151. I am having in-law problems
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Dear Dr. Smith

I really need your help. I am having in-law problems. My wife and I have been married for almost xx years and her mother is always in the middle of our life. She is very controlling and exerts so much influence on our decisions as a married couple. Pretty much anything we do my wife has to run it by her first. So far, every year for the past xx years, they have been with us every Christmas, and have stayed as long as five months in our tiny apartment. What can I do? How do I let my wife accept and my in-laws know that this behavior is unacceptable?

Dear worried Friend,
Thanks for reaching out to me. If what you are saying is true, then, there is no question that your home has become dysfunctional and the boundaries have been badly blurred. Your greater problem, however, is with your wife. She needs to get her act together and decide if she wants to remain married or go back home to her parents. Evidently, your in-laws have too much of a stronghold in your marriage and they need to get a life of their own. The time has come for you to take full charge of your home and put it back in order. This however, cannot be done without the cooperation of your wife. I therefore recommend the following:

1. Have a private one to one discussion with your wife and explain to her the gravity of the situation, and the need for change.

2. Decide when your in-laws come and how long they stay. They should not make another visit until both of you have determined and settled this issue. So if your wife wants her parents to visit, she must agree to some terms and conditions.

3. Clarify the rules of engagement that they will abide by when they visit, if not don't come. Your wife will put up some serious resistance here, but stand your ground. No boundaries no visit.

4. If your wife refuses to co-operate, then, have the guts to ask her to make a decision between you and her mother, the marriage or her family. Remember that the metaphor used in the Bible is one of “leaving and cleaving”. Your wife seems to want to change it to, “leaving and returning”, but that does not work well in marital life.

5. Seek professional help if she does not want to compromise.

6. Be tough enough to move on with your life if she rejects you in favor of her family. The one thing you must not do, however, is to succumb to the manipulation of both in-laws and wife. If you do, you will be just a wimp and a weasel in the relationship.

7. Be a man and command your home after righteousness. Don’t be a pigmy be a giant. Remember "Meekness" does not mean "Weakness".

I suggest that you first pray about this matter, then sit down with your wife and explain to her the burden of your heart. Don't be loud and boisterous, be gentle but firm. Try your utmost best to resolve things as peacefully as you can, work towards a compromise if possible, but don't sit back and do nothing. I pray God that things will get better for you.

God bless.

Dr. Smith
For more information about Dr. Smith's services go to www.familyfixers.org