If you have difficult in-laws who seem to cross the line a lot, here are some constructive strategies for dealing with them.
Don’t assume they’re 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 isn’t 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. Also, discuss things that you’d like them to stop.
What if you believe it’s 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, you’ll want to set limits. When you know you’ll be with your in-laws, 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 dealing with 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 try to do an extreme makeover on your in-laws’ behavior, but in the end you’ll probably feel frustrated and discouraged. It might be better to focus on your own behavior and the things you do have control over, like:
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
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