Dealing with in-laws can get messy. 60% of women say they experience sustained stress because of their husband’s mother. This can cause major problems if you don’t figure out how to handle these relationships properly.
In-laws can be tricky, can’t they? Perhaps you have a mother-in-law who is always butting into your business, or a father-in-law who has to “have everything his way,” or what about an overbearing aunt? Do you stand up to them and speak your mind, or should you honor them and be polite? What are the pros and cons?
If you’re feeling the strain, you’re not alone. According to an article in Time Magazine, psychologist Terri Apter at the University of Cambridge found that “60% of women (but only 15% of married men) experience sustained long-term stress because of their mothers-in-law, and two-thirds of women believed that their MIL exhibited jealousy over their marriage with the sons.”
60% of women experience sustained long-term stress because of their mothers-in-law.
Family dynamics are very powerful, and if you don’t know how to handle these relationships carefully, it can cause huge problems in your marriage and within the family.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Your relationship with your in-laws can be great if you’re willing to see the positives and put in the effort. Assuming they aren’t completely crazy and toxic, here are some helpful tips for keeping the peace with your extended family:
1. Look for Common Ground
All relationships are built on trust and common interests, so look for common ground to strengthen your bond with your in-laws. Are there hobbies, TV shows, or any special interests you can engage with them about? If you don’t have anything in common, why not ask about their interests? For example, does your MIL enjoy cooking? Even if you don’t enjoy it, making an effort to ask for one of her cake recipes can break the ice.
If you don’t have anything in common, ask about their interests.
Everyone loves talking about things they are passionate about, and who knows, you might just learn something new. Like everything in life, it’s a two-way street. If you want your in-laws to show more affection towards you, you have to show them affection!
2. Don’t Share Your Marital Problems with Family
One of the biggest mistakes couples make is sharing their marriage problems or intimate details with family. Sharing them with family can be highly dangerous because it paints your husband in a negative light, and, over time, this can make them turn against him. Also, people love to gossip. Do you want your marriage to be the topic of a gossip-fest among family?
Sharing your problems with family paints your husband in a negative light, which can make them turn against him.
Unless your marriage is going through serious trouble, such as abuse, infidelity, or on the brink of divorce, try to keep your problems between you and your husband. If you need to vent, you could try journaling to let all your emotions out, talking to your husband about them, or seek professional advice. Rememeber that if all your family hears you say about your partner is negative, one of two things will happen. If it's his family, they'll probably take his side and assume you're the one with a problem. If it's your family, you'll influence them into only seeing him in a negative light.
3. Get on the Same Page as Your Husband
People are often unaware of how their family comes across. Something might be totally fine in your husband’s mind (e.g. Christmas at his parents’ house every year) but might be uncomfortable for you because everyone has different tolerance levels. If something is bothering you, talk to your husband about it. This will give you both an opportunity to come up with a solution so you’re on the same page.
People are often unaware of how their family comes across.
The only caveat is to think of how it could affect your husband and his family. For example, is it a problem that he needs to discuss with his mother? This could be risky in case she takes it the wrong way, which could potentially drive a wedge between the two of you. Be mindful of how you approach problems because family dynamics are very strong. You wouldn’t want in-laws siding with each other or going against you.
4. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
No matter what you do in life people are going to annoy you and get on your nerves. It’s part of life, so you have to get good at filtering the “big stuff” from the “small stuff.” If you let every stressful situation trigger a response you’ll be ticked off 24 hours a day.
What are some examples of small stuff?
Your mother-in-law needs to do laundry every day because she is a clean freak. Let it go, and let her do her thing.
Your father-in-law loves watching the news 24/7. You know too much news is toxic, but he is set in his ways. Let it go.
Your brother-in-law is the only vegan, which means you have to cook an entirely separate meal just for him. Yes, it’s annoying, but let it go.
Don’t dwell on trivial, silly things. Focus on the positive, and ignore or rise above the negative.
5. Honor Your In-laws
At the end of the day, your husband’s family is important because they’ve helped shape the man he is, so you have to honor and respect them. This doesn’t mean you have to obey everything they say — you’re a free agent — but you do have to honor them.
Treat your in-laws how you would want your husband to treat your own family.
What does this look like? It means they feel safe around you and trust that you won’t criticize or badmouth them to other people. It means that you hold them in high regard. Basically, treat your in-laws how you would want your husband to treat your own family.
Look, dealing with in-laws will get messy, but it’s completely normal. Everyone goes through this, and we have to look at the bigger picture. It takes time to build a strong relationship with people from completely different backgrounds and upbringings. This is a learning process, not just for you and your husband, but for each family. So, learn to honor each other’s family and treat each other with love, kindness, and patience.