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Being a Peaceful In-Law

In-law relationships are some of the most notoriously difficult relationships – but we can have healthy relationships with our in-laws and we can have healthy relationships with our own parents, siblings, and adult children “as far as it depends on” us (Rom. 12:18). We don’t have to engage in toxic relationship dynamics and dysfunction. We are no longer slaves to sin and we are now daughters of the King of kings and Lord of lords! We can choose to treat our extended family members with respect and honor. When Christ is in us, His character shines through rather than our old sinful nature. He can give us victory to act in ways that please Him in all of our relationships!

Note – if you have very severe issues in your relationships (major uncontrolled mental illness, abuse, violence, threats of violence, drug/alcohol abuse, etc…) and you or someone else is not safe – please reach out for appropriate help from your church, a godly counselor, the police, a doctor, etc… whomever may be appropriate for the situation. And also, always compare anything I say (or any person says) to scripture and seek to obey God. His approval is all that ultimately matters. (If you don’t have a relationship with Christ as your Savior and LORD, please check out this post.)

Some Helpful Principles to Keep in Mind with Extended Family Relationships:

  • It is not my job to “fix” other people.
  • God knows best – I do not. I need to be sure Jesus is squarely on the throne of my life, not self or anyone or anything else.
  • God is sovereign over people and circumstances, I am not. And God, in His wisdom and sovereignty, gives people free will. His sovereignty and their free will work together in ways I can’t begin to fathom. I can trust Him – even when I can’t trust other people.
  • I can’t change other people. I can’t open their eyes to spiritual things. I can’t even change myself or open my own eyes apart from the power of the Holy Spirit working in me.
  • I want to honor other people’s marriage covenants and not try to get them to put me or my opinions/advice above their marriage.
  • I need to be sure I don’t expect others to put me/my approval above Jesus in their hearts.
  • I need to make sure I don’t put others or their approval above Christ in my heart.
  • I can honor Christ on my end and make sure I allow Him to continually purify and refine my motives, thoughts, words, and actions.
  • I can be sure I am taking my thoughts captive for Christ. I can’t afford to  hold onto any sinful thoughts.
  • I need to abide and rest in Christ so that I am overflowing with His power and love in all of my relationships and circumstances.
  • God measures my love for Him by how I treat other people. (Matt. 25:40) Difficult relationships are often spiritual tests. Satan wants to use these things to destroy me and my witness for Christ. God wants to use these tests to prune and purify me.
  • I am responsible to God for how I treat others and how I think. Other people will be responsible to God for how they treat other people and how they think.
  • I can learn to respect and love others in godly, healthy ways as I allow God to regenerate and transform my heart and mind (Rom. 12:1-2).
  • Healthy boundaries and biblical thinking are critical for me to have healthy relationships with others as far as it depends on me.
  • It is not any person’s place to override another person’s free will.
  • Some relationships are not going to be healthy even if I am doing everything right. Other people may choose not to love me and not to like me. Or they may not even know how to love in a healthy way. That is going to  have to be something I can accept if I have done what God desires me to do. I can’t make other people like me or want to be with me.
  • Some relationships are so toxic and others may continue in unrepentant sin so long that my husband and I may have to prayerfully decide that we can’t fellowship with those family members until they are willing to change and rebuild trust. (Matt. 18:15-17)
  • God wants to use me to shine for Christ even in difficult situations.
  • God can and will use difficult relationships to refine me and to help me grow in spiritual maturity if I am open to Him and teachable.
  • God may use my witness for Christ to draw my family members to Himself as I allow Him to love them through me.
  • If godly love is not my motive, whatever I am doing will not count for Christ in eternity. (1 Cor. 13:1-3)
  • I have a covenant with my husband, not with my parents or in-laws. Marriage is to be the priority relationship in God’s design. (Gen. 2:24)
  • I am responsible to God for myself spiritually and emotionally, others are responsible for themselves spiritually and emotionally.
  • I can influence people but I can’t control them.
  • I want to live in total submission to Christ as Lord in all of my relationships so that I am seeking God’s will far above my own will.
  • I want to guard my own motives from sin and get rid of any bitterness, resentment, pride, self-righteousness, control, fear, selfishness, people pleasing, and any other toxic thought patterns.
  • I can seek to better understand those who think differently from me. It is much easier to avoid unnecessary conflict if I can understand their perspectives.
  • I can seek to be flexible (unless someone is asking me to participate in or condone sin) and ready to extend much grace, compassion, understanding, and mercy.
  • God promises to use everything in my life – good and bad – to accomplish His good purposes in my life and His glory if I belong to Jesus. (Rom. 8:28-29)
  • I can rest in God’s sovereignty, goodness, and love no matter what circumstances I may be facing.
  • I can take problems and other people to God in prayer and invite His Spirit to accomplish His purposes in their lives in ways I can’t even begin to imagine.
  • There are times I may need to confront sin in others – but, I need to be sure my heart is right first. And, if it is my husband’s family, I may want to allow him to handle the confrontation if possible – as God prompts us both.

