Dear Sir: To what extent should
mother and father in-law, and all other in-laws get involved in a relative’s
marriage? I believe that they should keep out of it. What do you think?
Dear friend, you are correct. In-laws are not to
interfere in their relative’s marriages. The Bible clearly states that
children should leave their parents and cleave to their spouses. The newly weds
are to create their own castle with their own rules, traditions, and practices.
Whenever there is interference from the outside, there is bound to be confusion.
- A PARENTAL PROBLEM
- To understand this subject let me explain certain
principles of parenting that are for the purpose of raising children to
become self-reliant. First of all, one of the first responsibilities of
parents is to teach a child to think critically and independently. From an
early age a child should be encouraged to think and act on his/her own.
This first step towards developing an independent thinking child is the
parent listening to and respecting the questions (though simple and
frivolous at times) of the inquisitive child. Second, it is by giving the
child simple assignments and responsibilities that he/she is held
accountable for. As the child age increases, so should his/her
responsibilities. Thus, by the time the child reaches adulthood, he/she
would be thinking and acting independently.
We must be reminded that the
parenting relationship is the only relationship designed by God to come to an
end. God never intended for parents to continue
giving instructions and guidance to their adult child. When children become
independent adults, it means that they are no longer dependent on their parents
emotionally, financially, or intellectually. They are to act and think
separately and apart from their parents. As children move from dependent
adolescents to independent adults, parental role changes from parenting to
mentoring. However, we must note carefully that the parenting role is by default
and the mentoring role is by selection. That is children have no choice who
their parents are, but they do have a choice who will be their mentors. Ideally,
if parents raise their children in the right way, they will become the primary
mentors for their children.
Sadly, however, many parents are
raising their children to depend on them. Some parents act as if their children
cannot think and do things without their input. This is sad.
- WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE
- Let me share with you what I believe are the
differences between a parent and a mentor. A parent gives unsolicited
advice and counsel. A mentor gives solicited
advice and counsel. A parent provides physical protection (house) and food
for growing children. A mentor has no responsibility to provide physical
protection or food. A parent is by default a baby sitter, teacher, nurse
and doctor to his children. A mentor is a retired volunteer, available, if
needed, for support and assistance to the independent adult children in
their parenting role. A parent has no choice regarding his/her tasks and
functions. A mentor can choose whether or not to get involved.
- PARENTS MUST LET GO
- I took the time to explain how parents can help
their children become independent. However, the simple truth is that
parents must let go of their adult children whether they are married or
not. They must push them out of the house as the eagle’s pushes their
baby eagles out of their nests to fly. Married sons need to cut the navel
strings from their moms. Married daughters need to cease making
unnecessary telephones calls to mom. Parents must stop probing into the
private lives of their children. They must give their children the space
to do what they were able (the parent) to do—build their own nest. They
must allow their children the privilege of failure and the rewards of
trial and error.
What about the other relatives? Other
relatives and in-laws can be a pain in the neck to many marriages. They should
also keep their distance.
- WHAT IF THERE IS A PROBLEM
- What if parents or in-laws suspect or know of a
problem the couple is having? Should they get involve? They first must
give the opportunity for the couple to volunteer or request their
involvement in the situation. They man not enter their lives without
permission. If the parent or in-law notices that the couple is in misery,
pain, or deep frustration, the in-law can gingerly state what they observe
and give their concern. The principle is do not force your way into the
privacy of the home.
On the other hand, where there is
serious emotional and physical abuse this is the time when loving relatives can
play a significant role. Remembering that safety of the victim is of utmost
priority, relatives can wisely give their help, protection and advice.
Yes still, because of the
over-involvement of in-laws in a marriage, couples have great tension, problems
and pain. Therefore, in-laws are to be "wise as serpents and harmless as
- HOW TO LIVE?
- How can a couple live and grow as a single unit,
away from mom and dad and in-laws? Here are a few points to consider: 1) A
couple needs to understand the autonomy of their new marital unit and
their need to act and think without in-law’s involvement. The problem is
when one spouse is always sharing family business with someone else. This
should never happen. 2) Ideally, newly weds should live away from parents
and in-laws. They should live in a different house, and if possible at a
considerable distance from in-laws. 3) A couple is not ready for marriage
if they cannot afford to live separately from mom and dad. Marriage is for
well-adjusted, independent thinking, emotionally and financially mature
adults. 4) A couple needs to set up impregnable barriers so that
inquisitive in-laws may not break through. How do couples build this
barrier? By honoring and respecting for each other. By daily nurturing and
caring their relationship. By their closeness and support for each other
when they are with relatives and friends.
- IN-LAWS CAN BE VALUABLE
- Although in-laws should not interfere in their
relatives’ marriages, yet if there is need for help financially or
emotionally, parents and in-laws can give the best help and advice. An
objective, loving parent or in-law can be the best asset for a growing
young couple. Sometimes young couples may not want persons outside the
family to get involved. This is okay. However, the in-laws must not force
open the door of involvement but just be ready to assist when needed.