We can’t please everyone. There’s no way that you’ll get along with all the people you’ve met in your life, and that’s normal. If things get heated between you and another person, you can simply leave and cut them off; that is, if it’s not your in-laws.
Just the thought of fighting with them makes you shudder. Somehow, people find in-law jokes and stories funny and engaging because many can relate to them. Many marriages are ruined because they can’t get along with their partner’s family, especially their mother and fathers-in-law.
The rules of engagement when talking about in-laws are different. Whether you like it or not, your in-law became a part of your life the moment you decided to marry your partner. Cutting them off is almost impossible; your partner could be a “family person .” It’s hard to pull yourself together when they nitpick everything you do or belittle you, even in your success.
It’s no secret that family dynamics have a significant impact on relationships. Pleasing in-laws have always been a must when vying for your partner’s hand in marriage. Having in-laws is great when they’re not after your throat. But when family ties get rocky, sometimes even the strongest bonds can get thin and fragile. Fights and tension can take a toll on you, and you might not be able to stop yourself the next time a confrontation comes.
But don’t let your holiday clashes and bad blood ruin the relationship you built. Here’s how you can deal with your difficult in-laws before it affects your marriage.
1. Secure the bond
No matter what, secure your marriage as it always comes first. Maintain a united front and open the lines of communication. It’s important to disclose to your partner if you’re having problems with your in-laws. Always talk things out and don’t carry the problem alone to avoid reaching a breaking point.
Marriage should come with interdependence, so try to depend on your partner more. Give and ask for security from your partner that you’ll stand united while you face your parents from both sides. Even if the relationship with the in-laws remains rocky, the important thing is that the couple remains strong and has each other’s back.
2. Establish clear boundaries
Say what is okay and not okay with you. Often, partners rely on the endurance of how long they can keep up the front that they’re OK with everything. It’s better to set clear and healthy boundaries with your partner and their parents. Let your partner lay the foundation between you and your in-laws, but do your part.
Setting boundaries can help you keep the peace while limiting your in-laws’ hold on your relationship. If you don’t like them joining in the talk about money matters, say so. Are weekly family gatherings too draining for you? Then be honest about it. Talk with your partner so you can plan how to set it straight with the parents.
3. Keep cool and avoid confrontations
Don’t set yourself up to be the bad guy and ruin any chances of fixing the problem. If your in-laws are becoming too much for you to handle or you are about to cross the line, try to keep yourself cool and reasoned. Avoid knee-jerk reactions or those that instantly emerge when emotions are high.
As much as possible, avoid heated arguments and screaming battles. Step out of the conversation or situation to maintain your cool, whether it takes a few hours or days. Make room for the temper to die down. Take the high road. If something bothers you, tell your partner about it. Joining screaming arguments will not only make your in-laws hate you more, but it can also affect your partner and potentially the grandkids. If an action or word bothers you, tell your partner about it so you can discuss how you can avoid it next time.
4. Communicate with the other party
While it’s good to have your partner deal with their parents and lay the groundwork to bridge both parties, don’t always depend on them to solve the issue. This might put a strain on your partner and your marriage. Show your partner that you’re doing your part and making an effort in your own way.
Gather the courage and find the right timing to talk directly with your in-laws. Be open with them about their actions that are bothering you. Remain respectful if possible and keep your tone neutral. Choose your words carefully and make sure not to sound like you’re blaming or antagonizing them.
5. Find common ground
Try to build a healthy relationship with your in-laws—slowly. Show your in-laws that you genuinely love your partner and are trying to reach out to them.
You can ask your in-laws if they can teach you a family recipe your partner loves or ask them if they want to join in on family projects. Try to remember important dates and send them some gifts or flowers or pay your respect. It doesn’t hurt to try from time to time.
6. Accepting and compromising
If things don’t work and you feel like you’ve exhausted all your resources, it’s time to take a step back and protect your marriage first. Dealing too much with your in-laws will make you lose focus on your relationship. Don’t spend all your time thinking about them.
Accept the fact that both parties can’t find common ground. If this happens, tell the other party your set boundaries and establish your place in the relationship—as the partner and the parent of their grandchildren. Avoid bringing up topics that usually create tension, and try to reduce the time you spend with them.
However, don’t stop your partner and your kids if they want to meet with your in-laws. If they only have a problem with you, set the boundaries for you and limit your time with them.
Dealing with stressed in-laws is not an easy job. It’s a tough road, and you’ll have to make many compromises. The most important thing is that you protect your marriage from breaking apart because of constant arguments and confrontation. Don’t let your partner feel that they’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Once the crossfire happens, it might not end well between you and your partner.
Prioritize peace more than anything. Keep a healthy and open conversation with everyone involved, but don’t forget to protect your boundaries.