While some people are luckily blessed with supportive, friendly in-laws who are a welcome addition to the family, others are not so lucky. If your spouse’s parents stress you out, try to interfere with your marriage or make unreasonable demands, take the following 7 tips into account.
Ensure your in-laws feel relevant
In many cases, bossy or needy in-laws are simply yearning to play a significant role in the family and feeling somewhat redundant due to having grownup children. Consequently, finding ways to let them help without undermining your plans can help to defuse their impulse to interfere. For example, you might emphasize the importance of their opinion when it comes to finding a good insurance company, or you might call to ask for help planning your child’s birthday celebrations.
Hold firm boundaries
Do your in-laws like to arrive without calling, try to act like parents to their grandchildren, or invite themselves on trips that you and your spouse were treating as romantic dates? Talk to your partner about where to set boundaries, and agree to be firm in preventing in-laws from overstepping the mark. Most of the time, holding boundaries will involve clearly and calmly stating what is acceptable and why—a task that is less likely to cause explosive, long-term feuds if tackled by your spouse rather than you.
Don’t cave to pressure to change
Some parents believe that no one is good enough for their children. If your in-laws don’t think you look, sound or act like the ideal partner for their son or daughter, don’t let these harsh and unrealistic judgments tempt you to change. Dress the way you like, and don’t suppress key parts of your character. After all, your spouse chose you for who you are, and excessively bending to suit a fantasy held by your in-laws will do nothing to enhance your marriage.
Placate them if necessary
Just as some in-laws can be desperately looking for ways to remain relevant to the well-being of their adult children, you may find that your spouse’s parents want to give you advice on all manner of topics (whether you want it or not!). As long as they are not trying to force you to follow their suggestions or taking an unacceptably critical tone, it can be effective to simply thank them and assure them you’ll keep what they said in mind.
Communicate openly with your spouse
If you’re struggling to bond with your in-laws or feeling upset about how they treat you, take a deep breath and have a candid conversation with your spouse. Choose your words carefully so as not to prompt defensiveness, and explain what you’re experiencing. Approaching problems as a team will help to reduce your anxiety levels, and your partner will have unique insights that can help you better understand your in-laws.
Keep your in-laws out of marital conflict
Friendly in-laws can quickly become overbearing or critical if you ask for marriage advice. If they take either side in a dispute, this will only cause further problems between you and your spouse (clouding your disagreement with feelings about the wider family). Stick to friends and marriage counselors when you need a little extra help!
Look for common ground
Another smart strategy involves a careful search for common ground that will make it easier to converse and connect with your in-laws. Look for things like shared hobbies, mutually agreeable political stances, and similar experiences (e.g. countries you’ve visited). Use these ‘safe’ topics to keep the focus away from potentially contentious or inflammatory subjects.