Posts

When you marry the love of your life, they bring so many different things to the table for the two of you to share. Their personality, adoration for you, commitment, maybe some furniture or experience with things you don’t know how to do. And don’t get me wrong—this sounds lovely (and it is…) until one of the things they bring to the table are in-laws. If you’re honest, it’s possible you aren’t crazy about your future in-laws, to put it politely. In fact, you’ve decided what you want to bring to the table in your relationship is an extra table 😡 … one that doesn’t always have seats for the future in-laws… but that’s not really the solution. (And don’t assume that your fiancé doesn’t have any issues with YOUR parents.)

It’s okay to not be fond of your fiancé’s parents, but you also have to be okay with them being a part of your lives in some capacity. You can’t marry your fiancé without also understanding you are essentially marrying into their family. So let’s put together a game plan so when the visits begin, you won’t be nervous to pull up a chair to the table!

What to Do When You Aren’t Crazy About Your Future In-Laws:

1. Talk about your concern with your fiancé.

If it hasn’t come up already, be honest with your fiancé about your concerns and why you feel they’re important. Also, consider the possibility of your fiancé not being crazy about your parents either! Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are they interfering with your relationship?
  • Do they say things that hurt your feelings or rub you the wrong way? 
  • Is it that you don’t like them or don’t get along with them?
  • Do they point out every little thing you do differently or “wrong?”

The least you can do is invite an honest conversation to try and clear up any potential misunderstandings. If you’ve never really gotten along with your fiancé’s parents, ask your fiancé to talk to them on your behalf. Try to get to the bottom of what they’re feeling or what could be misinterpreted. Perception is reality until you get a different perspective. This would be a great place to start before any serious decisions of how to allocate your time are made. 

✦ The two of you will form your own family once you’re married and you have to make decisions based on what’s best for your family (the two of you) before anyone else. When you’ve decided what to do for the holidays, for drop-ins, like calling before, use “we” statements and each of you should tell your own set of parents. In doing so, you protect your future spouse from getting thrown under the bus or having your parents put blame on your new spouse!

2. Set Boundaries Early-On.

If you know your in-laws have a knack for being overbearing, giving unsolicited advice, criticizing things you two enjoy, and even guilt trips you by saying things like, “If you lived closer we could have dinner more,” or “It’s a shame you don’t have enough time for us.” Prepare yourselves and have a plan in place. This is why the first step is to talk about your concerns with your fiancé, to get it all out there so making a plan will be easier! 

You don’t have to live in the Anticipation Zone; you have an opportunity to decide with your future spouse what the relationship with your future in-laws will look like and entail. The two of you need to talk about what the relationship expectations are for them, what you want the relationship to look like, and then work toward meeting a compromise. For example, calling before you/they stop by. Or, it could go from seeing them weekly to calling weekly and having a meal together once a month. You could trade off holidays, family vacations, or maybe decide to just see them a few times a year and send cards. 

However you decide to make it work, decide that’s how it’ll be for now, but leave room for the relationship to change. It’s possible in the future you’ll want (or be okay with) more or less time together. The last thing you want is extra stress, drama, or tension in your marriage because of your in-laws. The two of you need to come together and figure out the best way to have the least drama and tension.

Here are some great topics to get the conversation going:

  • How much time will you spend with them?
  • Topics that are off limits for discussion.
  • How you allow (or won’t allow) their behavior to impact you.
  • How do you honestly feel about my parents?

3. Location, location, location.

If you both know your future in-laws are the type to drop by, overstay their welcome, or cross boundaries like finish lines, then it may be a sign to move somewhere that makes it less of a possibility. Travel time is a great buffer. Normally, if you live further away, you have to make a plan before you see each other. This is great news because it gives you the space to prepare mentally and physically for a visit. Plus, it’s much easier to suggest coming for just a weekend every so often than feeling the pressure if you live nearby to have weekly meals. (This could be difficult because of work or school situations, but it is something to keep in mind. Downside: Less free babysitting for date nights.)

