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Fountain of Life with Taiwo Odukoya: Dealing with the In-Laws

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A priest officiating a wedding once enumerated the three things that can break a marriage: money, unfaithfulness or infidelity, and in-laws. Unfortunately, not many enter marriage with a full understanding that in-laws can make or mar the marriage. It therefore becomes important that everyone learns how to handle the ropes, early and fast, as far as in-laws are concerned.

Now, marriage does not only bring two people together, it also joins families as well. Culturally, that is just the way things are, particularly in this side of the world: marriage blesses a couple with a new family – the in-laws. As your in-laws are an important part of your spouse’s life, marriage makes them important people to you, too.

The problem usually is: it is difficult adjusting to a new set of people, more or less strangers who have their own established lifestyles, hence their needs and requirements. As is expected of any relationship, there is bound to be occasional rubbing on the wrong side, arguments and, if care is not taken, resentments. You may find yourself in a situation where you do not know how to handle your in-laws. You want to be in their good books but at the same time, you also want to secure your own space. To maintain family harmony, it is necessary for you to put in extra efforts and build a bridge between you and them.

It is therefore no wonder that, for most couples, handling in-laws can be tricky. Let us face it; you are an outsider to a family system that has very established rules and dynamics. But to be fair, your spouse has the same battle with your family.

I remember the story of a young man who was deeply in love with a young lady. As much as she loved him, her stand was that she could never marry anyone with parents or siblings. And it was all because of the terrible things, whether real or imagined, she had heard about in-laws.

“Do you have parents?” the young man asked her.

“Yes,” she responded.

“What do you think we should do to yours after we have got rid of mine?” he asked, tongue-in-cheek.

Of course, she had no answer. As much as she did not want her husband to have parents or siblings, she wanted to keep hers.

The truth is, some are blessed with great in-laws. But this usually does not happen by chance. A lot of people learnt the necessary skills at one point or the other. Many spouses often feel like they must compete with their in-laws for the time and attention of their spouse. This is especially true during the first few years of marriage.

The other part of the story that is not often told is the fact that we are usually blind to our own faults. Some of us can be selfish and haughty or have major character flaws, and this can constitute a major problem in relating with people generally and our in-laws in particular. Our troubles with in-laws then become self-inflicted; the problem in that case is not our in-laws but our lack of people-skills and our unwillingness to learn acceptable behaviour and change our attitude.

Now, the complaints about in-laws are many and varied:

  • My in-laws barge into my home without notice.
  • My parents-in-law are spoiling our children silly.
  • My husband is mummy’s boy and this is getting at me.
  • My brothers or sisters-in-law eavesdrop on my discussions with my husband/wife and report to my parents-in-law.
  • My mother-in-law comes to pitch her tent in my home without any indication as to when she is leaving.

The list is endless.

The question is: Can a good relationship with in-laws be beneficial to a marriage? The answer is obviously yes. A negative relationship with your in-laws can put undue strain on your marriage.

In a survey by Helium, 92% of the respondents said that a good relationship with in-laws has a positive impact on marital life. So I ask you: In what ways has a good relationship with your in-laws benefitted your marriage? On the opposite side, in what ways has not being in a good relationship with your in-laws affected your marriage?

Whatever your answers, you will agree with me that it pays to know how to navigate the murky in-law waters. And it is often with a mix of tact, straightforwardness and some consideration for others.

Whether the relationship with your in-laws is great or could do with some improving, here are some practical tips that can help:

Spouse comes first.
When you get married, it is time to grow up and leave your parents. This does not mean you emotionally kick them into the dustbin or cut all ties, but you do need to establish your own family. By putting your spouse first, you are choosing the adult role of being a husband or wife over the role of being a child in your parent’s family.

Set boundaries.
Making a list of ‘non-negotiables’ can help a young couple deal with an extended family. There are many things that happen in marriage that are none of your parent’s business. If you run to mummy or daddy every time you have a disagreement with your spouse, how are you going to learn to handle life with your spouse on your own? Avoid sharing your household’s secrets with your parents. However, where the issues are becoming dangerous to your well-being or inimical to the progress of your home, you will have to seek counsel and/or get your parents involved. Discuss with your spouse what topics and areas of your lives are off limits to others. Setting clear ground rules for handling extended family will improve your marriage.

Recognise the culture.
Our culture and upbringing plays a major role in how we handle our marriage. Recognise the cultural aspects of your spouse’s upbringing and handle her and her family accordingly.

