Most married people struggle with in-law issues at some point in time. If you feel your in-laws don’t accept you or they’re critical of your spouse, you are experiencing some of the conflicts that can plague these close family relationships.
Having difficulties with your in-laws doesn’t mean you’re in a troubled marriage, though. Conflict of any kind doesn’t have to derail a relationship. However, handling it badly can create bigger problems. What matters is the attitude you take and the mutual support you bring to the issues.
Here are some pointers on how to successfully relate to your in-laws, gathered from professional therapists who have observed what works – and what doesn’t.
RECOGNIZE THAT YOUR IN-LAWS ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOU
It’s wise to remember that your in-laws have their own ways of thinking and relating. Each family has its own culture. It’s not bad or wrong, just different from what you grew up with.
MAKE A SINCERE EFFORT
Healthy Couples understand the role their in-laws play in each partner’s life. This leads to respect for each other’s families. Agreeing to take part in family events and giving your in-laws access to your own family are helpful steps. In other words, make an effort — even if you don’t agree with or understand your spouse’s family dynamics.
COUPLES ESTABLISH CLEAR BOUNDARIES
They have open conversations with each other about their needs and take decisions that support those needs. For example, let’s say your partner has no problem with her mother stopping by unannounced, but you hate it. You might decide that family members on both sides need to call beforehand to make sure the timing is convenient for you.
RECOGNIZE THAT YOUR RELATIONSHIP IS SEPARATE FROM YOUR FAMILIES
No matter how complicated or difficult your in-laws may be, it’s helpful to realize you aren’t married to them. You and your spouse are committed to each other, which means being kind and understanding when things aren’t going well with the family. Remembering that your strength comes from your primary relationship will keep things in perspective for both of you.
UNDERSTAND THAT YOUR VIEWS ARE SEPARATE FROM WHAT YOUR IN-LAWS SAY
For instance, one spouse’s mother may be pushy and critical, but those actions don’t necessarily reflect how the spouse feels. This makes it easier to see the individuals in each family relationship and keep from getting drawn into needless conflicts.
KEEP COMMUNICATION FLOWING
Talking openly about discomfort or conflicts as they come up is the best way to deal with in-law issues. Partners can discuss their own positions and listen to each other. Showing empathy when things are difficult goes a long way in assuring that each person feels understood.
DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY
Couples who have strong relationships can deal with the fact that family members are flawed human beings. They try to understand and accept their parents and siblings as they are – and avoid falling into arguments about things that don’t really matter in the end.
RESPECT YOUR SPOUSE’S ATTACHMENTS TO FAMILY
It helps to view your partner’s attachment to the family as something you should respect — and even celebrate. For instance, if your husband’s daily calls to his dad are important to him, be supportive. It shows that he cares about relationships, and that’s a great foundation for success in your marriage.
TAKE DEEP BREATHS
When you’re about to reach your limit, take a break. Find a quiet spot, like a bathroom, or go for a walk. While breathing, focus on the positive aspects of your in-laws — such as their love for your spouse — and remind yourself that you can’t control or change them.
Your in-laws are important to your spouse, and they’re part of your life. It’s up to both of you to nurture family relationships and enjoy your time together as much as possible.
NAVIGATING THE TOUGH SPOTS SOMETIMES CALLS FOR EXTRA HELP
As an expert therapist who has worked with hundreds of married and committed couples in the Las Vegas area, I can help you sort through complex family issues. There’s no question that conflict in your families of origin can affect your relationship – and sometimes, you need professional help to make sense of what’s happening and offer each other the kind of support that will keep your marriage strong.
To schedule a conversation in my offices, get in touch with me today.