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Help! How Do I Survive My Monster-In-Law?!

Wouldn’t it be grand if, when you chose your life partner, that’s all you get? Just the two of you alone in your own little bliss bubble – forever and ever? Sorry to shatter the dream, but you know how it goes: “When you marry your spouse, you marry his/her family too.” While that may be the case, I highly encourage you to engrave this in your heart and mind: There can be no divided loyalties. When you get married and start your own family, that’s where your primary loyalty needs to be, and you need to be on same team when it comes to parents and in-laws. Meddling in-laws can wreak absolute havoc on an otherwise healthy relationship – even if they mean well. The stronger and connected you both become, the less of an impact your parents and in-laws will have on your relationship. Here are 7 ways to help you deal with the monster-in-law, er, mother & father-in-law in your life.

Set firm boundaries.

You may not mind when your father-in-law offers parenting advice from his decades of experience. On the other hand, you may hate it when he shares his unique views on how a wife should serve her husband. How to address this thorny issue? With your spouse firmly by your side, let your in-laws know what kind of advice is helpful and which isn’t. Be clear and concise, yet kind. No matter how they try to manipulate you, stand your ground. If they’re persistent, you may need to add consequences to whatever boundaries you have set. By letting them know in advance about boundaries and consequences, they’ll be making the choice – not you – for what happens next.

When your in-laws push their way into your marriage, tell your spouse to push back.

Your spouse may believe they’re an innocent party but if they’re not speaking up, then they’re not helping the situation either. By remaining passive to the meddling, your partner is actually giving a silent “thumbs up” to your in-laws. When your in-laws push your buttons, tell your partner to push back a bit. After all, they knows them a lot better than you do, so they have a better chance of getting through to them.

That said, don’t make your spouse feel like the bad guy.

It’s smart to ask your spouse to talk to your in-laws, but remember, you’re not entirely off the hook. Work on developing your own relationship with them, built on positive interactions and compliments.

When they offer unwanted advice, take a “thanks but no thanks” approach.

Your in-laws continue to push unwanted advice in your face and while you want to say something, you bite your tongue. As intimidating as it may be, your best approach is to let them know you appreciate their advice but have most things covered. Try saying, “I know you are trying to be helpful, but we want to make our own mistakes.”

Walk away.

When your in-laws start to overwhelm you, do yourself a favor and excuse yourself from the conversation. Remember, your spouse is also an adult and more than capable of handling the conversation on his/her own if need be.

Seek out your in-laws’ advice.

This one may seem counterintuitive but bear with me. Look around and actively seek out a problem that your in-laws could help with. Maybe you’re not a handyman yourself, but your father-in-law is Thor with a hammer. Ask for help or advice and show how appreciative you are. Your in-law will start liking you more because he or she feels respected. As a result, your in-law is less likely to invade.

If your spouse continues to say nothing, address the issue with your in-laws as politely as possible.

If your spouse remains silent on the issue, you may need to resort to voicing your concern on your own. Be direct. Tell them that you appreciate their concern, but that you and your partner will handle things yourselves going forward. When you want their advice, you will certainly ask for it.

Maigen Pham

Maigen Pham is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern and Certified Sex Therapist-Candidate at Amy Wine Counseling Center in Cypress, TX. She specializes in relationship-related issues and works with adolescents, adults, and couples.
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