Confronting the Miserable In-Law – Should You Speak Your Mind?

If you are one of the lucky ones in this world, then you have married into a family in which you get along well with the in-laws. Prior to marriage, it is difficult to see just how large an impact that the extended in-law family, from brother/sister in laws, to cousin and parent in laws, can have on your marriage. If you get along (or live miles and miles apart), chances are things will go smoothly. However, if there is rift of any sort, it can wreak havoc on the entire family unit and eventually damage your marriage.

This article will help you deal with how to confront the miserable in laws. From the sister in law who cannot keep her big mouth shut, the brother in law who shows up drunk at every family function – or the mother in law whose presence is overbearing and annoying to say the least. While you may have chose your partner in life, that choice came with familial baggage that simply put, will never really go away.

Many people believe that dealing with the in-law side of the family as abruptly and curtly as possible is the most precise way to avoid disagreements. You may have heard that setting boundaries and ground rules about expected and acceptable behavior in the beginning will help avoid the malady of disagreements that can (and still will) arise over the years. This approach, which may work in the beginning of your marriage, will also plants seeds of resentment that can quickly grow into tress of disgruntlement. This is not to suggest that you should allow the in-law family to walk all over you, and violate some of the boundaries that you feel are important to your marriage. Because while your spouse may be on your side initially, as the years go by he or she too, will feel resentment that you handled the in-laws (their blood family) so harshly. Just remember that when it comes to the in-law side of the family, you are the new kid on the block, not them. And just as you and your partner had to develop a relationship together so will you have to develop a relationship (for better or worse) with the people on your spouse’s side of the family.

Consider that before you came along, before you got married – your spouse had a family of his or her own. However dysfunctional it may be (or still is), however overbearing, or annoying some of those family members may act they are still his or her family. They have a long legacy and a history together including a vast amount of years that didn’t include you. Even if your spouse disagrees with nearly 90% of everything that their family members do, they still love their family, and they are still a part of that family. When you put them down, or shine a negative light on their actions, or try to manipulate or control them by thinking that your way is better you are also putting your spouse down.

Additionally, our true colors normally don’t show up in a marriage until after the first year or two. Sociologists even agree that while many people go into marital unions with clear ideas of issues they want to avoid in order to NOT be like their parents, or to not follow in their family member’s shoes most people revert back to the way of life that they are comfortable with. Call it life conditioning, or whatever you want. The reality is that your spouse was raised in a specific environment, just as you were. And most people tend to do what they have been taught to do throughout their lives. While you are complaining about what a lazy jackass your father in law is you might need to consider that one day your husband may share some of the qualities of the man that raised him.

If you do feel the need to confront the in-laws or hash out some family troubles, it is best to tread lightly. Rather than invite a throw-down of criticism and judgment, try to explain how you feel about things, and be specific with your in-laws about the things you expect. For instance, if they show up at your house unannounced constantly catching you half-naked or napping with your newborn, suggest that they call first. Better yet, let them know the times that you would appreciate them visiting you so that you give the sense that they are welcome and establish some boundaries (softly of course) at the same time. If your sister in law is constantly harassing you or judging you, or talking about you behind your back to matriarch of the family give her a call and let her know that her actions are hurtful, and ask her what it is that she doesn’t like about you? Suggest that you and her spend some time together to get to know one another better, rather than simply be resigned to carry dual grievance. This gives her an opportunity to face you with her ‘issues’’ and can establish a line of communication between the two of you. You never know, you may find out that you have more in common than you think.

Most of the time the clashes of the in-laws comes down to a matter of someone feeling threatened. Your mother in law may be threatened that she is losing her son or daughter because you are around. Your brother in law may not feel they get enough time with their sibling anymore. These are honest feelings and while slightly immature, they are rooted in love. You should always make sure that you are not putting yourself in a position of a martyr when it comes to your spouse and his or her family. Respect that your spouse has relationships with these people, even if you do not necessarily like the in-laws.

At some point, you also have to ask yourself what YOUR words and actions will solve. If starting an argument, pushing issues, confronting the in-laws will only cause a rift in the family unit and you don’t see the possibility for any changes to occur or a positive outcome your energy may be best spent learning to let go of the things you cannot change. Blood is thicker than water. No matter what, to the in-laws, you will always be part of an extended family. Even if they adore the ground you walk on, and you have found your in law family to be the best of your friends you need to realize that should anything happen between you and your spouse, they are going to CHOOSE their blood over you.

Lastly, rather than spend your time and energy being angry, trying to change people, trying to make everything right think about learning to accept the in-laws for who and what they are to the best of your ability. Forgive them for their indiscretions so that you and your spouse can live a happy life. Be willing to over look certain things knowing that you share one common bound, which is that both of you LOVE your spouse.



One Response

  1. If only the advice you give where that simple! usually if someone is hurtful towards others, their behavior is pathological. You are not dealing with someone rational to begin with. Therein lies the problem.

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