Since I’ve had double the number of in-laws that many others have had, I thought I’d share some of the advice that’s helped me and others along the way…

My first mother-in-law was a nightmare that became a valuable lesson to me – she taught me just how impossibly nasty some people can be…

My current in-laws are far lovelier (second marriage perks).

Still, becoming part of any other family takes some adjustments. We all have our own contexts and, when a couple gets married, they’re bringing some very different aspects of those into the mix. Often, these adjustments can even feed and nourish your marriage in the long term. But, they can be tough to make.

Since I’ve had double the number of in-laws that many others have had, I thought I’d share some of the advice that’s helped me and others along the way:

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Dealing with in-laws: Challenges and possible solutions

Challenge #1

You just don’t like your in-laws as much as your husband would like you to and as such, you avoid spending time with them.

Try this

Remember that your relationship with your in-laws isn’t about how you feel about them. It’s about how you feel about your partner.

So, try to shift your focus and be willing to be flexible. Discuss with your husband ways in which you could get to know and like your in-laws better (take them for coffee, send them a WhatsApp every now and then, ask them to show you their family albums) and then follow through.

As your husband notices your efforts, he will appreciate them and you even more, and maybe even soften with his expectations of your relationships. As an added bonus, you may actually create a better relationship with your in-laws.

Challenge #2

You feel that your husband puts his parents first in his life, and that he’s more concerned with making them happy than with making you happy.

Try this

Talk, talk, talk (to your husband). Try to understand his opinion and perspective. Could he have a point? Does he really give his parents priority over you, or is he just giving them the respect and honour that they deserve?

It may be that you just need extra reassurance that he loves and cherishes you and that you come first in his life. This will take time, words and actions. Once you feel more confident that you are his priority, you will probably relax a little when it comes to how he treats his parents.

Does he really give his parents priority over you, or is he just giving them the respect and honour that they deserve?

Challenge #3

Your husband seems to go to his parents for advice before he chats to you about a problem.

Try this

Once again, you need to communicate. Tell your husband that you understand that his parents may have excellent advice, but there are boundaries. Together, you should come up with these boundaries, making sure that you’re both happy with them. The key here, is for you to be reasonable. Admit that there are times that it would be best for him to go to them for advice. Their experience and insights may even benefit you in the long-term.

Challenge #4

Your husband is attached to his parents. He insists on living near them and spending a lot of your free time with them.

Try this

Being husband and wife is about more than just living together. You are the team. But, is he really overly attached or could you be a little too demanding? Only you can answer this honestly but, if you’re prone to jealousy, try to be fair with your self-examination.

If not, have a frank conversation with him; expressing how you feel about being his priority and how he can perhaps spend a little more time alone with you.

Challenge #5

Your in-laws interfere and give you advice that you didn’t ask for. This often leads to more conflict.

Try this

Try to be empathetic and to discern if their advice is coming from a good place (caring, wanting what’s best for you). The interference factor might not be deliberate. If this is the case, the best thing to do would be to see it for what it is and try to let it go with a dose of love and understanding.

If this isn’t the case and they are deliberately being controlling, you’ll need to deal with the issue more proactively. Communicate with your spouse and set appropriate boundaries with the in-laws, making it very clear in your words and actions that you and your spouse are the team and that your husband comes first. Don’t agree with your parents’ opinions or advice right away. First, see how your partner feels about their input and then weigh up your options. Of course, this doesn’t mean being disrespectful to your parents. Thank them for their advice, agree to discuss it with your spouse, and then change the subject. In this way, they’ll know that the final decision rests with you as a couple, and not with them.

Be reasonable, patient and, most of all, forgiving. And hope like hell they are too

Reminders when dealing with your in-laws

  1. Getting married means starting a whole new type of family. The husband and wife are the new family unit, that’s why we often promise in our vows to become one flesh. So, everyone else – including parents and children – come second to the bond that is formed between a husband and a wife. By doing this, you create a partnership that is incredibly strong and, ultimately, benefits the children and the rest of the family.
  2. Your parents are not included in your marriage. This doesn’t mean that you love them any less than before, it just means that your spouse is now your partner and that you are the new team.
  3. Your in-laws and your own parents may take a while to adjust. In the same way that you have to get used to the fact that you’re starting a new family, your parents (and his) also have to get used to this idea. They love you and want what’s best for you, so this may take a while for them to assimilate.
  4. You might also find this adjustment hard. Just because you love your husband and want your life with him doesn’t mean that you’re madly in love with his family (or that he is with yours). Be reasonable, patient and, most of all, forgiving. And hope like hell they are too.
  5. Focusing on the positive will get your everywhere. They can’t be all bad if they produced someone as wonderful as your spouse, right? Even if you can’t think of something positive right now, focus on the things in your life that do bring you happiness and all of the reasons that you have to be grateful. Shifting focus to more positive things will change your disposition and general outlook to be happier and calmer.