You would not believe the frightening noises that come out of my washing machine. It began with that helicopter noise during the spin cycle. I tried moving the machine away from the wall. It didn’t help but the clothes were still clean so I ignored the noise. Then the wash cycle began to sound like an earth mover digging a subbasement in my laundry room. I tried avoiding the heavy wash setting to cut down on the noise but the clothes were still clean so I moved on. Let’s face it. There’s no puddle of water, no suds climbing the walls, not smoke and no sparks (that I know of) but really I know a complete breakdown is just a matter time. At some point when the little fixes don’t work you have to face the reality that something is really wrong.
Relationships are like that. Take in-law relationships. When there’s a problem between a couple and their in-laws the tendency is to try and fix the in-law relationship when the real problem is between the parent and child. But focusing on the in law relationship is the easy fix like moving my washer away from the wall. It’s better for a little while but the real problem’s still there. But in Matthew 5:24 Jesus tells us to “be reconciled to our brothers.” Jesus doesn’t want us to settle for the easy fix. He wants us to restore damaged relationships. That means getting down to the real problem.
Most significant family problems originate in primary relationships like husbands and wives and parents and children. In-law relationships are secondary relationships. The friction in a secondary relationship is a symptom of the real problem in a primary relationship.
Think of it this way. When parents don’t like the person their child has married it probably has to do with the way that person behaves but the real problem is that the child has not only chosen someone the parents would have never chosen but then their child tolerates their spouse’s behavior. Parent’s think “I raised them to do better than this”. What’s hard for the parent to see is that on some level the spouse their child picked fills a need and offers their child some level of completion. The parents need to acknowledge the positive things the spouse brings to the marriage even if they don’t understand it..
Likewise, a parent might ignore, belittle or insult the spouse or they find other ways to interfere with the marriage. The real issue is the child’s need to show the parent they are an adult by telling them the marriage is the priority and the expectation is for them to treat the spouse with respect. You see spouses don’t change their behaviors in a marriage to please their in-laws. They change their behaviors to build and nurture the marriage.
Lasting change needs to occur in primary relationships. Parents and adult children should ask the other to change and spouses should request change of each other. Trying to change an in-law relationship without looking at the primary relationships is just trying to get rid of the noise by offering a quick fix. You know you deserve better. Jesus knows you deserve better too.