At the end of the day, you and your soon-to-be spouse will come to a compromise, and compromises sometimes include sacrifices. On the big day, you’re committing your life to them, for better or for worse, and promising to make it work. And making it work takes work! But it’s worth it when the love of your life encourages you, pushes you toward your best self, helps you realize your dreams, and has committed the same things as you. You’re about to be your own family!! Good luck, and I hope you both find the balance that works best for your relationship.

Other Blogs You May Find Helpful:

Weddings are time consuming, expensive, and stressful.

We totally get it. There’s hardly any time to breathe, let alone enjoy this season with your soon-to-be spouse! But that’s why we created Preparing for Marriage Online. This online class will guide you both through the answers to these questions and MORE! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME – and right now, it’s all for FREE!

During this class, you’ll cover topics like…

  • Clear & effective communication skills,
  • How to handle the in-laws,
  • Conflict management,
  • The importance of dating your spouse,
  • Planning, budgeting, and finances,
  • What to expect your first year,
  • And more!

If you have ever watched Everybody Loves Raymond, you know firsthand how overbearing in-laws like Ray’s mom can be. Giving her opinion when nobody asked for it, making off-handed comments about their parenting, criticizing decisions they make, and talking about them to each other was Marie’s style for sure. And, Raymond found it really hard to stand up to his mom, and we all know how that impacted their marriage. [Cue: Laugh Track]

Funny how so many have said they could truly identify with much of what happened on that show because they felt like they lived it every day. While some can kind of laugh it off, plenty of other couples find themselves actually having conversations about divorce because while they still love each other, they cannot figure out how to get one or both sets of parents out of their business. That’s NOT funny. Can you relate?

If you believe it is truly unhealthy for your family to be around your in-laws, your first responsibility is to your spouse. If being around your in-laws creates safety issues or requires you to put your family in an unhealthy situation—setting limits or creating boundaries is completely appropriate. Sometimes it may be necessary to make the decision that it’s in the best interest of your family not to be around your in-laws for a period of time. ★ 

If you feel like your in-laws are all up in your business, but it isn’t unsafe to be around them, the good news is, you’ve got options. You can:

  • Limit the amount of time you spend with them.
  • Plan ahead for how you will handle a visit that goes south.

Great! Got that part! But please tell me strategies for building a protective perimeter around my marriage!

Okay—here you go!

1. Your Marriage Is The Primary Relationship.

You both have to be intentional about making your marital relationship first. Marital distress may occur if one spouse doesn’t want to hurt his/her parents’ feelings and doesn’t see how them “investing” in your marriage is harmful. The two of you are a family and on the same team. Each person is responsible for communicating with their own parents in a way that does not throw your spouse under the bus. So, “We aren’t coming to your house this weekend because he doesn’t want to come.” is not an option on the table. Ever.

2. Stop Anticipating And Start Planning.

When you rehearse conversations in your brain, it actually gets you revved up. Stop playing it through in your mind how you think your in-laws are going to react or respond. Instead, discuss with your spouse how you want to approach or avoid certain topics. In essence, you are creating a strategy to help you both engage them and avoid being triggered by them. Make your plan together with your spouse. It may take a minute to get on the same page about how to move forward. It’s vital at this point however to remember that your spouse comes first, not your parents.

Here’s a side note worth mentioning: Before you and your spouse talk, spend some time thinking about where the angst with your in-laws is the most intense. 

  • Are they interfering with your marriage? 
  • Are they interfering with your parenting? 
  • Do they say things that hurt your feelings or rub you the wrong way? 

This is important to know in order to make a plan to help you move forward constructively.

3. Decide How You Will Respond.

Straight out of the gates, make a commitment to respond versus react. Every time you react to a situation, you are giving over power and control. When you respond, you are calm, think before you speak, take the time to get with your spouse and discuss feelings and opinions and then share your response with your in-laws. Think through the typical scenarios that tend to take place and decide what your response will be.

