Do you feel like you have the in laws from hell? Becoming a daughter-in-law or a son-in-law isn’t always easy. Here’s how to have a good relationship with your in-laws now that you have kids of your own.
Overbearing in-laws who insert themselves into a marriage and your life can do so much harm. Whether they show up at your door uninvited, or make a habit of calling your parenting decisions into question, it’s anything but helpful.
Did you know that Cambridge University psychologist Terri Apter, reports that three out of four couples experience significant conflict with their in-laws?
If you’re in the midst of a tough relationship with your spouse’s parents, at least you know you’re not alone.
Here are some recommendations I hope will help. Be sure to share your own in-law story in the comments. I’m hoping you’ll have even more great suggestions to help couples who struggle with their parents.
Keep Your Cool With Overbearing In-Laws
As you read these ideas, don’t lose sight of how important it is to deal with it head on. In fact, your marriage may depend upon how well you can master in-law problems. Terri Orbuch, a sociologist at Oakland University in Michigan, has studied this topic for many years. She says,
“the level of emotional closeness a person feels toward his or her in-laws during the first year of marriage has a surprising effect on the risk of divorce down the line.”
That’s reason enough to make good choices when facing challenges with your in-laws.
Let your spouse have the courageous conversations.
If your in-laws are overstepping their boundaries, let your spouse handle it. Confronting your in-laws about something that will cause tension might be more palatable if your spouse is the one to deal with it.
It’s not your job to scold your mother-in-law for dropping in unannounced. She may feel attacked and insulted because you’re not her child. It could be easier to hear from her son. And vice versa.
Let the little things go with your in-laws.
If you can see your way to let some of the little things go, do it. If you try to correct everything they say and do, your days will be spent in conflict. You’ll feel exhausted and stressed every day and life is too short and too precious to be spent feeling that way.
Your overbearing in-laws may have plenty of opinions you don’t agree with. Politics, religion, parenting decisions – it could be literally anything that you don’t agree on. But here’s the big secret – You don’t have to agree with them.
But it will help your relationship if you can learn to respect the things they hold dear, or at the minimum bite your tongue if you can’t think of anything nice to say.
Build a bridge.
Look for ways to connect with them on some level. Meet them where they are. This could be taking an interest in their lives, or making sure they get invited to things that you might not normally invite them to. Find ways to help them know what’s going on in your life too.
Acceptance is key.
Just because your in-laws say something you find ill-informed, you don’t have to confront them or try to change their minds.
Arguing solves nothing, but it will definitely make things worse. Acceptance doesn’t mean you agree. It means you choose to rise above petty differences.
Do something nice, even though you don’t have to. Go the extra mile, even though you don’t want to. Science tells us that kindness stimulates the production of serotonin, the same feel-good chemical that is in antidepressants.
So, while they may not return the kindness, you’ll be much happier (as will your spouse) if you are as kind as you can be.
Finally, remember that your overbearing in-laws are the two people who created the person you love and with whom you’ve chosen to spend your life.
You don’t have to love them, but you do have to support and encourage the love your spouse has for them.
What’s your in-law story? Do you have a great relationship, or has it been strained? Tell us in the comments below!