Have you heard someone saying that when you marry, you marry his or her whole family? This can feel 100% true in some cases.
Relationships with the in-laws can be tricky for different reasons. Many times, when we have children is when tension escalates quickly. Of course, you want your children to be raised your way but also, you may be afraid that your parenting style will be questioned or criticized and that your in-laws would like to interfere.
Sometimes, the relationship is strained even before having children. Maybe an in-law said the wrong thing or made you feel not accepted or welcomed into the family.
Some couples feel like everything is ok when the in-laws don’t come around or get involved. However, it is not a possibility for one of the partners to end their relationship with their parents for the marriage, so what to do then?
It is very important for spouses to TALK –Yes! in bold and capitalized- about it so we can be on the same page and not turning our frustration or anger at each other. It’s part of a good marriage being able to set some rules, well, let’s say “clear boundaries”, regarding our in-laws so we don’t build up resentment.
Now, here are some tips to start drawing a line in the sand with your in-laws:
Set boundaries: Again, boundaries are vital. Talk to your spouse about it and then be clear and respectful with your in-laws when addressing the issue. Let’s say that your mother-in-law comes to visit and sees how much laundry you have pilled up and wants to take care of it without even asking you. You or your spouse might say: “Mom, we really appreciate you want to help us with the laundry but we’d take care of it on Saturdays since that’s our laundry day. Let’s have a cup of coffee together instead so you can tell us about your last vacation.” Sometimes parents or in-laws can overstep their boundaries so if you see that these boundaries you and your spouse set up are not working, then re-evaluate them and re-set them.
Respect your spouse’s relationship with his family: It may be important for your spouse to keep a good relationship with his parents so it should be important for you, too. Let’s respect that. In case it doesn’t work for you because it interferes with house chores or other things like family time, then have a conversation about meeting both goals: for your spouse to spend time with his parents as well as completing chores together. It’s best to find a way where your spouse doesn’t feel like they have to choose between you and his/her parents. This can cause division in the marriage and long-term resentments.
Make an extra effort: Try to understand that your in-laws are a different family with different backgrounds and habits. Looking for ways to try to understand your in-laws’ ways of doing things can be helpful. Understanding doesn’t mean that one has to accept them, but finding respect towards the differences is the goal. Your way or their way are not wrong or right, they're just different.
Don’t take it personally: In-laws have their own needs and feelings, like any other human being. Sometimes they can be hurtful and set in their ways. A way to make something not personal is to try to make sense of why a person is behaving the way they do. This method creates distance from the problem, and allows to uncover what the in-law might be really trying to obtain: Is it attention? fear? just a habit?
When everything fails, BREATHE! You may find yourself on edge sometimes. Something they did, something they said… and you feel you can’t take it anymore. Well, this is when your yoga techniques may come in handy. Take a break and find a quiet place so you can breathe in and out. Focus your mind on good memories with your in-laws. Think about how much they love your spouse or your children. If you feel you don’t have any positive memories, then think of your relationship with your spouse and how it is important to make it work with your in-laws. You can’t control what they say or do, but you have total control on how you feel. I’m not saying that in a blink of an eye you will feel better, no! It may take time and practice, but this could be a good start.
Remember, this is not about taking sides; this is about working together as a team to get along and resolve conflicts in a healthy way. Embrace the challenge! At times, we all need to be humble and accept a good piece of advice and it can come from our in-laws. It’s OK not to agree on everything, what matters though is if we are willing to deal with these challenges.
To your relationship success,