Problems With The In-Laws

Dear Dr. Bill,

My husband and I have been married for 10 years, and we’ve come to a breaking point over his family.  He’s still very much “attached” to his parents and will do anything to not “rock the boat” or upset them.  As a result, his mother and sister have no regard for my feelings and mistreat me constantly.  My husband doesn’t correct them and carries on as if nothing is wrong.  I’ve almost given up hope for our marriage.  Despite the fact that we need professional counseling, my husband is too proud to consider it.  What should I do?


Dear Susan,

God provides us with a model for successful marriage relationships in the Bible.  In Genesis 2 He tells us that a man shall leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife.  Jesus repeats that command in the book of Matthew.

The word “cleave” means to be united as one flesh and to establish a new family unit, separate from the family of origin.  In order for a marriage to be successful, that new family unit needs to take priority over the husband’s family and the wife’s family.

You mention that your husband is too proud to see a therapist.  If that’s the case, I suggest that you inform him that you have decided to see a counselor with or without him.  Find a good Christian therapist who has experience with marital issues and make an appointment.

Tell your husband that you’re hoping he will attend with you, but that if he doesn’t you’ll be going on your own.  If you stick with it, eventually he may be willing to accompany you.

Even if your husband refuses to go to counseling, your therapist can teach you ways to develop the emotional strength to stand up to your husband and his critical family.  This won’t be easy, but you’ll have a caring ally who will guide you through the process of developing healthy boundaries that will improve your life and the life of your children.

Thanks for writing Susan.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

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