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March 25, 2014
by Casey Truffo, LMFT

Trouble in Paradise: How to Deal with Intrusive In-Laws

March 25, 2014 02:55 by Casey Truffo, LMFT

Unsolicited Advice

The unity of marriage not only brings two individuals together, but it also blends families. While you and your spouse may have worked through the challenges of getting to know each other and how to coexist, your families may still be trying to figure out how to interact and be a part of your new chapter in life. There are plenty of marriages out there where one spouse and their in-laws are polar opposites, making it difficult for them to get along. It's also not uncommon for cohabitating couples to have to deal with their parents' dishing out wisdom from their years of marriage. Though the intent may be innocent, an in-law that is constantly offering unsolicited advice about what they think is best for your household can lead to tension in your relationship and, if left unresolved, could quite possibly lead to a family feud that lands your spouse square in the middle. So below you’ll find a few pointers on how you can keep your sanity while keeping the peace and allowing your in-laws to be a part of your family.

Talk with Your Spouse

Never, never, never, take matters into your own hands. Ultimately your spouse is the one who will have to deal with the backlash that might come from this feud and thus that should be the first person you talk to. Let them know that certain behaviors of their parents are starting to drive you crazy and that you need some form of resolution. In most cases you’d be surprised to find that your spouse agrees with you but just may not know how to tell their parents how to back off.

List the Problems

Does your mother-in-law tend to show up unexpectedly, citing she was “just in the neighborhood”? Does she constantly complain or make comments about the way your home is kept up? Maybe they always provide insight in marital problems and you want them to butt-out. Whatever your problems are with your in-laws, now is the time to list them so you can come up with a reasonable way to solve the problem.

Set Rules

Once you’ve got a list of your problems you need to come up with some rules that will keep this at bay. Be sure that you run these “rules” by your spouse to ensure that they too are on board with this. Some examples of rules you might set include:

  1. In-laws show up unannounced – request that they call before coming (or take away their spare key if they have one)
  2. In-laws don’t agree with the way you raise the children – insist that your children will follow your rules and that when they come to visit they can oblige by whatever the grandparents feel is best.
  3. In-laws criticize you to your spouse - your spouse is not to engage in those types of conversations, and remind the in-laws that though they may not like some of the things that their son or daughter-in-law may do, they need to respect your spouse AND your feelings.   

Give Them Responsibilities

In most cases, in-laws are just parents that are unaware of how to let go and allow their children to become adults. One way to nip this in the bud is to make them feel valuable to your family. Give them responsibilities that might include being the official sitters when you go out on dates, or allow them to pick the children up from school a few days out of the month. This will make them feel included.

Encourage a Relationship

Sometimes parents feel “abandoned” when their children go off and live lives of their own. You can help the situation by encouraging your spouse to maintain a relationship with their parents both with the family included and also by themselves. A healthy relationship with your spouse and their parents will lighten the load of negativity the in-laws tend to throw your way.

Address Matters as Soon as They Become a Problem

Allowing intrusive behaviors to continue within your family will only create problems later on down the line. Not addressing the matter allows emotions to fester and it is usually taken out on the wrong person – your spouse. Therefore, the moment you feel something going left, pull your spouse to the side, talk it through, and then approach your in-laws.

Talk to Your In-Laws

This one might not have been what you expected but if you just talk with your in-laws you might come to find that they are unaware of their behaviors. Sometimes parents just don’t know how to not be parents anymore and believe that only they know what is best for their child. They may not mean to be invasive or mean to you, but might believe they are really helping out. Sometimes talking to them is all you need to stop the madness from occurring.

You don’t have to adore your in-laws or force a relationship that is not there, but they are your spouse’s parents and must be respected as such. By setting boundaries early on you are affirming your position within your home, and respecting their role as parents to the one you love so dear.

If you or your spouse having a hard time figuring out how to talk to the in-laws about setting boundaries, the trained counselors at the Relationship Center of Orange County can help. Give us a call today at 949-220-3211, or schedule your appointment using our online scheduling tool. We look forward to serving you.

About the Author

OC Relationship Center OC Relationship Center, LMFT

You deserve to feel better - in your life and relationships. At OC Relationship Center we want to help you find more love, more joy, more peace...and less conflict and less stress. Our licensed and caring counselors can help if you are single, dating, married, divorced.

OC Relationship Center can be found at
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