If something out of the ordinary happens and you aren’t sure what to do, you are probably better off taking a moment to breathe. Maybe even take a walk around the block with your spouse to decide the best plan of action. People often regret flying off the handle, but rarely regret an intentional, constructive response. Before you say a word, ask yourself, “Will my response build-up or further tear down the relationship?

4. Set Appropriate Boundaries.

As a couple, it is important to have clear rules of engagement with extended family. When you are being clear with established boundaries, you are choosing your marriage, not between your spouse and parent. 

Examples of this could include:

  • We will call before we come to visit and we are asking you to do the same.
  • Yes, we have given you a key to the house in the event of an emergency, but we are asking you not to use it unless there is actually an emergency.
  • If we ask for your thoughts about our parenting style, please share your wisdom with us. Otherwise, we are not looking for unsolicited advice.

But what about power struggles? For real!

The best thing you can do is seek to avoid them. That sounds easier said than done, but if you and your spouse are on the same page, there shouldn’t be “power” up for grabs.

⇨ Don’t underestimate the power of a positive attitude. I know it’s hard. Dig deep. ⇦

➤ Remember, they are family. No matter the conflict, they are part of your family. Be aware of the level of tension, tones of voice, and language choice. All of these things can and will impact your children (their grandchildren). Are there behaviors you can choose to ignore? Give the benefit of the doubt? Extend grace? Ask yourselves, “Is this really worth ruining the relationship over?”

➤ 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. Also, discuss things that you would like them to stop.

➤ Relationships change and evolve. Believe it or not, many couples have been in exactly the same place you are at the moment. Through some advance planning, agreement on changes that need to be made, and strategic conversations, they now have a healthy and respectful relationship with the in-laws. It may take a minute, along with some tears and hard conversations, but don’t give up.

Image from AdobeStock.com

Want to take date night up a notch?

DISCOVER A DEEPER LEVEL OF INTIMACY IN THE MIDST OF UNCERTAINTY WITH HOT LOVE.

This premium on demand virtual date night guides you and your spouse to learn the secrets to growing deep intimacy. You’ll work together to learn…

  • Tools to reframe your mindset
  • Ways to discover and remove roadblocks to intimacy
  • Strategies for turning up the temperature

When you tie the knot, family relationships change.

Your mom was probably your first teacher, encourager and biggest cheerleader. And chances are, she’s one of the first people you’ve gone to for advice since… well, as long as you can remember.

But now things are different, and while your mom is still there for you, your wife takes the top spot.

Think of it this way: You’ve added an all-star player to your team who wants to be there for you in every way possible, and she is at the top of your priority list.

Adapting to marriage and navigating the changing road with Mom will take skill and finesse, especially since you don’t want to hurt Mom’s feelings, but these tips can help.

  • Do your best to speak positively to your mom about your wife. If your mom starts to criticize her, honor your wife in the conversation. And let Mom know that although you value her opinion, you don’t want to hear her speak badly of your bride.
  • When you and your wife make decisions together, present your decisions as a united front. You should be the one to tell your mother about the choice you made. Don’t make it sound like it you only went along with it to avoid rocking the boat–that will only create problems.
  • Check with your wife before making plans with your mom. Never, EVER commit to something with your mother (like bringing her to live with you) without completely talking it over as a couple first.
  • Got problems in your marriage? DO NOT talk about them with Mom unless your bride says she’s ok with it. (Hint: Make sure she’s REALLY ok with it!)
  • Remember, you’re no longer single. Turning to your parents for emotional support is not a bad thing, but turning to them BEFORE you reach out to your wife is not the best idea for your marriage. Your wife is now your number one support system – make sure she knows that.

Image from Unsplash.com

Weddings are time consuming, expensive, and stressful.

We totally get it. There’s hardly any time to breathe, let alone enjoy this season with your soon-to-be spouse! But that’s why we created Preparing for Marriage Online. This online class will guide you both through the answers to these questions and MORE! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME – and right now, it’s all for FREE!

