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Marriage in a Community, Including In-laws.

“He that troubles his own house, shall inherit the wind…” Proverbs 11:29.

There is no wiser literature than the book of Proverbs found in the Bible. Pithy sayings collected and stored that are full of poetry, wisdom, and beauty. Long before family therapy was conceived, the author of the Proverbs gave sound advice about family relationships. And the clear message is, protect your family emotionally, financially and spiritually.

The world can be a cold and unfriendly landscape. There are times when only your family will support you. And pity the person who has no family to support them when the going gets rough. Family is the bank of last resort. Family is the safe harbor in the storm. Or as my brother loves to remind me, “blood is thicker than water.”

It may seem inconsequential that family gets together for traditional holidays. It may appear ordinary when family members spend idle days together around socializing with food. But what is occurring is far more important. Emotionally, the members of the family are bounding, uniting, and supporting each other. Without family support, humans feel lonely, isolated and lost.

Of course, family is not always created by blood. There are many people who have created their own family from friends, associates, and service groups. Family is a feeling of companionship and identification with others. There are many non-traditional family groups that are incredibly strong, supportive and loving. In fact, when traditional family breaks down, creating your own family from friends and associates works well for most people.

Some people have found that because of family dysfunctionality, where original family members are toxic and destructive, replacement family can work well. Family is accepting, non judgmental, and loving. If your original family is cruel and judgmental, creating an alternative is advisable. The point is humans need family whether that family is by “blood” or by choice. For in family, humans find support and emotional nurturing.

Couples need to be careful not to allow in-laws to separate them with gossip and judgments. The reason mothers in laws are a traditional joke is because too many express opinions that attempt to divide the couple. If a man’s mother attempts to do this, the man will have to stand up to his mother and set boundaries that protect his marriage. The same is true for the wife.

Perhaps harder is the issue of stepchildren. In family therapy, the issue of stepchildren is one of the most contentious problems that can arise. The stepparent needs to be sensitive to the issues and if needed seek outside guidance on how to handle this matter as it is often volatile and difficult to navigate.

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