Do not become critical of your spouse’s relationship with his/her parents.
You can always bring complaints about your parents-in-law to your spouse, but never come across as criticising them. Nothing can raise a spouse’s defences faster than criticism. Seek to understand more about their relationship rather than criticise, as this can lead to bitterness and resentment.

Be polite.
This does not mean you have to change your personality to please your in-laws. Simply respect rules and traditions that are important to the older generation. This will go a long way in improving your relationship – not only with your in-laws, but also your spouse.

Spend time with your in-laws.
Develop a better relationship with your in-laws by doing things together. Find out what they enjoy doing and try joining them. This could be shopping, playing golf, cards, whatever. You may find you have more in common than you thought. Also you need to remember their birthdays, wedding anniversaries and special occasions and give them a call. Buy them gifts when you can but never give the impression that your spouse does not care. Treat your father-in-law and mother-in-law as your father and mother.

Treat your brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law the same way you would treat your own siblings or even better.
Someday, maybe in the not too distant future, you will be someone’s father or mother-in-law. How would you want to be treated?

If you have wonderful in-laws, give them a big hug and celebrate them as often and as much as you can. But if you do not, remember that you are not alone. It will pay to remain positive and try making the best of your situation. Who knows, you may be able to win them over in no time through a change of attitude, prayers, constant forgiveness and courteous actions.

Taiwo Odukoya is the senior pastor of The Fountain of Life Church. He is an avid believer in the role of the Church in the social and economic life of the nation. He is the host of The Discovery for Men, The Discovery for Women, The Woman Leader, and Ruth and Boaz, quarterly meetings that reach out to thousands of men and women from all works of life and denominations. He lives in Lagos with his wife, Nomthi, and children. He can be reached at [email protected]

39 Comments

  1. Moses

    July 16, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    This article is quite educating and touches on every aspect of relationship for all faith. God bless you Sir.

  2. Life issues

    July 16, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    “Do you have parents?” the young man asked her.
    “Yes,” she responded.
    “What do you think we should do to yours after we have got rid of mine?” he asked, tongue-in-cheek.

    lol

    If you want your MIL dead before you marry her son, wait till your wards are grown and ready to marry while someone prays you dead..

    • wendy

      July 16, 2014 at 4:05 pm

      Thanks!! I Still dont get the logic. Why would you want someone to be dead?

  3. Author Uknown

    July 16, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    If everyone practiced what they preached in treating their in-laws the way they wish to be treated by in-laws from their husband or wife’s family, I think things will be better. Problem is it’s a vicious circle of finger pointing.

  4. CeeCee

    July 16, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Great message.

  5. Sugar

    July 16, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Very explicit

  6. sum1special

    July 16, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    He couldn’t have said it any better but i want to pick on the point “treat your brother and sister inlaws like you would treat you siblings”, i beg to disagree, if i were to yell at my brother and sister inlaws the way i did my siblings, they would brand me Jezebel. My family knows me and can understand the way i behave, but i dont expect inlwas who just met me to understand me that much. I think with inlwas you just have to apply wisdom, not complain to your husband about everything they do and just be smart about handling them.

    • wendy

      July 16, 2014 at 4:09 pm

      He used it loosely…..Treat your inlaws as you will want your people to be treated.
      I always ask my brothers..will u be happy if a guy do this to me.. response is no.. then i flatly tell them dont do it to other people,

    • ilaugh

      July 17, 2014 at 10:45 am

      Treat them the way you will treat your siblings, but remember there is a reason why the y are “in-laws”

  7. fisa

    July 16, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    Hmmmmn, Just like yorubas will say in an adage…..
    “.oko buruku se fe, ano buruku o se ni
    “Its better to marry a bad husband than have terrible inlaws.

    It goes a long long way. when u have terrible inlaws, you will never ever have peace in your home. And as a young lady, if ur intending inlaws dont accept you and they dont see anything good in you, its better for you not to forcefully marry dr son. If they dont like you from the onset before marriage, dont force urself into such place claiming that ehnnn, at least my husband loves me and that is paramount.

    The moment ure taken to ur boyfriends or fiances house and you notice that they dont like you in his house , or you notice they are not friendly towards you, you reeally need to Watch ur intending inlaws to be and how they act to you. If ure not loved around them or they resent you.
    BEWARE

    • concernedfiancee

      July 17, 2014 at 12:36 pm

      What if they are divided over you? Say mum doesn’t like u and gets older brother of ur fiance to her side but the remaining 3 siblings love u including first daughter who is like a second mum to u? Their father is late. What do u do in such a situation?

