How to Handle Conflict with Your In-Laws (part 1)

How to handle conflict with in-laws @

How can you handle conflict with your in-laws? Specifically, with your brother-in-law or sister-in-law? Watch this presentation and follow along with the notes below. This is the first part in a three part series.

How to Handle Conflict with your In-Laws

Part 1 – Change your perspective


There are many reasons why you might have conflict with your brother or sister-in-law

  1. The true but simplistic reason is sin.  However, not all sin is the same.

  2. You don’t measure up to their expectations.

  3. As a man, perhaps your brother-in-law is insecure and highly competitive so he always has to win in the relationship?

  4. As a woman, perhaps your sister-in-law is jealous of you?

  5. Maybe your in-law has a mental disorder that makes it very challenging to have healthy relationships?

What are some reasons you have?


Your brother or sister-in-law probably fit into one of three biblical categories:    

  1. He or she is a friend

  2. Your in-law is a “neighbor” (someone in close proximity to you).

  3. Your in-law is an enemy

There are many reasons and a myriad of scenarios.  



Here is our key Bible verse:

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all”

(Romans 12:18,  ESV)

Another translation says it this way, “Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody” (Romans 12:18, Good News Translation).


My three points turned into three sessions based on the Bible’s approach of thought, word, and deed.  This session is part one on changing our thoughts: What to think.


Here are some things to think about (make a paradigm shift in your thinking).

Here are four “I’s” 


A. Idealism

1. Idealism says that my in-law and I see our relationship the same way. But we don’t.

We must understand we all have different perspectives about life and relationships. Seems obvious? But we all tend to be “naïve realists” – we believe we see social interactions the way they really are and that others see them the same way we do.

How you see your relationship with your spouse and his or her family will not be the way your in-law sees things.  It takes work and a good relationship to be on the same proverbial page.

2.  Idealism says ALL family relationships can be healthy and positive; therefore, we WILL become  friends or close-knit. But we may not.

There is a false piety that says you have to have healthy, positive relationships with everyone.  Not even Jesus had that, nor did any biblical hero of the faith.

You cannot assume this will definitely be the case in your relationships and no one should demand that ideal from you.  But you can hope for positive and healthy relationships.

  Remember: Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” 

3. Idealism says, with enough hard work and effort, I can change my in-law.  But we can’t.


What’s the solution?  

Switch from idealism to realism. Learn how to be realistic about your relationship.


B. Idolatry

What is an idol?  “Idols…can be anything we invest our lives in, in order to gain pleasure, happiness and a false sense of purpose.” - The Good and Beautiful Life by Smith

How do you know if your in-law has become an idol in your life?

1.   I would be really happy if my in-law liked me, therefore I work at doing what he or she wants, trying to make him/her like me.  Yes?

2. My in-law makes me ___________ (crazy, angry, upset, depressed).  Yes?


What’s the solution?

Accept the truth:  They have no real control over you, though they may have a significant influence IF YOU LET THEM.   Don’t let them.


C. Identity

            My identity  - To these questions, answer for yourself either true or false.


1.   When I’m around my in-law, I tend to take on the identity s/he expects of me.  I cannot be myself.  True or false?

Most people tend to take on the identity other people expect.  This happens with people-pleasers, those who struggle with approbation lust.

If you are authentic and just be yourself, they might get upset. So bit it. You cannot control their thoughts or emotions.


2.  I feel I am unable to be myself around my in-law because of what my spouse expects.  True or false?


3.   Or I have no problem being myself. True or false? 


How you behave toward your in-law is a reflection of your self-perception.  

How you behave is also a reflection of your expectations and the role you take on.


Identity my in-law’s might have

1.   How your in-law behaves toward you is a reflection of his or her self-perception.  

2.   Your view about your in-law is a reflection of your expectations and the role you take on.


Dr. Karpman brings out that in conflict scenarios, people take on one or more of three predictable roles: Persecutor, Victim, or Rescuer. I’ll address two: Persecutor and Victim.

*    The Persecutor adopts the attitude that, “I’m OK, you are not OK,” therefore it’s OK to attack, blame, or intimidate to get what I want. 

*    The Victim adopts the attitude, “I’m not OK, you are OK” so therefore it’s OK for others to mistreat me. Victims give in and become passive in order to avoid conflict.

What’s the solution?

 1. Come to grips with who you are (heart, mind, soul, body).

                        a.         You need to see yourself as God sees you in Christ. 

                        b.         You need to understand your strengths and talents. 

                                    (For help on this see Strength Finders 2.0 or Virtues in

                        c.         You need to identify your spiritual strengths and gifts.

Learn how to change and grow to be an authentic person.


            2.   Learn how to give up fear of what your in-laws think but live in the fear of the Lord.

                    The fact is, they are going to like you or hate you for their own reasons.


            3.   Grow to be free in Christ and not as a slave to other’s personal expectations for you.

Paul did that, as he said in 1 Corinthians 10:29, For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? 

When is it good to please others? When it is for the sake of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 10:33).


D. I-cleaner

It can be healthy to examine your heart and your part. We see this in 1 Corinthians 11 and a few other places of the Bible. In Matthew 7, Jesus addresses hypocrisy by telling us to take a look at the log in our own eye before judging our opponent.

Note:   This is often used as proof that all conflicts you have are caused by your sin and your opponent’s sin.  That’s not what this is saying and that is not what happened with Jesus.

The point to take from this is when there is conflict, take the time to examine your part in it.

This is not only eye surgery but it is heart surgery. It will be painful.


What’s the solution?

Examine your part of the conflict. Are you contributing to the conflict by what you say or do? 

If so, how?

If so, why?

If so, stop.


a.   Recruit your spouse and others you trust for feedback and ask,  “In your opinion, what is it I say or do that pushes ______  buttons?”

b.   Listen, don’t respond, and take notes.

      (1) Take time to evaluate each item and use God’s Word as your standard.

                  Am I really this way?  Is that a bad thing or good thing? 

                  Is what I am doing illegal, immoral, or sinful? 

                  Am I the offender or does _____ take offense?

      (2) If you have these negative behaviors, then take the effort to change.


If my in-law takes offense, then they need to change.

                  But recognize that you are not the one to change his or her heart.

 This presentation was sponsored by Titus 2 Ministry and originally given for the Titus 2 Community’s Talk Live Tuesday and for The Explicitly Christian Marriage Facebook groups.

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