On this episode of DETANGLED
What? What’s my relationship with my mother-in-law? No, I’d rather talk about something else. As I try to remind myself every time they come to visit, I married my husband, not his parents, which means I’ve only signed up for 3 days a year with them. I can do that. What about you?
When it comes to marriage, we tend to focus on the joys, the obstacles, and all the tribulations that come with the package. Even so, besides the relationship you have with your partner, there’s another relationship that might interest you: the one with your in-laws.
Truth be told, you could be one of those people who didn’t give too much thought to their relationship with the in-laws, not before you got married, at least. I mean, no one blames you, really, as there were definitely other things to consider back then!
However, now that it caught your attention, you must be careful with the way you’re handling things and check if your in-laws are the toxic type you want to stay away from, or if they can be real team players. Are they a negative influence on your life? Here’s how to find out:
They want to make you feel bad
Some folks out there might need more time to get accustomed to a new member of the family, especially if that member is the one their child got married to. That’s fine. In fact, your in-laws might never even display too much affection towards you, and that’s fine, too.
After all, you’ve married their child, not them! But you need to remember, some people out there….might be adults, but they’re definitely not MATURE. If you can’t shake the feeling that your in-laws are constantly hurtful to you and “sworn to themselves” to try and get under your skin, that’s definitely crossing the line.
So, with the help of your partner, you might want to explain to your in-laws that their actions might hurt you. A lot. And if this doesn’t go too well, the next thing you can do is limit your interactions with them.
Just let them know that you won’t allow being disrespected like this, then talk to your spouse about what’s going to happen moving forward. The most important thing is to keep in mind that the way they behave has nothing to do with you as a person.
So if that was something that was bothering you, forget about it and stop worrying about what they think of you! You have to know your worth every step of the way. You don’t need them to validate you!
They get into every single decision as a couple
You might have gotten the in-laws that are a bit too pushy and involved but in the sweetest way possible. Even so, if your in-laws seem to be getting involved in every single aspect and decision of your life as if their decisions are just as important as yours, then you might have a problem.
Whether it’s about which home you should buy or when is the right time to have children, your in-laws feel like they “must” contribute their two cents, as if their decision would matter in the end. What’s even worse, is that you and your partner might not even be on the same page on this matter.
After all, it all depends if the spouses feel their parents are fully entitled to influence this kind of decision. If your in-laws keep on making suggestions that simply feel intrusive or are completely overstepping your boundaries, then you might want to tell your partner how you feel.
This way, you can both come up with a plan that works. Discussing your expectations and views on things is what matter the most. So, find the courage to bring the matter to your partner and talk about the intrusion.
Then, try to work together and find ways to set healthy boundaries in a firm manner with your in-laws. If they keep disrespecting you and your marriage, this should automatically mean spending less time together.
They try to turn you and your SO against each other
It’s a known fact that in-laws aren’t always the easiest to deal with. Even so, there might be some signs out there that might help you understand if your in-law is decided to turn you and your beloved partner against each other.
First things first, if you notice your in-laws turning everything into a terrible game of “he said, she said”, then it could be a clear sign that they’re definitely bringing a ton of negativity into your relationship. Besides this, it can also cause some serious and unnecessary confusion between the two of you. If you don’t know how to deal with it, it’s super easy. You and your partner have to keep a united front as a couple.
Probably the best thing that you can do is communicate everything with your spouse and let them know exactly what’s going on. Besides, you always need to keep a calm and respectful voice when you’re talking to them.
Also, keep your composure and bear in mind that your in-laws are looking forward to seeing you crack. While it’s true that you cannot control what your in-laws say, you can definitely have control of YOUR reaction.
Remember to take everything they might say with a grain of salt, then have an honest conversation with your significant other about what your in-laws have planted in your head, so you can work together as a couple.
They have 0 respect for your personal space
Maybe your mother-in-law has made a habit out of showing up unannounced, or your father-in-law wants to spend every single Friday afternoon with your husband/wife. It doesn’t even matter if you made other plans or if Friday is the only night you actually have for yourself as a couple – in their heads, they come first.
It seems that your in-laws simply refuse to respect your personal space as a couple, which can oftentimes complicate things. And let’s be honest, telling someone to stop coming by isn’t really anyone’s cup of tea, especially if you don’t want to seem rude.
However, if your in-laws keep impeding your personal time and space, you have to tell them. Naturally, you will have to discuss the matter with your partner, first. Besides, you have to understand better WHY they act like this.
This doesn’t mean that you will change your opinion on their actions, but sometimes, when you understand someone else’s motives, it might help you keep a respectful conversation about the matter.
So if you can, explain to your in-laws that, with all the love and respect, you and your partner need to have some time for yourselves. And just to ease things a bit, you could all agree on a particular day every month when you can meet and spend some “quality time” together as a family.
If you notice that your in-laws start becoming rude, you could always limit your contact with them! If you tried the diplomatic approach and they seem to keep on undermining you and your relationship, then it’s time to take some time for yourself and your spouse.
They completely freeze you out
Probably the most difficult kind of in-laws are the ones who simply act as if you don’t exist. They always talk about you as if you’re not there, they fully ignore you at all family dinners, and maybe even refuse to see you. If your in-laws don’t seem interested in speaking with you, the only thing you can actually do is to turn to your spouse for a little bit of support.