  8. @edDREAMZ

    July 16, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    a.k.a EDWIN CHINEDU AZUBUKO said…
    .
    Question of life “What do you think we should do to yours after we have got rid of mine?” lovely message no doubt….
    .
    .
    ***CURRENTLY IN JUPITER***

  9. wendy

    July 16, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    My philosophy is be nice to everybody. Treat them as you will want to be treated. Stay away from those that want your life to be living hell. If your inlaw is mean to you…Still do your best, treat them nice, and stay away from them…E.g you have a mother inlaw giving you hell and staying with u.. mY thing is i will feed you well, buy things for you, greet you, treat you well but at same time keep a distance from you…

    • deedar

      July 18, 2014 at 11:11 am

      Very good philosophy. Be nice to them but beware!

  10. Dr. N

    July 16, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    Used to pray for a man whose mom is late till mom heard me say it and said,” So you brothers’ future wives are praying for me to die right now?”
    Reality check. I have a great MIL. God answers prayers. I think hubb has a huge role to play tho. Ifu marry mummy’s boy…….

    • wendy

      July 16, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      Just out of curiosity, how did you come up with the thought process in the beginning? I am just trying to understand the reason that you will a late mother inlaw…No offense… na curiosity:)-

    • Iris

      July 17, 2014 at 3:49 am

      I’ve been guilty of that too. It was a fleeting thought before I realised what I was thinking. It is not like you’re actively praying for someone to die. You’re just thinking “if there’s no mother in law in the picture, there are highly reduced chances of drama and the possibility of being treated like crap, as if her son did you a favour by marrying you”

    • oj

      July 17, 2014 at 3:17 pm

      I once had a classmate that prayed for the same thing. This was due to how her mother was treated by her father’s mum, especially when the father died. she was really young at the time and what happened to her mother left a deep mark.

    • teekay

      July 17, 2014 at 10:40 pm

      this was my prayer too until my mum said the same thing

  11. Tade

    July 16, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    I agree but a situation whereby hubby uncle’s wife wants to control another marriage is unacceptable.I know a couple dat got divorced,all bcos the wife refused to allow the hubby uncle’s wife to control her matrimonial home.Everybody worships the stupid uncle’s wife and she has forgotten she has her own children.Anyway,God will help us all.It all about the man,the man should set the boundaries..If a man is too weak,datz a big problem in the marriage.

  12. Uju

    July 16, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    I m blessed with a loving husband and disciplined inlaws who don’t interfere.

    1
    • deedar

      July 18, 2014 at 11:10 am

      You are indeed blessed! So many are going through different levels of hell on earth. May your home continue to be peaceful, loving and drama-free. Amen.

  13. Single Shalewa, Bitter Bintu!

    July 17, 2014 at 12:13 am

    Thanks a lot Pastor Taiwo.

    In this part of the world, we know articles like this, advice on how to deal with inlaws etc are mostly directed at women. Why?
    A man can afford not to attend his inlaws’ events 4times in a row but his wife can’t afford to do same. Pastor Taiwo, please we need you to write articles that will speak to our men also. Men need to build their homes and work at making their marriages a success. We can’t leave everything to the women. It is not fair.

    Some months ago, I had an altercation with my husband, I called his sister (cos I thought we had a fret relationship. I was wrong.) she then calls her mum who came in the following day to ‘settle’ the issue. See, I’ve got a very good relationship with my mum in law o! But she totally blamed me for everything. She wey on to say when my sister in law called her the previous night, she said she overheard me yelling at my husband (when she called my husband). I was shocked. She forgot to tell her mother that it was when her brother threatened to slap me that I yelled. Anyway, I chopped the blame and moved on. I called my sister some days after just to let her know what was going on cos I just realized I was on my own. My sister came, scolded me and also rebuked my husband. She then told me privately that “ebi oko o ki n Saba ma n tole. Omo won lon ma gbe seyin. Ebi Iyawo ma n Saba tole tori won o fe je ki Omo won di Ile mo su”. Husbands’ families rarely help build homes – they usually support their sons. Brides’ families usually build homes cos they don’t want their daughters to become divorcees.

    Inlaws (both sides) are necessary evils – be nice to them not cos you have to but because that’s the right thing to do. May God help us all.
    Sorry I typed an epistle.

