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Marriage Preparation and Improvement:  Friends and In-Laws

Marriage and problems with in-laws and friendsWhat effect can friends, in-laws, family, and relatives have on a marriage? How important can the influence of companions be?

This is part of a ten-part series about marriage preparation and improvement. This article should be studied in context of the whole series of articles. To start at the beginning of the series, please click here: Marriage_Improvement.php

When you marry, you are marrying one person. But with him/her you "inherit" a whole new set of family members and friends. You will enter a close connection with his/her relatives and friends, and he/she will enter a relationship with your relatives and friends. Sometimes this leads to problems.

A. Sometimes, There Will Be a Conflict with In-Laws and Friends.

Genesis 2:24 - When a man and woman marry, they form a new family separated from the families of either of their parents. The husband is to leave the parents and form a new and stronger tie with his wife.

Ephesians 5:22-25 - The new family has a head: the husband. Neither the man's parents nor the wife's parents are the head of this new family. Friends and family may make suggestions or give Biblical instruction or even rebuke when needed. But the husband is the leader of the new family, and his decisions should give primary consideration to the needs and wishes of his wife.

But some parents do not respect this and try to continue making decisions for their children as they have in the past. Sometimes the son or daughter has trouble "cutting the apron strings" and is too heavily influenced by his/her parents. The new husband may allow his parents to make decisions for him or may make choices on the basis of what pleases his parents instead of what meets the needs of his wife. Or the wife may seek to submit to her parents, instead to her husband. Such interference by family or friends may cause serious conflict in the new marriage.

Avoiding or solving this problem will take understanding of God's will and firm resolve on the part of the new couple. They must discuss the problem, preferably before marriage. Make sure you have a mutual understanding about what your relationship will be to family and friends. If you see evidence of a problem, discuss it. Then the new husband and wife must confront the troublesome family member, explain the Bible teaching, and take a firm stand.

Sometimes the only solution may be to move some distance away from the parents.

B. Your Companion Will Bring to the Marriage Habits and Attitudes Learned from His/Her Family and Friends.

Even if your mate's family or friends make no direct efforts to interfere in your marriage, your companion will come to the marriage with patterns of thinking, acting, and speaking that he/she developed from parents, relatives, and acquaintances. Observing his/her family and friends may help you understand him/her and know what to expect.

The effect of family influence

Ezekiel 16:44 - Like mother, like daughter. Or, as we sometimes say it, "Like father, like son." All of us our influenced by what we grew up with. We tend to continue to relate to people according to the habits we established growing up and according to the role models we observed.

1 Kings 15:3 - This and many similar verses describe people who were good or bad like their parents were. When children grow up with parents who have a good marriage, treat one another well, and are good parents, their children tend to act the same way in their marriage. But if the parents are alcoholic, abusive, or negligent, the children may act that way, even if they hated the way their parents acted. They lack a good role model to follow and may simply not know how to act differently.

It is possible to be different from what a person experienced while growing up, but this is difficult. If you do not like the way your future spouse's parents act in their home, or if you do not like the way your future spouse treats his family, then take care. It will be very difficult for your spouse to change these patterns, and you need to spend lots of time making sure he/she is determined and able to be different.

Nehemiah 13:23,24 - Both parents influence children. If you have conflict with your spouse's family, this needs to be dealt with thoroughly, preferably before marriage. If you marry this person, you will not only have to deal with their family themselves, you will also have to deal with their influence on your mate.

The effect of friends

Proverbs 13:20 - Companionship with fools will make us foolish, but association with wise men will make us wise. Christians realize that our associations, especially our closest companions, will have a major influence on the kind of life we lead. Evil companions corrupt our morals (1 Corinthians 15:33).

When you marry, you inherit your companion's friends. If you marry a person who has a habit of choosing bad companions or "running with a bad crowd," those people will become your companions too. If you marry a person who shows a pattern of wise choice of friends, then both of you will be able to associate with godly, moral people.

Proverbs 29:27 - An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous. But the ways of a righteous man are an abomination to the wicked! Before you marry a person, you need to consider how well you will get along with his friends and relatives and how well your spouse will get along with your family and friends.

Will your companion's friends and in-laws be the kind of people you will want to be visiting with frequently, especially after you have children? Does the person you are considering marrying make wise choice of his/her closest friends? And how will your spouse react to your family and friends?

Discuss these matters carefully before marriage and after marriage. Determine to marry a person only if he/she shows a commitment to good relationships and good influences. After marriage, continue to study God's word together and reevaluate the influence your family and friends have on you, on your marriage, and on your children.

This is part of a ten-part series of articles about marriage preparation and improvement. To continue with the next article in the series, please go to  To start at the beginning of the series, please click here: Marriage_Improvement.php

(C) Copyright 2007, David E. Pratte;

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