E-Learning from First Things First

Healthy In-Law Relationships

Part 1

Contents of Healthy In-Law Relationships

Page 2:  Honoring Your In-Laws

Page 3:  In-Laws and Happy Holidays

Page 4:  Dealing with Difficult In-Laws

Part 2

Honoring Your In-Laws

How to Honor Your Adult Child and His/Her Mate

  • Let your in-law make his/her own decisions without meddling from you.
  • As the relationship between your child and his chosen partner deepens, expect that they will want to spend more and more time alone, together.
  • Make positive comments about your child’s spouse – both in private and in public.
  • See your in-law as an individual. Do not compare him/her to others, and do not become too wrapped up in the stereotype of the “perfect” in-law.
  • Make your in-law feel needed.

How to Honor His/Her Parents

  • Maintain direct contact with your in-laws. Don’t enlist your spouse as an unwilling “go-between.”
  • Find a comfortable way of addressing your in-laws. Solicit their help in determining what they would like you to call them.
  • Try to see your in-laws as individuals separate and apart from the role they play.
  • Be real and authentic with your in-laws.
  • If you feel jealous about your spouse’s relationship with his/her parents, talk to your spouse, to better understand each other’s feelings.

How to Honor Your Own Parents

  • Encourage your partner and your parents to relate to one another directly. Don’t allow yourself to be put in the middle.
  • Compliment your spouse and your parents in front of each other.
  • Do not tolerate criticism from either one toward the other.
  • Do not make your spouse responsible for the relationship between you and your parents.
  • Do not play your spouse against your parents.

Learn more:  

Tips for Cutting the Apron Strings

Daddy’s Princess and Her Husband

Potential Boundary Issues

Becoming a Team

Mother-in-Law/Daughter-in-Law Relationships (video)

Quiz for Daughter-in-Law

Quiz for Mother-in-Law

Part 3

In-Laws and Happy Holidays

  • Set a specific time to talk about how you want to spend the holidays or special days. Remember that you are on the same team and your spouse is your first priority…not your family of origin.
  • As negotiations proceed, keep in mind that it isn’t your job to please everybody. You may make some decisions that disappoint one family or the other. That’s okay. People will adjust.
  • Before making any decisions, make sure all your options are on the table.
  • Once the decision has been made, each spouse should call their family to pass along the information. Be sure to say, “We have decided that…” not, “We can’t be with you Christmas day because he/she wants to be with his/her family.” That will do nothing but create problems for you.
  • Avoid committing to any invitations before checking with your spouse, even if you are certain he/she will want to go.
  • Be respectful of each other as you navigate this territory.
  • Entertain the idea of starting your own traditions and consider including the in-laws.

Learn more:

Make Holiday Memories, Not Misery

Holidays, In-Laws and Boundaries

I Hate the Holidays!


Part 4

Dealing with Difficult In-Laws

If you have in-laws who seem to cross the line every time you turn around, here are some constructive strategies for dealing with them.

Don’t assume they are intentionally trying to be difficult.

In many instances, people think they are being helpful. They don’t realize that dropping by unannounced or giving unsolicited marital or parenting advice is not appreciated. Get with your spouse and brainstorm things that your in-laws could do that would be helpful, then sit down with your in-laws and talk about what you would appreciate them doing and things that you would like them to stop.

What if you believe it is truly unhealthy for your family to be around your in-laws?

Your first responsibility is to your spouse and family. If being around your in-laws creates safety issues or requires you to put your family in an unhealthy environment, it is your job to set limits. When you know you will be with your in-laws, you and your spouse should decide as a team how much time you will spend there. Perhaps a code word or signal that the tension is mounting and it is time to wrap up the visit would be helpful.

Be careful about anticipating how things will be.

In many instances, anticipating being around difficult in-laws can increase tension and actually make the situation worse.

Stand your ground.

Many couples experience marital distress because one spouse doesn’t want to hurt his/her parents’ feelings and doesn’t see how them “investing” in the marriage is harmful. If your spouse is uncomfortable with how the in-laws relate to you and your family, it is important to realize that the two of you are a team – not the two of you plus the in-laws.

Focus on those things over which you have control.

You may attempt to do an extreme makeover on your in-laws’ behavior, but in the end you will probably feel frustrated and discouraged. Better to focus on your own behavior and the things you do have control over, like:

  • How much time you spend with them
  • Topics that are off limits for discussion
  • How you allow their behavior to impact you

Learn more:

Meddling Parents


You've finished Healthy In-Law Relationships

Continue your learning by taking the next course:

Making the Most of Marriage  

Share this course:

Take the Next Course:

Making the Most of Marriage 

Copyright © 2016 First Things First | Designed and Developed by Whiteboard