A lot of the principles we learn as we seek to become godly wives carry over into other relationships, as well – like respect…

Ways I Can Respect Extended Family Members – I can choose to:

  • Speak in a respectful, pleasant tone of voice.
  • Honor any requests they make of me – i.e.: not to bring up an embarrassing story from the past that they don’t want me to share with others.
  • Have friendly facial expressions and to smile genuinely to bless others because of the joy I  have in Christ.
  • Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)
  • Accept people as they are and seek to see them as God sees them, loving them with His love.
  • Respect other people because they are created in God’s image and God loves them (that doesn’t mean I have to respect sin, of course).
  • Enjoy them and be warm and welcoming.
  • Give space to those who need more space out of respect rather than resentment.
  • Seek to understand the needs of different people with different personalities and temperments.
  • Lay down most of my expectations. (other than for things like safety, for example)
  • Accept that different people have different backgrounds, personalities, filters, and perspectives so we will not think the same way or all agree on everything. That is okay!
  • Approach others with humility rather than looking down on anyone.
  • Allow people to make their own choices without me interfering. (There may be exceptions in the case of someone truly abusing another person or doing something illegal where I may have a legal/ethical/spiritual responsibility to step in.)
  • Avoid giving unsolicited advice.
  • Avoid having a critical or judgmental spirit.
  • Immediately confess any bitterness or resentment in my heart to God and refuse to give in to Satan’s temptation to get me to give him a foothold in my life.
  • Allow God’s Spirit to speak life through me rather than allowing my sinful nature/the enemy to use my thoughts, words, and actions to destroy and speak death to my family members.
  • Listen when others are talking without interrupting.
  • Treat others like they are important and precious.
  • See other people with God’s eyes and love them with His heart.
  • Repay evil with good. (Rom. 12:17-21)
  • Not allow anyone to steal the joy, peace, and power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus has given to me.
  • Respond gently and with self-control. (Prov. 15:1, Gal. 5:22-23)
  • Extend patience, kindness, and blessing to others – not so they will approve of me or like me, but so that God is pleased with me and just to bless them.
  • Allow others to talk about the things that are important to them rather than me dominating the conversation. Although, there is balance here – I can also feel free to bring up topics at times, as well, unless God shows me I need to remain silent at a specific time.
  • Seek to be a godly influence and to use my position and relationship to pour the love, healing, and truth of Christ into my extended family members’ lives as God prompts me to by His Spirit humbly, gently, and respectfully.
  • Take up my cross, dying to my sinful nature, seeking only to honor Jesus. Some of the little issues are just not that important – where we eat, how we handle a gift exchange at Christmas, etc…
  • Be open to God’s suggestions for me about how to show His love to the particular people in my family.
  • “Win them without words” if they don’t want to hear me talk about Jesus.
  • Respect people’s decisions and choices and honor them. (If they don’t want to talk with me about God or don’t want to see me, I can choose to respect that without bitterness.)
  • Love with a 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 kind of love not with conditional, worldly love that has strings attached.
  • Speak in positive ways about my family members to them and to others.
  • Avoid gossiping (to family members and about family members), quarreling, divisiveness, and strife.
  • Be a godly example by my attitude, words, non-verbal body language, and actions.
  • Seek to promote God’s Spirit of love, peace, and unity.

