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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

03 November 2005

Living with In-laws

Q: Do you think it is wise for a newly married couple to live with the bride’s mother (she’s single), either in the same house or in a duplex or two-family house?

A: This depends on the relationship the husband and wife have and how they get along with her mother. My wife and I married while I was still in seminary and she had her own apartment. After my year of vicarage (pastoral internship), I returned for my last year of school and we lived in the house with her widowed mother. There were certain pressures and problems, but we got through it reasonably well.

Scripture states in several places (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:7; and Ephesians 5:31) that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This indicates, among other things, that the man should be mature — ready to ably head the household and to support his wife physically and financially, spiritually, and emotionally. While marriage joins families as well as individuals, your primary earthly responsibility will become and remain being a good and faithful husband and hers being a good and faithful wife. The two of you need to decide how much additional family is too much and how close is too close.

It would be easier to have separate doors and locks, as in a duplex or multi-family housing. Yet if you fear that her mom will attempt to intrude on your marriage, you should make sure that if her mother is your landlady, she respects your doors, your locks, and your privacy. Otherwise, she may be tempted to use her control of the property in order to partially control your life. If you fear that this is a possibility — even if you two think that you could overcome it — do you want to allow this temptation into your mother-in-law’s heart and hands?

Remember also that both you and your bride-to-be are comfortable with the arrangement. Sometimes the in-laws end up getting along better than the blood relations, and this can also be a tremendous source of stress on a marriage. I don’t have any hard facts, but my impression over 48 years of life on earth is that this tension is most likely between mothers and daughters.

There are cultures around the world where newlyweds move in with or next door to one of the in-laws. Yet these people usually have defined roles and are prepared ahead of time to defuse conflict. If this isn’t the case with you, then I’d suggest finding other ways to put a roof over your heads or delay the marriage until you can afford your own shelter.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


Blogger Ricardo Rojas said...

Wow what a big task, ive been married for 2 years with my wife we have a one year old child, now one of her brothers wants to move in with us , Why us i ask. he as brothers in the area , he is a nice boy, but i feel weird being a boss to her brother,
i think he should live with his brother, some times this can interfere with my relationship with my wife, Right now we are fine but i can not handle stess of inlaw, i can not afford another mouth to feed. how should i tell my wife this?

25 April, 2008 20:52  
Blogger Renaissance said...

Hello. I really like this article and will be mentioning it in my blog.

Renee Osman,

13 May, 2009 05:16  
Blogger Beshatuka wilfred said...

Yello, this is a nice topic,it has really touched me. Mine is also, technical, am married to a different culture, i cannot speak my husbands language , he cannot speak my language, what unites us is English. Now my mother in law has moved in to stay with me for how long i dont know,she is old. the only interpreter is the maid who shares same language with them. Am not so close to the maid the fact that we stay together, she finds easy to share with my husband, friends, do you think, this situation i will handle. share with me on winfredkatushabe@yahoo.com

31 July, 2011 12:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We boutght a house together with my husbands grandomother ( who raised him) she is 92. I had no idea of the struggles that wed encounter on a daily basis doing this. We have 2 children and one on the way. It is extrememly difficult and has created a lot of stress on me and my marriage too. My husband does side with me most of time which helps but after going through what I have I wouldnt recommend anyone else doing this. There is no way to forsee what is to come..

07 March, 2012 15:20  
Blogger Unknown said...

This speaks to me. My husband and I got married almost two years ago and we have been living with his mother since we got married. She is disabled and does not receive enough money to live on her own. So we are living with her, helping her make her monthly house payment. It hasn't always been easy, but we are making it work. I have not been the best wife in this area and it has caused strain on our marriage, but I am becoming okay with the situation and trusting the Lord. Thank you for this! We have been told by many people that we are doing the wrong thing by helping his mom and living with her. Some of the things that we have been told "You should just kick her out of her house." "You shouldn't have to take care of her, because you are married now." "You are not doing the right thing, because you should cleave to your wife and leave your parents." However, we feel we are doing what is best and have lately been thinking, is the advice we have been receiving what Jesus would do or what God would want us to do?

01 June, 2015 09:20  

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