Meddling in-laws a sure-fire recipe for marital disputes

I watched a wonderful movie recently, Les Miserables, which is a story that has been presented on stage and in a number of movies over the years.

Although the entire story is fascinating, the part that I found most moving was where the main character, Jean Valjean, discovers that his beloved adopted daughter, Cosette, has fallen in love with a young man called Marius. Valjean goes from feeling protective and jealous about this relationship to realizing that, as part of his deep love for his daughter, he wants to accept and love the young man she has chosen.

Valjean sings the beautiful song, Bring Him Home, praying for the safety of his daughter’s young man in the armed rebellion where Marius is in grave danger. When Marius is wounded, Valjean carries him through the sewers of Paris to safety, at great risk to himself, and thereby saves the life of his daughter’s beloved.

Anyone who has adult children who are married or in a committed common-law relationship might want to see that movie and think about Valjean’s attitude toward his son-in-law.

When I practiced family law, I observed what I believe was the single most common factor that causes marriages to break down.

Is the main cause addiction, financial irresponsibility or basic incompatibility?

No, in my experience, most often it is interference by parents or other family members of one or both of the marriage partners.

Usually, it is the sad scenario of a controlling parent continuing to monopolize the life of their child and attempting to make him choose between his spouse and his parent, expecting the child to continue to have his first loyalty to his family of origin.

This can be even more difficult if the young married couple resides or works with the parents. In those cases, both the parents and the young couple need to be respectful of each other’s family units.

Money that is loaned or given to the young couple with difficult strings attached often becomes the root of a problem that will fester into marriage breakdown.

Parenting practices and efforts to control the grandchildren as well as the adult children are also often an issue of contention.

It is a recipe for disaster when the parents of an adult child take sides in marital disputes.

The example given by Jean Valjean of opening his heart to his new son-in-law, loving him like the son he never had and doing whatever he could to make the young couple’s marriage successful, is worth remembering.

The role of the parents in the success or failure of their adult children’s marriage cannot be overstated.

Respect the choices your children have made, love their spouses like you would love your own children and do whatever you can to support the marriage.

About the author


Stories from our other publications