RESOURCES:

Identifying the Lies We Have Embraced – about God, ourselves, others, and relationships

Healthy VS Unhealthy Relationships

25 Ways I Can Respect Myself – or “think rightly” about myself

Handling a Controlling Mother as a Team

My Disrespect and Controlling Behavior Don’t Just Hurt My Husband

Respecting Your Husband around Extended Family

What Causes a Woman to Become Controlling? – April’s video

Being Controlling VS. Being Helpful to Your Guy – April’s video, a lot of this applies to our other relationships, as well, not just to our men.

Bitterness Is Poison! – April’s video

12 Ways to Repel a Guy – April’s video, these things will repel other people in our lives, too

Some Conflict is Unavoidable

“I Must Avoid Conflict at All Costs! That’s the Godly Thing to Do”

How Can I Tell If God Is Working in My Life or If I Am Trying to Do Things in My Own Power

For those with very toxic relationships, you may need more specialized help. www.leslievernick.com may be helpful. Please weigh anything any human author says against Scripture and seek to honor Christ and God’s Word above all.

 

“My Husband Isn’t As Involved with Our Newborn As I Want Him to Be”

Some of my subscribers did not receive this post as an email yesterday – so I am attempting to re-send. 🙂

My response to a new Mom:

Having a newborn is a pretty stressful time on a marriage. It is stressful for a first-time Mama with all of the sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, adjusting to nursing, adjusting to caring for an infant, trying to get everything just right, etc… And it is stressful for a first-time Daddy as he tries to support his wife and new baby and he is exhausted, too, and he may be feeling a bit left out and neglected. It is also MUCH harder to have the time with God you need.

So – first of all – I vote to give yourself and your husband TONS of grace right now. This is a challenging time. It is a season. Thankfully, it won’t stay like this forever. I promise!

Everything will not be perfect – and will not meet every single possible expectation you may have. That is going to need to be okay. Sometimes there are some expectations we may need to lay down. And even as you are busy and nursing, you can focus on thanksgiving to God, praise to God, and thankfulness for your husband with the few functioning brain cells you have at the moment. 🙂 Satan would LOVE to encourage resentment, bitterness, hurt feelings, division, and strife. Recognize that those are his tactics. Check out these two posts:

My Demon
How Satan Would Love to Destroy Your Marriage Through A Wife’s Thought Life

And this post on laying down expectations may be helpful.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR SOUL AND BODY:

Get in as much praising God as you can. Consciously seek to allow Him to transform your heart. Seek to lay down your will and embrace His will. Listen to the Bible on an app while you nurse/feed the baby. Or read a few verses while you are nursing. Memorize a verse each week or read one impactful verse per day, if a full quiet time is just too much right now. Read other people’s prayers if you don’t have the ability to pray on your own. Check out these “prayer day” posts for some ideas.

Get as much rest as you can, eat well, and be willing to let the less important things go in this season. Talk with your doctor right away and/or a godly counselor if you are feeling really depressed and discouraged or you have thoughts of hurting yourself, the baby, or your husband.

HAVE GRACE FOR YOUR HUSBAND:

Realize that your husband may be feeling uncertain and maybe even left out and unappreciated right now. If you can smile at him, appreciate him, and give him a bit of attention, too, he may really thrive on that. He may also be feeling more pressure to provide well financially than ever before. Men have a lot of hard emotions and thoughts to process, too, when a new baby enters the family.

Sometimes, if a Mama is nursing, it can be difficult for a husband to figure out how to be involved with the baby. Mom has the whole feeding thing down. So, it can seem kind of pointless for a dad to get up in the middle of the night with the baby if he can’t feed the baby. Eventually, as there are more things he can do, and as there are more things the baby can do, he may be able to get more involved.

Also, please remember that newborns can be scary to a new dad. They seem so fragile. A lot of new dads have zero experience with newborns and are afraid they might break them or something. So, do what you can to encourage your husband and to praise him for anything he does right.

