I had always hoped that my future wife would love my parents, and she did before we were married. But ever since the day of wedding preparation, relationships went south. My parents had disagreements with my in-laws, causing my wife to start harboring resentment toward my parents… and things went from bad to worse on our wedding day….

When I argue with my wife, it is always about my parents. I would like to honor and support them somehow, but my wife has closed her heart to them, to the extreme that she won’t allow them to hug my children or be around them.

Dear Friend,

You may be surprised to learn that many couples have your same problem or some version of it. We don’t personally know you, your wife, your parents, or your in-laws, so it is possible that some part of our counsel won’t apply to your situation, but hopefully the general principles will help you.

Many women grow up idealizing their future wedding with the man of their dreams. But often his parents (especially his mother) have their own dreams for him. It is not surprising that the disagreements in your family began on the day of wedding preparation because that is the time when your bride’s dreams crashed head on with your mother’s dreams (and maybe your father’s as well). There probably were details that were argued about. And, as would be expected, your in-laws came to the defense of their daughter.

All of the subsequent disagreements have been about who is trying to protect the interests of whom. Your parents want to protect you from a wife that they probably think should treat you better. But when they try to protect you, they offend your wife. Then her parents, seeing that she is offended, try to protect her, and she in turn tries to protect her parents and her children. She doesn’t need to protect you because your parents are already doing that very well.

The Bible makes it clear that, from the beginning of creation, God anticipated this would happen. He put the maternal instinct into mothers knowing that it was necessary for them to fiercely protect their children. But then he put a time limit on that protection by saying, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”(1)

Leaving your father and mother is a physical, economical, and emotional action. It means that the man forms a new family with his bride, and that his presence and allegiance are transferred from his parents to his wife. It is his responsibility to honor his parents while at the same time making clear to them that his wife has to be his priority going forward.

Our guess is that you are caught between your parents and your wife because you have tried to please both. You have not “left” your parents emotionally as the Bible instructs. Once you do that, and enough time has passed for your wife to feel emotionally supported by you, together you can decide about the contact you have with your parents.

We wish you well,

1 Ge 2:24