When you were dating you spent time contemplating whether you and your spouse were a good match. Chances are you weren’t looking over his shoulder to assess your future in-laws!
By the time you’ve tied the knot you’ve gained an extended family which could include grandparents, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. If you aren’t a natural fit with his family’s traditions and values or simply have a personality clash with one or more family member then trouble could lie ahead. So what do you do if you hate your in-laws?
If your in-laws feel more like out-laws how can you tackle common areas of conflict?
- How much time you spend with your in-laws. You need to ensure that you have a say in when your in-laws drop round. If his family have a very casual approach and often ‘pop in’ then it may be time to set some ground rules.
- Turn a negative into a positive. Another way to handle in-laws that drop in too often might be to leave them to it! You can take the opportunity to leave the house so that they have time to catch up with your husband and/or the kids while you take the opportunity to run a few errands or go to the gym. It’s a win win!
- Set them up on play dates! You could also proactively pre-arrange their time with your husband/kids so that they have something scheduled in which should reduce their unscheduled visits.
- Schedule in alone time! Conversely it may be easier to tell your in-laws when you want time alone with the family. You could make sure that Sunday is your family day and ensure they meet up with you on another day or night of the week. That way everyone knows where they stand.
- Territory matters! Generally, if you go round to their house then their norms reign supreme but if they come to you then you are entitled to set some rules. Alternatively neutral territory might be the best bet; such as a restaurant, park or trip to the mall. You need to figure out where you have fewer conflicts.
- Don’t rise to the bait! Some mothers-in-law over-step the mark. They may offer unwanted advice or even blatantly criticize you. In this case you can tackle it in three ways;
- firstly get your husband to discuss the issue with his mother and make it clear that she needs to be kinder and more supportive.
- secondly you can make it clear that you won’t resort to regular bickering; tell her that you will have to agree to differ.
- and finally; you can pick your battles – as they say, ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ – just stand firm on the things that mean the most to you.
- Talk it out! Don’t let things fester; as issues arise discuss them calmly and sensitively. Try to show respect and to get on with them. Look for positives and don’t over focus on the areas of conflict.
- Think of your spouse! The friction between you and your in-laws will be stressful for your spouse – he really is caught in the middle. Trying to resolve the emerging issues with your in-laws is a good investment for your relationship with your husband as well as your in-laws.
You can’t change your in-laws but you can reduce the tension by taking the advice above. You will find that by tackling the areas of conflict you are removing the obstacles to family harmony. Once you’ve made improvements in your relationship with your in-laws you will be pleased with how much closer you feel to your spouse.
Your in-laws come as a package with your husband so don’t let things deteriorate if you got off to a bad start. You shouldn’t settle for a bad relationship with your in-laws; make every effort to reconcile your differences for the sake of your marriage as well as your sanity!
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