The relationship with one’s in-laws is not one to be taken lightly as it can make or break the marriage union. When Rebecca complained about the daughters of Heth whom Esau had married, Esau took yet another wife. I believe this was done to please his parents.
The relationship between women and their in-laws is very important and must be given adequate attention so that it does not lead to the breakdown of the relationship between the woman and her husband. It is a known fact that many men, although married, are still heavily influenced by their extended family members and choose to please them to the detriment of their marital relationship.
It has been observed that the even Christian women are not left out as far as in-harmonious relationships with the in-laws go and even go as far as using the scriptures to justify wrong actions taken against their in-laws. They say a man is supposed to leave father and mother and cleave to his wife. Their understanding of this scripture is that their husband should break off all links with his parents and other family members after marriage. Many frown at the man’s willingness to continue to provide for his aged parents and siblings, their reason being that the man now has a new family and so provision for the old family should cease. Others frown at visits from their in-laws and see them as intruders coming to put asunder what God has joined together. Such selfish attitudes and lack of understanding of what the Bible says or a misinterpretation of the scriptures to suit one’s needs is one reason that the relationship between women and their in-laws is not what it ought to be.
Another reason why the relationship between women and their in-laws is often times anything but harmonious is because of the problems created by the in-laws themselves. Many refuse to see the wife as being one with her husband, as a matter of fact they see her as an intruder in their family who has come in to take away their son, brother, uncle, etc. and refuse to give her, her rightful place beside her husband. A lot of mothers, even after their son is married, want to retain first place in his heart, they blatantly refuse to relinquish this position to their daughter-in-law and therefore a struggle ensues for who will occupy that special place in the heart of the man that only one woman can per time. As a result, the daughter-in-law views her mother-in-law as competition and a threat to her marriage. Obviously, this does not help the relationship between both women and often times the other in-laws throw their weight behind the erring mother-in-law because she’s family and the relationship between them and the woman marrying their son/brother is strained.
In Africa, one finds that even the Christians choose to go by the African tradition instead of the word of God when it comes to marriage. The woman who should be the most important person in the life of the man, next to God, is made the least important. The family members of the man believe they are more important to the man. The wife is seen as a stranger who has come to sojourn in the house of her husband, bear him children and return to her own people empty handed. If peradventure she fails to have children at the family’s appointed time, her sojourn is brought abruptly to an end. She is kicked out of her matrimonial home which the family sees as, “our brother’s house” or “our son’s house”. With such negative treatment of women by their husband’s family members, is it any wonder that most women are not relating harmoniously with their in-laws?
Yet another reason why the relationship between women and their in-laws is not harmonious is because the men fail to act as proper mediators between their wives and members of their extended families by ensuring that their extended family members do not interfere in their marital issues. Many men are still tied to the apron strings of their parents and siblings and cannot make any decision for their lives without consultation with their parents and siblings. The result of this failure to grow up is that the parents and siblings are invited to meddle in the affairs of the man’s home and this does not go down well with the wife. Many African men, even the Christians amongst them, are still very traditional in their thinking. They place and indeed see their parents, siblings and other relatives as being more important to them than their wives. Many men will tell you that if their mother and their wife were drowning and they could only save one person they would save their mother because while their wife can be replaced their mother cannot be replaced. This is a wrong way to think and it is men like these who create unnecessary tension between their wives and their extended family members. When a man thinks like this how can he be a good mediator between his wife and extended family? How can he draw the line so his family knows the boundaries? He can’t, and they will interfere in his affairs, to the frustration of his wife. These are the men who see their wives as strangers who have come to sojourn in their homes, have children and go away empty handed. It is for this reason many an African man will make his brother his next of kin instead of his wife. It is for this reason a man will throw out his wife’s belongings at the slightest provocation, because for him, it is “my house” and not “our house”. And it will interest you to know that such men will not think of throwing out the belongings of their younger siblings, no matter the provocation, because they consider “what will papa and mama will say?” Such men have not left their father and mother and are therefore unable to cleave to their wives. Many make plans for the future with their parents and siblings and the wife is not let in on it. She sits watching the plans unfold like a spectator. This is an evil practice that has destroyed the relationship between women and their in-laws.
Eturuvie Erebor (AKA Gabriella) is a writer, speaker, trainer and coach with a strong passion to transform the lives of women and youth not only in her native country, Nigeria and the United Kingdom, where she was born, but all across the world. She has spoken to women and youth groups in churches,