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July 25, 2014
by Casey Truffo, LMFT

Dealing with the In-Laws

July 25, 2014 04:55 by Casey Truffo, LMFT  [About the Author]

In-Law Issues

You love your spouse more than life itself, but you are very uneasy about your spouse's parents' significance in your family's life and decisions.  Issues with your in-laws can be an extremely tough situation and can make your life unbearable at times. If you have issues with your in-laws, you need to deal with those issues now.  And if you plan to have children, not dealing with present-day issues can make that experience a living hell.

The Lucky Ones

There are some great in-laws out there, even though the in-law jokes (especially mothers-in-law jokes) never seem to die, there are actually sons-in-laws who love their spouses' mother just as their own.  Those "lucky ones" are from families who believe in respect and confidence and who discuss issues rather than play games with feelings and emotions.  It's detrimental to take care of issues as soon as they start so everyone can live a happy, healthy life.  

Your Family, Your Priority

Here are some things you can do to deal with your extended family; however, your spouse must be committed to doing so as well.  

When you get married and start a family, this is where your loyalty lies.  This is your "primary" family.  Everything else and everyone is is secondary.  The in-laws need to be treated similar to how you would treat your neighbors or your good friends. You can decide when they are invited into your lives and when they are not by setting boundaries.  If your in-laws are making you stressed, the boundaries may need to be changed.  Once you and your spouse have decided what the boundaries are going to be, let your in-laws know your wishes.  Remember, your "little family" is your priority.  You and your spouse are adults, you can control visits to your house, holiday celebrations, and access to grandchildren. Don't assume that you're can't. Just as no one can chase you if you don't run; no one can push you around if you don't allow it.

If a wife has a problem with her mother-in-law, the husband needs to step in and fix it.  Likewise, if a husband has issues with his in-laws, the wife needs to step in and fix it.  Talk with your spouse about the roles of your in-laws.  Don't assume you both have the same ideas of their roles in your life.  Talk about it.  Never criticize your spouse for the relationship he or she has with his or her parents.  Remember that your in-laws are an important part of your spouse's life.  In the strongest marriages, that means they are crucial to your life as well.  Never put your spouse in a situation where he or she has to choose between you and a parent. If you do that, you are putting your spouse in an impossible situation, and your spouse will resent you. Instead, try to support your spouse's relationship with his parents, as well as with every family member.  Even if you have in-laws from hell, remember they are your spouse's parents.

Try to keep your sense of humor.  Don't be a sourpuss whenever you in-laws around; don't go to another room while they visit with your spouse.  If nothing else, show some interest and try to connect with them, for your spouse's sake.  Showing respect to your in-laws when they visit, no matter if there are lingering issues between you, can show your spouse that you are trying to make a difference.  Laughter is the best medicine in many situations.  Tell a funny story or a tasteful joke to ease the tension.  Everybody likes to laugh!

Having a strong relationship with both sets of parents is the ultimate goal.  However, be sure to never go to your parents or your spouse's parents to resolve an issue instead of working it out with your spouse.  There should never be a time that you go to anyone other than your spouse to resolve a relationship issue.  When you go outside of your marriage to talk about problems, the person you're talking with hears all the negatives, but they never hear the positives or the fact that you've made amends.  This can be an extremely difficult situation for parents if they feel that their child is hurting or is living in a less than happy marriage.


The professionals at the Relationship Center of Orange County can help you work through the tough issues regarding in-laws. Our counselors can give you advice on taking the necessary steps to get to a better place and form better relationships. Make an appointment using our online scheduling tool, or call us today at (949) 430-7353 for an appointment today.

About the Author

OC Relationship Center OC Relationship Center, LMFT

We started OC Relationship Center because we believe that relationships are the place where everyone should feel the safest and experience the most joy. And that is what our entire mission is based upon. That relationship may be with someone you love, live with, work with or even yourself. Our caring, professional and licensed clinicians want to help you with the skills to get what you want in your relationships - whether you are single, dating, living together, married, divorced or widowed.

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