During this class, you’ll cover topics like…

  • Clear & effective communication skills,
  • How to handle the in-laws,
  • Conflict management,
  • The importance of dating your spouse,
  • Planning, budgeting, and finances,
  • What to expect your first year,
  • And more!

Whether you are a son or a daughter, mom or dad, relationships change quite a bit when after marriage. Here are tips for strengthening the relationships that bind you together as a in-laws and family.

How to be a good mother/father-in-law

  • 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 be a good son/daughter-in-law

  • 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 be a good child/spouse

  • 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.
  • Don’t make your spouse responsible for the relationship between you and your parents.
  • Do not play your spouse against your parents.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

Becoming a team in marriage can be tough. After you marry, who should you approach first as your confidant, to ask for an opinion or to work through an issue? Your spouse or your parents? Many couples wrestle with this in the early stages of marriage.

One woman shared that she resented her husband of two years going to his mother about everything. He responded that he is closer to his mother and that she knows him better.

“My husband and I dealt with this in the first few years of our marriage,” says marriage educator, wife and mother, Gena Ellis. “When I showed up on my parents’ doorstep, my mother told me to go home. She said I didn’t live there anymore and I needed to go home to my husband. My husband was not being mean or hurting me. I was just spoiled and mad that things weren’t going my way, so I ran home to Mama. I am grateful my mom set these boundaries.”

Even though you love your spouse, learning how to get along together and grow your trust level takes time.

“I think a lot of men don’t realize how their relationship with their mom can lead to their wife’s insecurity in the marriage relationship,” says marriage coach Dr. David Banks. 

“For example, many well-intentioned men do not realize that confiding in mom after getting married is like being traded from one sports team to another and going back to your former coach for advice. This actually works against building trust in the marriage and figuring out how to rely on each other.”

Both Ellis and Banks agree that parents should receive, raise and ultimately, release their children.

“It is truly in a couple’s best interest if parents are a safety net rather than the first line of defense,” Ellis says. “If your adult child is having trouble ‘cutting the apron strings,’ helping him/her do that provides the best chance of a healthy and successful marriage. It is not helpful to say things like, ‘You will always have a room here.’ Or, ‘If she starts treating you bad, you just come home to Mama.’”

If you are a newlywed, Banks and Ellis offer these tips as you leave your parents and join forces with your spouse.

  • First, sit down together and talk about what it means to be a team.
  • Resist the urge to run to your parents at every turn. Set healthy boundaries for you as the couple and for your parents. Constantly turning to your parents creates difficulty in building trust and confidence in each other.
  • Watch the influences you allow around your marriage. People who have a negative view of marriage don’t typically help you to build a healthy relationship with your spouse. In other words, you may have hung out with people before marriage that you should see less often now.
  • Consider attending a marriage enrichment class. There are great tools to help you build a strong, lasting marriage.

“Loyalty is foundational to a healthy marriage team,” Banks says. “You may feel like your parents know you better and can offer better advice. But think of your marriage as your new team. Even though your old team knows you better, your job now is to make sure your new team knows you. This isn’t about giving up your relationship with your parents. It is about creating a new system where there is balance and everyone understands their appropriate role.”

 ***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 your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Tired of the so-so communication in your marriage? 

Check out this hefty DIGITAL E-BOOK by Marriage Researchers & Therapists

Inside, you’ll find:

  • How and why you and your spouse communicate differently, and what to do about it
  • 5 proven listening techniques that will pump up the intimacy in your relationship
  • 4 ways to start and end difficult conversations well
  • 5 ways you may be hindering communication with your spouse without realizing it
  • AND MORE!

PLUS! Every section has an easy, no-stress discussion guide created for you and your partner to build the communication you want in your marriage.

Although it has been many years ago, Deanna Brann, clinical psychologist and author of Reluctantly Related: Secrets to Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law, has no problem recalling “The Thanksgiving from Hell.”

