Q: I have been dating my boyfriend for almost a year, and our relationship is going very well. The issue is with his mom. She is very controlling; itís ďher way or the highway.Ē Weíve talked about getting married in the future, and we donít want her controlling our marriage. How can we confront her in a loving way?
Jim: Youíre absolutely correct. You donít want your mother-in-law controlling your marriage! And while it might be tempting to give her the benefit of the doubt and believe that sheíll back off once you actually tie the knot, based on what youíve described, that doesnít seem likely.
Our counseling team has dealt with this question in the past and suggests that it is your boyfriendís responsibility to take the lead on this issue. If heís afraid to confront her or simply doesnít want to rock the boat, we suggest that you make a date with him and then patiently explain that you can no longer tolerate his momís attempts to control your relationship. Then work on setting some firm boundaries for her.
Once youíre on the same page, the two of you should sit down with his mom and share your concerns. Your boyfriend should take the lead in this conversation. He should make it clear -- as lovingly and gently as possible -- that you are adults and that you expect to be treated as such. Hopefully, she will see the error of her ways and learn to loosen up a bit.
As a part of this process, you might also want to read ďBoundariesĒ (Zondervan, 2002), an excellent book by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. It contains a wealth of helpful material for setting healthy boundaries in a variety of relationships.
Q: My husband left me six months ago. He said he just couldnít be married any longer. I have tried many times to reconcile with him, but he is unwilling to go to counseling or to even try to work on the marriage. I donít want to get a divorce. I am willing to try anything to rebuild our marriage. Do you know of any programs or resources that would help us?
Dr. Greg Smalley, executive director of Marriage and Family Formation: Iím very sorry to learn of the difficult state of your marriage. There are programs that can help, such as intensive couplesí counseling, but your husband needs to be willing to attend. Until heís open to doing so, and until he desires to work on the marriage, your options are limited. If youíve been continuously urging him to attend counseling for the past six months or more, itís time to give him some space. Just a little bit of breathing room may help him make the decision for himself. You canít make it for him.
In the meantime, consider working on your own heart. I donít know the details of your separation, but in general, when a separation or divorce occurs, itís easy to focus on the other personís issues rather than confronting our own.
In other words, your husbandís refusal to take part in counseling shouldnít prevent you from pursuing counseling on your own. You might consider seeking out a support group in your church that could help you grapple with this difficult period in your marriage. Talking one-on-one with a counselor may also be helpful to you as you hope and pray for the day when your husband decides to work on the marriage. Contact Focus on the Family for a referral. God bless you.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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