe that working, fighting for and cultivating a healthy and joyful relationship with your in-laws is crucial. It is crucial not just for a happy marriage, but for your own sake as well.