Keeping a united front as a couple of definitely the first defense against this type of disconnection caused by other family members. What we mean by saying a “united front” might differ for each couple, but the foundational understanding is that each spouse must feel secure and loved by their partner, and able to have an honest conversation about various issues.
You could also try having a one-on-one conversation with your in-laws about their behavior. After all, they can’t possibly ignore you even when it’s just you in front of them, right? If nothing seems to improve, let them know that you won’t come around as much anymore. There’s really no point in dedicating your personal time to being mistreated like this.
They keep on treating you like a child
There are times when it’s actually nice to be treated like a kid again. I mean, it’s pretty hard to complain when someone’s making you delicious meals or sends you home with a basket full of cookies. That’s one thing, so if your in-laws are like that, they must be nice.
But when it comes to treating you like a child in the opposite direction – making decisions for you, shutting down your mouth, and calling you naive- well, we don’t like that infantilizing treatment. And neither should you. When it comes to this, you seriously need to draw the line.
First, let your in-laws know that, while you appreciate all the help, you can handle things yourself. Then, bring it up to your partner – it is the most important thing to do. Maybe there’s something that you missed, such as a cultural expectation you didn’t know about, or a family tradition of mixing into someone else’s business (now I’m just being a little bit petty). But really now, if you decide on anything, you must decide as a couple, especially when it comes to addressing the matter with the family.
And if your partner agrees with your opinion, then a couple of instances where you stand up for yourself should do the trick. However, if nothing shakes them, you have to remember that you can’t always appease everyone, your in-laws included.
Maybe, in the future, they will finally come around, but until then, none of this is YOUR fault, as long as you tried to be respectful. In most situations, when people have a problem with you, it’s mostly about themselves and their unhappiness, so you shouldn’t take things too personally.
There are some in-laws who are so afraid that their child will strain away from them (which is not true, but that’s how they view it). Or, they might be scared that their child’s spouse will want to control them in a way that will also affect their parent-child relationship.
While none of this is actually your fault, if you try to change the way they think, you might end up being more frustrated with something that you can’t control at all.
They are extremely manipulative
Well, being emotionally manipulative might look very different, but in the end, it all comes down to control. As a general rule, a manipulative in-law might cause a lot of strain for any couple. Toxic in-laws are very hard to deal with, as they might cause a ton of damage to any relationship.
Not only they are extremely selfish and capable of doing anything to get what they want, but they also become extremely manipulative, and their favorite habit might become projecting a ton of guilt on you and your partner.
Oftentimes, when it comes to this kind of people, their toxic behavior points out a deeper, underlying issue. It could mean many things: they might act this way because of their own insecurity with their in-laws, or because of the fact that they’re fearful of losing their child, all the way up to intergenerational trauma. You might find out exactly what it is by discussing the matter with your partner. Who knows?
You might even discover that you and your significant other have different boundaries with your families. Either way, having an honest and blunt conversation about your own background and family history might prove to be helpful, especially when it comes to setting boundaries. What do you expect from your in-laws?
If you stumble upon any kind of issues, how does the couple want to address these issues? This is exactly why deep conversations about personal history, backgrounds, family traditions, and traumas are highly important for every individual to discuss with their partner.
Also, make sure you’re both as open and calm as possible! Because these conversations are game-changers: couples will be able to establish exactly how they want to approach and set expectations with their families, and hopefully avoid conflict.
They are always passive-aggressive toward you
Having one of your in-laws being flat-out offensive is one thing, but being constantly passive-aggressive and belittling you every step of the way is a whole different matter. Not only is it extremely mean and frustrating, but it’s also extremely immature.
First, as mentioned in every other example before, you need to bring it up with your partner. Maybe your spouse’s parent is passive-aggressive without even knowing, or maybe she/he doesn’t understand exactly how hurtful it is to you. If that’s the case, your partner can address it.
The difficult goal here is to make sure that the spouses are BOTH aware of what passive aggressiveness might feel like, and that they have made a plan on how to approach it. You need to have a chat about what feels or doesn’t feel like passive aggression from your in-laws, and you wish to address the issue.
Also, bear in mind that taking the matter into your own hands might make things worse. Best case scenario, when the offended partner has a direct conversation with their in-laws, where he/she points out the passive-aggressiveness, at least one party feels completely disrespected. That’s why the most effective thing is to address the issue as a couple.
In the end, spotting toxic behaviors in your in-laws and deciding what to do about it can be EXTREMELY difficult and oftentimes awfully uncomfortable. Luckily, in every single situation, you can start by being kind and offering others the benefit of the doubt.
Don’t be afraid of an honest conversation with family members about how they might be treating you or your partner, as long as you try to be as respectful, non-blaming, and kind as possible. You want to create a certain sense of trust with your new family, so approaching any problem with a ton of generosity in your own assumptions and a little bit of deference in your words might help you convey the message that you just want to be part of a loving family. You don’t want to create division.
Besides, if things get even more complicated than this, you can always ask for more advice from a therapist, whether alone or together. He/she might help you a lot in finding the right solutions! In fact, don’t be afraid to bring it up next time you discuss it with your spouse…so many couples go to therapy to discuss their in-laws!
If you’re glad you stumbled upon this article, you might also want to try: Top 10 Dos and Don’ts to Find The Perfect Match After 50