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5 Steps to Coping With Difficult In-Laws
Are your in-laws getting between you and your husband?
This is the worst! While a marriage is built on the love and commitment of two people, the relationship is often tested and threatened by external problems that are beyond the couple’s direct control. One of the most intense and delicate issues to deal with in a marriage is problematic relationships with your in-laws.
How do you cope with your in-laws bizarre behavior, boundary violations and general awkwardness without hurting your partner’s feelings and keeping your sanity intact? Let’s look at four essential steps that you can take today to help you deal problems between you and your in-laws.
Step 1 – Emotionally Differentiate Between Your In-Laws and Your Husband
It’s very common to feel so angry and hurt over what your in-laws are doing that you want to hold SOMEONE, ANYONE, responsible. Most likely, this falls in your husband’s lap. If your mother-in-law or father-in-law intervene in your relationship and cause problems, you may feel like holding your partner responsible because they are his parents after all.
However, it’s important to recognize that his parents are grown adults and fully responsible for their own actions. Their son shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions.
If your mother-in-law criticizes you, that does not mean your partner feels the same way. He is married to you, loves you, and although he may desperately want to, he cannot control how his parents treat you.
This is a slippery slope however, since you are completely justified in getting angry with him if he throws you under the bus or doesn’t advocate for your relationship to his parents. Make an effort to see the difference.
Step 2 – Communicate Wisely About Your In-Laws With Your Partner
While you may feel very tempted to vent about your in-laws to your partner, remember that they are his parents and this is an extremely delicate issue for him. He would LOVE to have you get along and not have conflict between you and his parents, but he’s stuck in the middle.
In this situation, it is best to call a friend or family member if you need to vent. When it comes to your partner, try to stick to solutions related discussions where you discuss how to get along, and what you would like to have happen differently in your interactions with your in-laws.
When you bring logical solutions to the discussion, he is better able to avoid feeling defensive or like he has to somehow repair everything. This is critical to keep your relationship with him going smoothly. Since he knows them best, he is best equipped to know how to deal with them.
Step 3 – Make it Clear What Kind Of Behavior You Expect From Your Husband
The reason that most battles with in-laws get particularly bloody is that your husband doesn’t always act how you might hope that he would. For example, say you go over to your mother-in-law’s house and she makes a rude comment. I know I would be upset if my husband didn’t speak up. If your husband drops the ball on defending you, it is perfectly reasonable to let him know what you would prefer to have happen next time. This falls in line with the suggestion about having solutions-related discussions above.
I believe that it is fair for each member of a couple to handle their own parents. If your own parents are out of line, you must go to bat for your husband, as you would wish for him to do for you. It’s hard to confront your parents but if you make an effort to nip issues in the bud early, it is a lot easier.
Step 4 – Create Reasonable Boundaries
In an effort to look good to your in-laws, it’s easy to try and twist yourself into a pretzel conforming to what they seem to want. However, keep in mind that if you do something once, it’s easy for people to begin to expect that you will go for it in the future. Try and only agree to things that you actually feel good about. Don’t let them place undue demands on your time and/or overwhelm you with their expectations.
Step 5 – Avoid Getting Into Confrontations With Your Difficult In-Laws
Try to wisely lead conversations with your husband’s parents in the right direction, and if necessary, even avoid too much contact with them. You can visit them less, or maybe suggest that your partner sometimes visits them alone, while you make polite excuses for not going with. Avoiding them entirely isn’t always the best solution but confrontation is much worse, as the consequences can have damaging effects on your marriage.
If your in-laws are acting unreasonable, you may feel tempted to sit them down and confront them. There are so many reasons why you might feel like confrontation is necessary, but remember that you might not actually get anywhere.
When you marry your partner, the in-laws come with the package, and you are stuck with them for better or worse. For this reason, it’s important to keep things running as smoothly as you can.
Have you had problems with your in-laws? Tell me how you handled it in the comments.