It was the first Thanksgiving she and her husband spent with her son, new daughter-in-law and granddaughters. Although looking forward to seeing them, Deanna was quite uneasy. Her daughter-in-law was apprehensive, too. The stress and tension on both sides caused a huge explosion. That’s why that particular holiday is remembered as hellish by both women.

There have probably already been a few interesting discussions about this year’s holiday gatherings with the in-laws. While a first holiday together can be awkward for everyone, you may also be dealing with the stress from annual pressure from both sides of the family. Maybe each side wants you to be there because, “It just won’t be the same if you aren’t here.” Yet trying to please everyone can make the whole season miserable.

If you are the in-laws, remember what holidays were like when you were newlyweds or raising children. What would happen if you backed off on the pressure to be at your home on a certain day? Everybody might enjoy celebrating the holidays more when there’s a little flexibility.

For couples trying to navigate the holidays with in-laws, Brann offers tips to help you create great memories instead of misery.

  • Have realistic expectations. Hope for the best, but be realistic. Families are families – and they are going to act how they act.

  • Don’t take it personally. Stressful times and tension can cause behavior to be exaggerated.  Remember that your in-laws’ indiscretions are more about them than they are about you. And your mother-in-law is probably not trying to get on your nerves. Keeping this in mind can help maintain the peace.

  • Be a team player. Remember you really aren’t on opposing teams. Different opinions about certain aspects of the holiday are okay. Find ways to share the workload. Plan fun outings that can help keep people out of trouble.

  • Hunt for humor. Finding humor in situations can help maintain your sanity by helping you create enough emotional distance so you won’t take people’s words and actions so personally. Plus, you’ll have some great stories to tell your friends.

  • It’s just one day. You can make it through one day of just about anything. Knowing that there is an end to the evening – and that soon you’ll be seeing their taillights (buckling your seat belt) – can make all the difference. If you or your guests are staying overnight, you can close the guestroom door soon enough.

  • Plan your exit strategy in advance. Visiting couples should agree beforehand how long to stay – and then leave at the predetermined time. If you’re traveling, getting a hotel room or staying elsewhere can lessen the stress.

Don’t let others steal your joy. A little advance planning, along with a good attitude, can make for a pleasant holiday season.

Looking for more? Watch this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

***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.***

Before you take that walk down the aisle, sit down with each set of in-laws and talk about boundaries within your relationship.

For example, when a couple considered purchasing a house close to his mother, the mother-in-law said, “I am OK with you living close to me, but you will call before you come to visit and I will do the same.” That was one smart mother-in-law!

Things To Consider

  • If your in-laws have a key to your home, how will they use that? Are you OK with them dropping in whenever or is the key for emergencies only? AND, how do you define an emergency?

  • Is there an unspoken expectation that you would come over for dinner once a week?

  • How do you feel about your spouse talking with his/her parents about issues within your marriage?

  • Do they expect to talk with you every day?

  • How will you handle unsolicited advice?

  • What are your in-laws’ expectations surrounding holidays?

For more information on becoming a Newlywed, get our E-Book “10 Things Every Newlywed Needs to Know.” Download Here

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV!

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:

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

Want to read more about in-laws? Here you go!

HELP! MY IN-LAWS ARE RUINING MY MARRIAGE!

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU DON’T REALLY LIKE YOUR IN-LAWS

TIPS FOR STRENGTHENING IN-LAW RELATIONSHIPS

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU AREN’T CRAZY ABOUT YOUR FUTURE IN-LAWS

***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.***

Tired of the so-so communication in your marriage? 

Check out this hefty DIGITAL E-BOOK by Marriage Researchers & Therapists

Inside, you’ll find:

  • How and why you and your spouse communicate differently, and what to do about it
  • 5 proven listening techniques that will pump up the intimacy in your relationship
  • 4 ways to start and end difficult conversations well
  • 5 ways you may be hindering communication with your spouse without realizing it
  • AND MORE!

PLUS! Every section has an easy, no-stress discussion guide created for you and your partner to build the communication you want in your marriage.