As the baby begins to grow and can interact more and take bottles or is ready for spoon-feeding, or starts to smile and laugh and want to play – Dad will probably be able to begin to find more ways to be involved. 🙂

IT’S OK TO PUT THE BABY DOWN SOMETIMES

You can let the baby sit in an infant seat – strapped in – on the floor, or let him lie in his crib sometimes so that you can take a shower or cuddle with your husband. I know that lots of baby books say you can never let a baby ever be alone and that they will feel abandoned if you don’t hold them every single moment. I really don’t believe that is true! I think you can make yourself insane if you try to do that – and I think you can hurt your marriage if you try to do that method, as well.

Take time to give your husband some cuddling and attention, too. Yes, the baby is very important! Take care of her needs. But your husband needs you, too, if you are feeling up to it. You may find you can give nurturing to your baby, your husband (to whatever degree is possible under the circumstances), and yourself. It is just not going to be perfect. If a baby is well-fed, is not sick, is not hurting, is not in danger – and he cries for a few minutes in his crib or infant seat, he will be okay!

You are not going to leave him crying for a long time. You’re a great mom. You will check on him to be sure he is okay. You will also give him lots of cuddles and snuggles. But sometimes it is a good thing for a baby to have some time to figure out how to soothe himself. And sometimes it is also a good thing for a marriage and your sanity for you not to have a baby strapped to your body every single moment – 24/7.

If your goal is to never let the baby not be held and to never let the baby cry at all – in my view, that is a recipe for a disaster in so many ways. Why put that much pressure on yourself? And why make the baby being perfectly content every single moment the greatest goal? Is that even really a healthy goal? There are lots of ways to care for babies. I don’t want us to think we have to stick with one method or book or we are “failures” as a mom. Do what works for your family. If something is creating lots of stress for you, your husband, or the baby –  maybe there need to be some adjustments made.

Here’s a little secret about all of the baby method books and current research – it will all change again in the next few years. That stuff is always changing. What is touted as the most important stuff to do now, will later be replaced by other advice. So – read and try to do the best you can. But don’t make yourself crazy trying to follow every single rule from every single post and book you read – especially things that are not medical or about safety. Use your common sense and your husband’s wisdom, too. (i.e.: if your husband sees you are overextending yourself and asks you to rest, follow his counsel.) Pray, and seek God’s wisdom. Do what you believe is best at the time and be flexible and willing to do things differently if necessary.

ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED RESPECTFULLY

It is okay to ask for what you need or desire! You can respectfully and cheerfully say, “Honey, it would mean so much to me if you had time to hold the baby for a few minutes. I know she would enjoy that. You are such a wonderful Daddy. I’m glad we get to be here together for this.”

You can thank him for working to provide for the family and let him know that you haven’t forgotten him and ask how you might be able to help him feel more part of things or more included with you.

You may also be able to ask for some help from a grandmother or friends or sisters. That is okay, too!

THIS IS A TEMPORARY SEASON

When the baby gets older and is more interactive, the dynamics often do begin to shift. 🙂

Praying for God’s wisdom for you and that you will resist the voice of the enemy, the accuser, and focus on God’s voice and on allowing Him to tenderly lead you and your husband in this time.

SHARE:

If God has given you wisdom in this area that you would like to share with some of our new moms, you are welcome to share in the comments. 🙂

Much love to each of you!

NOTE: If you are interested in coming to my Peaceful Wife Conference in Garnett, KS this Friday and Saturday, please sign up ASAP! We will have to close the ticket sales by Wednesday to get a firm count for lunch. There is a button on the upper right column of my blog that you can click on to see more information and to purchase tickets.

ALSO AN ADMIN NOTE:

My blog was updated on November 5th, but there were a lot of problems and glitches with the update. Many people were not receiving email/Wordpress updates from that day until this morning at 8:30am. I believe everything is fixed now. But you may have missed these posts:

A Summary of the Stages of This Journey

Can I Be a “Peaceful American” Even Now?

My apologies for all of the technical issues!

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