    • moimoi

      July 17, 2014 at 6:33 am

      Lesson learned, your sister in law ain”t no friend, never was!!!! i learned the hard way too. thought i had a close relationship with mine. when shit hit the fan guess whose side they were on?!!!! so do you bit, keep mute, share nothing with the in laws. Play nice and life goes on but that relationship has been defined , put in a box marked “cannot grow past this level” my family is my family and has my back 24/7. Men can be weak when it comes to stuff like this. So do your bit, face your kids if you have them and do you girl!!!

    • Tee

      July 17, 2014 at 1:10 pm

      Story of my life!. Thought I had my sister and mother inlaw on my side. but things went south, andh I became the devil! My husband beat me and no one said anything. all my inlaws were concerned about was why I broke our Wedding pix after he hit me! like seriously????

      Told them I will burn the house sef if he as much as lifts a finger again. mpama! (still like him sha)

      Well I am cooling off with my cuties elsewhere. Let him marry his sisters and mother.

    • ego

      July 18, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      You’re very right my sister. When i had a fall out with my hubby and his mum these were her words ‘my son is my son forever’. She was trying to tell me that if we got divorced or i dropped dead it won’t make a difference in her life. After that day I kept it in my heart. I have tried to move on, but she cannot understand why i don’t call or why i am not close to her blah blah. It occured to me that she wasnt interested in my marriage working. Her only concern is for her son and grandson. Don’t get me wrong she is a wonderful inlaw, minds her biz, buys stuff for me, doesnt stress me out at all. But men,,,,,,,I got tried of the drama. And after that day i just knew she was just standing me till i drop dead, or God forbid got divorced. My parents were the ones who now came to settle everything. Me im just living my life and trying to avoid wahala but my mum keeps telling me to go close to her. I seriously doubt if it is possible, except by prayer.

  14. Single Shalewa, Bitter Bintu!

    July 17, 2014 at 12:14 am

    *great relationship. The typos dear Lord! Typing from the phone is a mess.

  15. L

    July 17, 2014 at 7:54 am

    Which is part of the leason the good pastor mentioned… know the type of situations to report your husband or wife to your parents or his. Not things like the altercation you mentioned above. When a family does not learn to settle issues amongst themselves, little issues will become major when outsiders come in.. and yes, your parent/ siblings and his parent/ siblings are third party to your marriage. In my own case o, its me that do the covering up for the wife… her behaviour to my parents is not up to par at all. But, i do my best to cover it up and so far, my parents havent noticed. Yet i feel i have been so good to hers, the family is taking me for granted now……

    • MC

      July 17, 2014 at 10:50 am

      What I would like to know is why are people “reporting”….are we 10yrs old?
      Do our parents and In-Laws have THAT much say in our relationships/marriage (well, certainly not mine).
      This is definitely a culture shock to me!!

    • Fite

      July 20, 2014 at 7:50 am

      God bless you…..in fact take 10 kobo

    • deedar

      July 18, 2014 at 11:08 am

      Very true. Discretion is so important in a marriage. Not everything needs to be shared with others.They may end up doing much more harm than good.

  16. Xristybabes

    July 17, 2014 at 11:05 am

    Good piece!thanks for sharing Sir.

  17. Vikkie

    July 17, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Its a must read… More Anointing Sir.

  18. bis

    July 17, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    i have never reported my husband to my inlaws and the only time i reported him to my mum is when he was always beating my one year daughter everytime in the name of training them. though my husband reports me to my mum and my mum tries to settle it by begging him and talking to me to be more patient with him but all in all ur family na ur family. i love my family and they are always there for me

  19. teekay

    July 17, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    God bless you sir for this, i keep praying to GOD not to ve in-law issues because i ve seen a lot from this

  20. deedar

    July 18, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Really good article about a thorny issue!

  21. greasedbygrace

    July 24, 2014 at 10:55 am

    The way we treat our spouse(s) determines how our inlaws/others will treat them. My parents are clear on where I stand with my wife. I go pursue anybody wey giv her wahala. Even if our 2 decide to break bottle for each other head, leave us make we settle am. If we no fit, them everybody waka. But it will neva come to dat. We, overtime, have tried to manage our challenges. Love her like crazy.

    2
  22. Shoopsy

    July 25, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    I love this Pastor! Simply Put!

  23. jullee

    April 25, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Wonderful write up. I just stumbled on to it. Is it write for a man’s mother to advise her son to send money to her while the man’s wife sends money to her parents. I thought both wife and husband should come together and plan. In this case is the mother in law not causing a division already in her son’s marriag..?

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