We’re Living With Our In-Laws and It’s Destroying Our Marriage

Here are a few reasons you might feel this way—and what you can do about it.
By Reggie Madison
January 8, 2021
in-laws-ruining-marriage

Maybe when you started living with your in-laws, you didn’t think it would be all that bad. After all, they raised your spouse. But now, living with them feels like it’s destroying your marriage. 

Criticism. Judgment. Parenting critiques. Lack of boundaries. Arguments. Living with them seems to be impacting your marriage—not for better, but for worse. How’d this happen? Can’t we all just get along? 

I’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt, lived to tell about it. (Full disclosure: We lived with MY family, so I know what it’s like from my wife’s perspective, too!) 

Maybe finances, illness, or some other reason led to your living situation. Regardless, it’s hard to foresee all that can arise when you and your in-laws live under the same roof. But why is it so hard and what can you do about it? 

Maybe you feel like living with your in-laws is destroying your marriage because…

1. You haven’t been clear about your expectations.

We’ve all done it. You decide to do something. Then you begin to imagine how it should go—how you’ll deal with food and groceries, parenting and finances. You may even think about how much you and your in-laws will help each other. But you never talked it out with your spouse or the in-laws. And it isn’t going how you expected. You’re disappointed, frustrated, and full of resentment.

Well, guess what? You have expectations. Your spouse has expectations. So do your in-laws.

ACTION STEP: Rewind the tape. Lay out your expectations. HEAR their expectations. 

You may want the same things but have totally different ways of getting there. Whether your living arrangement is temporary or not, a plan will help to keep you from being discontented about your situation.

2. You haven’t talked about boundaries, OR your boundaries aren’t being respected.

And that can be a massive part of what’s going on in your marriage. In-laws can totally obliterate bedtime schedules, eating habits, structure, and order in the home. Or maybe they want too much input into your parenting decisions and how you do your marriage. When you don’t feel like someone respects your boundaries or keeps finding fault with you, it can feel like a fire is burning inside.

ACTION STEP: Set boundaries as a couple and stick to them. Household upkeep, eating habits, and house guests (among other things) are all potential points of irritation. Having clear boundaries sets a culture of respect for everyone in the house.

3. You need privacy.

All married couples need time alone to talk and… you know. Sometimes it’s hard to see that the lack of it is keeping you from connecting. Make sure your spouse knows you need some private time together and talk about ways to make that happen. (A hotel room may be in order…)

ACTION STEP: Talk to the in-laws about it, but keep this in mind: it’s best for the spouse to talk to their parents about these issues. It just is. Trust me.

Most people can think of a time where they needed some alone time. Appeal to their own need to discuss how to get yours as a couple. 

4. You’re dealing with a case of role confusion.

Are your in-laws taking their parenting roles too far with your spouse or your kids? Are your kids confused about who’s in charge? Has your mate become a part-time child? It’s crazy how easy it is for an adult to change when they’re around their parents. There may be some things that bothered you before that are magnified now. This is an excellent opportunity for growth.

ACTION STEP: Lovingly address the issue with your spouse. Give specific examples where you see actions or decisions that have impacted your marriage. Get some help from a marriage counselor if you need it.

It’s tough when you feel like living with your in-laws is destroying your marriage, but remember, YOU ARE A TEAM. Turn toward your marriage. Not every issue will be solved. Some tension will just need to be managed. 

  • Teams stick together and grow through adversity. 
  • Teams see a challenge and plan for the best way to overcome the obstacles. (Just remember the obstacles aren’t necessarily the in-laws. Hopefully, they aren’t the opponents.) 

Making sure you and your spouse are on one page about how you’re doing marriage and family is vital. The security of being on one page will help you talk through your problems with the in-laws. And even if you don’t see eye-to-eye, your marriage will grow stronger because you’re together.

***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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