Honoring your mother-in-law

Written by Stacy Reaoch
Published on July 08, 2022

My mother-in-law and I are complete opposites. She’s extroverted and loves to talk. I’m introverted and prefer to listen. She loves big family gatherings and I prefer small groups. It seems like whenever we’re together, I can hardly get a word in. Can’t my husband just be the one to communicate with her? I feel drained every time we’re together.”

Does this sound familiar? Over our years in ministry my husband and I have done a good amount of pre-marriage counseling. In-law relationships are often a point of contention. One of the key points we emphasize is that the new husband and wife must learn to leave and cleave, or separate from their families of origin in order to form a new family. It’s important for them to begin functioning as their own family unit instead of an extension of their parents.

But at the same time, that doesn’t mean they push their parents out of the picture. Exodus 20:12 tells us to honor our parents. Now that you are united to your husband as one flesh, in a way, his parents are also your parents. So the command to honor them applies not just to our biological parents but our in-laws. 

You might be tempted to think, ”But can’t my husband just deal with his mom? Why do I have to be involved? We’re so different! We hardly have anything in common other than the man we both love.” But this is just the reason you should make an effort to honor your mother-in-law.

Showing honor to the woman who raised your husband, who nourished him with daily meals, drove him to countless practices and cares so deeply about him is actually a way to love your husband. If your husband constantly hears you complaining about something his mom did, tension can build in both the marriage and the relationship with his parents. How can you seek to show honor to your mother-in-law, even in the midst of a difficult relationship?  

Honor her through prayer

If you feel hesitancy—or even opposition—to this idea of honoring your in-laws, your first step might be to ask God to soften your heart toward your mother-in-law, to search your heart for any root of bitterness or resentment that you need to confess. It’s easy to point fingers and cast blame on another person for our relational difficulties. It’s harder to admit our own part in the struggle. Pray the Lord will help you to see the good in your mother-in-law, to notice all the ways she has blessed your family. 

Let go of the offenses that are replaying in your mind and ask God for grace to move toward her in love. Pray for God’s blessing on her life. Pray she will desire to grow in her relationship with God, that she’ll hunger and thirst after righteousness. Pray for a fruitful life and a nurturing relationship with your children. You might be surprised by how your heart warms toward her as you diligently bring her before the throne of grace.

Honor her with your words

Proverbs 18:21 tells us death and life are in the power of the tongue. Our words can build up and our words can tear down. They can be life-giving or destructive. Have you noticed what words you normally use when talking about your mother-in-law? Our culture loves to play on the negative stereotypes of mothers-in-law—from tv sitcoms to a sharp-edged plant named “mother-in-law tongue.” It seems par for the course to join in the complaining.  

But what if instead of voicing a complaint about your mother-in-law, you voiced something you appreciate about her? Like how she dropped off an unexpected box of diapers, or babysat for your date night, or how she sets a beautiful example of serving in her church. Speak well of her in front of your friends and family. Give her a shout out on social media for a way she has blessed you. Look for the good that you can call out in her. It will be a means of grace to both your mother-in-law and your husband. 

Honor her with your time

I’ve heard it said that our calendars and our checkbooks reveal what’s important to us. How we spend our time reveals what we value. We all feel the pressure of the calendar and limited hours in a day, but do we make an effort to regularly spend time with our in-laws? If you’re blessed to live close-by, could you stop in to say hello when you’re running errands? Or plan a family meal together once a month? Can you invite your in-laws to your kids’ soccer games and school events? Many of us don’t live geographically close to our in-laws, but we have a huge gift in technology that can connect us despite the miles. 

We’ve had piano recitals where Barb and Ron attend via video call. Then they can still celebrate our kids’ accomplishments with us, even when they can’t be there in person. Texting your mother-in-law a quick note to let her know you’re thinking about her shows you care. Picking up the phone and giving her a short call might mean more than you think. Sure, making time can feel like a sacrifice, but the most important things in life require effort. Creating space to honor this relationship in your life can yield surprising results.

Honor her through tangible help

How many times have you been doing a chore or activity and wished you had an extra set of hands? Providing tangible help is a way to practically come alongside your mother-in-law. Maybe she’s a gardener and you can offer to help her weed and plant flowers. Or maybe she’s walking through a time of chronic sickness and you can drive her to the doctor or bring a meal. Finding ways to tangibly show love will help build bridges and honor the other mother in your life. 

Some of you may be thinking, “I hardly have time to make my own family dinner, how can I help her too?” If you’re in a season where you feel like you’re drowning in the demands of motherhood, work, and home, can I encourage you to ask her for help? It might be the last place you’d think of looking for help, but letting down your defenses and showing your need can be an open invitation for your mother-in-law to step in. She might be struggling with her new season of life, wondering how to use her time in the empty nest years. Giving her a practical and visible way to help your family might be just the thing needed to bring the two of you closer together.  

Praising God for the gift

Our good and sovereign God brought you and your husband together in marriage. And through that gift, he also gave you the gift of your mother-in-law. As Christian women, let’s break the cultural norms of griping and complaining about our in-laws, and instead be salt and light to the world by choosing to honor them. The gospel will be put on display as you seek to love, serve, and honor the other mother in your life. And you just might gain a new friend too! 

Originally posted on journeywomenpodcast.com/blog

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Stacy Reaoch

Stacy Reaoch is a pastor’s wife and mother of four. She’s passionate about studying the Bible and helping women apply God’s life-changing truth to their daily lives. She is the author of Wilderness Wanderings: Finding Contentment in the Desert Times of Life and the co-author of the book, Making Room for Her– Biblical Wisdom for a Healthier Relationship with Your Mother-In-Law or Daughter-In-Law (B&H- Feb.2022). Stacy resides in Pittsburgh, PA with her family. You can find her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and stacyreaoch.com.

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