Do you have a mother-in-law who won’t butt out of your marriage? Or perhaps she’s disapproving or condescending? Got a father-in-law who’s a know-it-all? If you plan on sticking with your spouse, then you’re also stuck with your in-laws, so finding ways to get along with them is crucial. Here’s Dr. Phil’s advice for keeping the peace with your extended family:
1. There can be no divided loyalties.
When you get married and start your own family, that’s where your primary loyalty needs to be. Even in the heat of a fight, you need to stand by your spouse — not by your parents.
2. Don’t share your marital problems with your parents.
One of the biggest mistakes that couples can make is sharing their relationship issues with their respective families. You fix problems in a marriage within a marriage — not by turning away from your partner and toward your parents. You can love your parents and have a rich, active relationship with them without involving them in your marriage. And remember: If you vent to your parents every time you’re angry or hurt, they’ll build a case against your partner. You and your spouse may make up, but your folks will still remember the hurt your spouse has caused you and may hold a grudge.
3. Negotiate with your partner the role that you want your in-laws to have.
Don’t assume you’re on the same page until you talk about it.
4. Create appropriate boundaries.
Good fences make good neighbors. Your in-laws need to be your neighbors (figuratively speaking!), and you need to put up fences. Set boundaries about when they are or are not invited into your lives, so they can come in and out of your life appropriately. You’ve got a finite amount of physical and emotional energy. If your in-laws are draining you, you may need to change the boundaries. Reassure them that you are not closing them out.
5 Talk about it.
If your in-laws are butting into your life and invading your privacy, perhaps it’s because you and your spouse haven’t set limits or articulated them clearly. That’s your job. Once you’ve set boundaries, talk to your parents about them. They’re not as fragile as you may think.
6. Deal with “the other woman” dynamic.
The other woman in every man’s life is his mother. If your husband says: “Well, my mother does it this way . ” maybe you need to tell him to head to her house and sleep there! You need to come first now, not her.
7. Know your role.
If a husband has a problem with his mother-in-law, it’s his wife’s job to step in. Likewise, if a wife doesn’t see eye-to-eye with her in-laws, it’s her husband who needs to help resolve it. The person with the primary relationship (the son or daughter, not the in-law) needs to be the messenger or peacemaker.
8. Try not to criticize your spouse.
There may be parent/child dynamics that your spouse can’t see; try not to be overly critical. It may only lead to more clinginess or complications.
9. Don’t be a right fighter.
Do you always need to be right during an argument? Even if your in-laws are clearly in the wrong from your perspective, the way you react to a situation could inflame it and overshadow your position. It’s not about being right; it’s about being happy. Take the moral high ground and learn to compromise during a disagreement.
10. Don’t involve the children.
Children should never be used as pawns. Protect them from being manipulated or emotionally damaged by being in the middle of a war zone. Grandparents need to understand that even though their role is vital in a child’s life, their involvement is a privilege, not a right. They must earn that privilege by putting the children’s interests above their own. Parents should make every effort to keep the relationship between a grandparent and grandchild healthy and loving.
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