Have you been wondering about how to deal with in-laws better? If so, you’re not alone. Although some regularly experience happy and peaceful in-law interactions, too often, that’s not the case.
For those who find their in-law exchanges generally negative, the intensity of those struggles can vary. Some would describe their family by marriage as, “annoying in-laws,” or, worse yet, “toxic in-laws.” Others would even go as far as to say, “I hate my in-laws.”
One of the greatest concerns is when in-laws affect your marriage in a negative way. What’s to be done when in-law problems bleed into your most vital relationship? Or, how do you continue to improve on a reasonably cordial in-law relationship? Here are some ways to keep things healthy for everyone involved.
Make Allowance for the Faults and Imperfections of Your In-Laws
In-law struggles are real. This point isn’t meant to make light of that fact. Even so, a great place to begin is with self-reflection. A healthy starting point if there are conflicts is to ask, “Have I contributed to the problem in any way?”
If so, be open about that and willing to change. If not, do your best to overlook the faults of your in-laws the best you can, knowing that you have faults too.
Setting Boundaries with In-Laws
Having made that first point, remember that your primary family is now your spouse (and children if you have them). While your parents and siblings used to be your immediate family, they’re now your extended family.
Of course, make your extended family a priority but also realize there should be healthy boundaries in place. If the in-laws do anything to undermine the wellness, autonomy or stability of your immediate family, that’s something that needs to be addressed.
Your first priority needs to be your spouse and children. That is a stronger and more primary alliance now than in-law relationships are.
The Biological Child Should Smooth Out Disagreements
If disagreements with in-laws do arise, it’s always best for the spouse originally from that family to confront these problems with their extended family and work through them. If you make your spouse initiate this, it could undermine your marriage and primary family’s unity.
The two of you need to be a united front when it comes to dealing with in-laws. The biological child handling conflict shows that the marriage is most important.
Having the “outsider” spouse do the conflict resolution could lead the in-laws to believe that their biological representative in the marriage isn’t in agreement with their spouse on the matter. This could lead the in-laws to attempt to divide the marriage and family.
Don’t Blame Your Spouse for In-Law Behavior
At some point, it’s inevitable. Your in-laws either unintentionally or intentionally will hurt you. If this happens, resist the urge to blame your spouse for his or her family’s behavior.
While your spouse may be from that family, it doesn’t mean they’re responsible for the behavior of others. Keep this in mind to make sure in-law conflicts don’t lead to conflicts with your spouse and immediate family later on.
In her “Psychology Today” article entitled 10 Ways to Have an Easier Relationship With Your In-Laws, Barbara Greenburg Ph.D. shares the following advice:
“Above all else, do not blame your partner for his/her parents’ behavior. I am sure that your partner is already painfully aware of his/her parents’ shortcomings. There is no reason to cause further shame, embarrassment or humiliation, is there?”
Find Ways for Your In-Laws to Be Involved with You and the Grandkids
We all want to be needed in a relationship. In-laws are no different. Discuss with your spouse and in-laws agreed-upon ways to get involved in your life.
That could include caring for your pets when you’re gone, watching your children from time to time or housesitting among other possibilities.
The key is for your in-laws to agree to this role so they feel fulfilled instead of taken for granted.
Learn How to Deal with In-Laws Healthfully Through Counseling
Going to your in-laws and family of origin about relationship problems can sometimes make things worse. Too often, it only adds to your existing challenges. Your family of origin will almost always side with you over your spouse which can gradually diminish and divide your bond.
For that reason, it’s smart to consider seeking the unbiassed and evidenced-based guidance of a licensed professional counselor. Marriage counseling can provide a safe way to work through your challenges with someone who is highly skilled in relationships and who isn’t emotionally wrapped up in your struggles.
If you’d like to schedule an appointment with us, you’re welcome to reach out when it works best. Whether you’re looking for couples counseling or individual counseling, the OC Relationship Center is here to help. We provide marriage counseling in Orange County, CA. You can schedule an appointment with us at either our Mission Viejo, CA or Newport Beach, CA counseling locations.