Java With Juli: Love Your Husband by Loving Your Mother-in-Law

Man standing between his wife and mother. Each woman has piece of yard they are pulling from his sweater as it unravels

Have you ever considered that another woman may be vying for your husband's love and attention? That other woman is your mother-in-law. And the triangle of son, mother and daughter-in-law can often initiate a delicate dance for everyone involved.

One day I asked my husband, "How can I improve as a wife?" His response surprised me. He simply said, "You could do more to reach out to my parents." I had never thought of my role as a daughter-in-law as part of my expression of love to my husband. The truth is that family relationships are interconnected, so my rapport with my mother-in-law directly affects my relationship with my husband.

The apostle Paul wrote: "As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18 NIV). I'm pretty certain that "everyone" includes in-laws, so here are a few tips on how to promote peace:

Let go of the rope

If you're a wife who feels criticized each time your mother-in-law visits, it's crucial that you not aggravate the situation. Returning similar assaults on your mother-in-law by finding subtle ways to criticize her cooking, lifestyle choices and marriage only encourage the tug-of-war. In this situation, the right thing to do is to drop your end of the rope. Resist the urge to retaliate. If your mother-in-law is critical of you, it's often because she feels insecure. Don't add to that insecurity with your criticism.

Support your husband's relationship with his mom

A husband and wife need to set appropriate boundaries with their families, particularly during the first few years of marriage. But as you define those boundaries with your husband's family, be careful not to send them a message to simply "butt out." Instead, go out of your way to foster a healthy mother-son relationship. Remind your husband to send his mom flowers for her birthday, and encourage him to take her out to lunch.

Be a blessing to your mother-in-law

This may be easy for you because you love your mother-in-law. Or it may be an extreme challenge. Remember that Jesus told us to bless even those who are against us (Luke 6:28). How can you bless your mother-in-law? Thank her for raising the man you love. Compliment her for what she does well. Pray for her. Take her out for coffee, and show interest in her life.

Ultimately, fostering a healthy relationship with your mother-in-law is an expression of your love for your husband and your commitment to living out the love of Christ. You never know ... you just might make a friend in the process.

Juli Slattery is the author of Finding the Hero in Your Husband.

Did you know couples are 30 percent less likely to get a divorce if they get some sort of premarital training? If you or someone you know is planning to marry, check out Focus on the Family's Ready to Wed curriculum, and then prepare for a marriage you'll love!

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2011 issue of Focus on the Family's Thriving Family magazine. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing for a gift of any amount.

Copyright © 2011 by Focus on the Family. From the Focus on the Family website at

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