Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
-Ephesians 6:4, NIV
I made an honest mistake when my marriage started to unravel:
My mistake was to open and share my heart to the father of my (now) ex-wife.
It was an honest mistake in that I was simply trusting his word on our wedding day that he would support our marriage as opposed to what his words and actions actually did–i.e. blatantly undermine the union. I should have known better than to trust my (now) ex-in-laws to do the godly thing in instructing their daughter to follow Christ and honor her marriage vows.
But I was desperate to stay married having grown up within a highly divorce-phobic Christian subculture.
My advice to the newly minted faithful partners discovering infidelity is to avoid discussing marital issues with your in-laws in general. They are not positioned to be objective. Being parents of the cheater, they have a biological bias to him or her. “Blood is thicker than water” as the saying goes.
In-Laws are not the individuals to go to for crisis marriage advice and support!
I would have saved myself much suffering and anguish if I had realized that earlier rather than later in my marriage’s demise. By engaging them in this role, you are making yourself vulnerable to individuals who are biologically programmed to choose their child over you.
So, not only do the in-laws have the interest of discharging their own discomfort brought on by the ugly news, they are also interested in reducing the suffering of their own blood. This is true even if making their cheating child feel better means making the faithful spouse eat the cost.
Another related piece of truth here is that you do not owe your (former) in-laws an inside look into your dying or dead marriage.
It is not the in-laws’ place to tell you how to run your life or marriage. If you are married, you are an adult and need to be respected as such even and especially in this instance of a troubled or dead marriage. A healthy boundary here may need setting over and over again if these individuals remain in your life.
Now, I can understand if the in-laws want to know why you are choosing divorce. They can get the factual cliff-notes version of that, though.
“Your daughter is or was cheating on me, and God is clear that His followers are not to tolerate such sin.”
If they have a problem with that, you can point them back to their child’s behavior and Scripture.
“The Bible does not require more of a reason than sexual infidelity to divorce. If you have a problem with the divorce, you really need to talk to your own daughter as to why she thought it was okay to defy God and destroy her marriage by cheating and lying.”
As a side note, some in-laws will be supportive and respectful of the faithful spouse. They may even agree with the divorce decision and may be appropriately horrified by their child’s choices to lie and cheat. I would still caution openness with these in-laws until you are certain they are trustworthy as the dynamics of blood over non-blood are very, very deep.
To deal with the interfering (former) in-laws who feel entitled to dig into your spousal performance, I would suggest either silence or changing the subject.
“Hey, let’s talk about the grand kids. Did you know that Susie climbed to the top of the tall slide and went down it all on her own the other day!”
“I am not going to talk with you about my performance as a spouse.”
“If you really ‘need’ to talk about performance, we can discuss how well you performed in raising and training your child in godliness as Paul instructed you to do in Ephesians 6:4. Personally, I think it would be better for our relationship to discuss other matters, though.”
“I do not blame you for your child’s horrific sins against me any more than you should blame me for enforcing consequences for such sins. Let’s leave it at that.”
Keep your boundaries firm with the in-laws. And do not beat yourself up too much if you fail to do so. I certainly did more than once and I am more than okay today by the grace of God!