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Dealing with Difficult In-Laws

by on 27/08/2013 4619

As any married couple would understand, you’re not only married to your spouse, but you are also “married” to his or her family members.


Some of us are lucky enough to have great in-laws where the relationship is healthy and breezy while some of us aren’t so lucky that we end up with nosey in-laws who criticize every single thing we do, from the way we walk to the way we dress at a relative wedding to the way we feed our child to the toys we buy for our children. It can be very frustrating and very stressful at the same time to have in-laws who are always finding fault with everything you do. Some of us hate our in-laws so much that we can’t even stand the thought of them.


This age-old issue, however, can be handled with tact and some patience.


Although it isn’t always easy, it is worth remembering that the common reason in-laws are so difficult is usually because they are still very possessive over their son or daughter. Unless the in-laws you are dealing with are verbally, physically or mentally abusive, there is always a middle ground that can be achieved so that you don’t dread the next visit to their place.


Here some simple pointers worth remembering when you are dealing with difficult in-laws.



As much you feel as though you can’t stand your in-laws or believe they have made it their life’s mission to ruin yours, you still need to treat them with respect.


They are your spouse’s parents. You can tell your own mom how silly she looks in that green bubble dress but you can’t do the same to your mother-in-law because simply, she is not your mother. Even if you have a fantastic relationship with your in-laws, you do not know their extent in accepting criticism or your offhand teasing.


Treat them how you treat your own parents. Meaning, with respect, maturity, and love. Yes, love. Although you may think it is awkward to love your in-laws, loving gestures and words can go a long way in ensuring and maintaining a healthy relationship with your in-laws.


Values and Principle

For some in-laws, it is important for them to have a family dinner once a month or they come for a visit and stay for the weekend. It may have been their family tradition or it’s their way of keeping in touch. For some people, seeing their in-laws every month is too much and therefore dreads these monthly events.


Learn to see why it is important for your in-laws to have family dinner. Always remember that your in-laws are getting old so they may feel that they need to spend every possible time available with the people they love and care. Really think if tolerating their presence for several hours or for a couple of days will really ruin everything you have planned. Think if it will really hurt your weekends if your in-laws insist on having one weekend for family dinner.


If their values or principles do not violate your own values and principle, then it is perfectly generous to respect others’.


Accept Your Own Values and Principles

If you act according to your own values and principles, it is easier for others to accept yours because you are completely aware and certain in them.


The more you accept yourself and know where you stand, the easier for people to accept you as an individual. Plus because you are confident and certain in your values and principles, others’ snide remarks don’t hurt as bad. Sooner or later, people will learn to understand your principles and they will back off.


This goes for in-laws as well. There are, unfortunately, some in-laws who like to find fault in their daughter- or son-in-law, but the more they see that you are undisturbed by their remarks or comments, they will stop pestering you. This kind of in-laws may or may not have insecurity issues so they need to pick on someone to make themselves feel better.


But when their comments just slide off you because you do not give them the satisfaction of retaliating, the tease and criticism will soon stop.


Grandparent Privilege

Almost every grandparent is thrilled to see their grandchildren as proof of their offspring. Because of this, they tend to indulge their grandchildren and spoiling them every chance they got.


As parents, we have an ideal idea of what we want for our children and we have set a clear set of rules on what’s allowed and what’s not. If you don’t allow your children to eat candies before dinner but your in-laws give it to them when they came over, think if it is necessary for you to snap and started telling your in-laws off. Think about the times your grandparents indulged you when you were little and see if it has done you any harm.


If no, it is okay to cut your kids some slack when they are spoiled by their grandparents. If it is not actually harmful, it is fine to let others take care of or occasionally indulge your children.



It is highly important for your spouse to know how their parents are making you feel. However, you need to be careful with how you bring the subject forward because your spouse is so accustomed to his or her parents that they do not see any fault in them.


Telling your spouse that his or her parents are making you feel uncomfortable with their criticism will be a good way for you and your spouse to be on the same page when it comes to dealing with in-laws conflict. It is important that your spouse understands that he or she is not asked to make a choice between you or the parents but to ensure that he or she has got your back for support.


As in any marriage, the priority should be for the spouse. As much as your spouse adores and loves his or her parents, you need to make sure your spouse is the person you can count on for help and support.



As easy as this may sound, the best way to handle difficult in-laws is to change you. You can’t change your in-laws' behavior but you can certainly change your attitude and the way you behave towards them.


Always be positive when facing your in-laws. Do not have a constant preconceived idea that your in-laws hate you or think they want nothing but to see you crash and burn or believe they are trying to run your life for you. Set yourself in a calm, positive state before you meet them.


Always have a smile on your face and greet them lovingly. It may be tough to put on a show if you have a really stressing relationship with your in-laws but you can always be the bigger person by not subjecting yourself to be pulled into their invitation for an argument.


Despite trying your best to stay positive and ignore their comments, if you really feel you can’t take it any longer, you can always excuse yourself and remove yourself from the situation or you can choose to speak up and stand up for yourself. It is okay to tell them that you don’t like being made fun of or being teased in front of other relatives. Sometimes in-laws need a dose of your reality to know that what they are doing to you is not funny.


It can be a challenge to put up a brave front for your in-laws. But with strong principle, a confident and clear idea of who you are, staying positive in handling difficult in-laws can be practiced and sooner or later become part of who you are.


Just as you can’t choose your parents, you can’t choose who your in-laws are either.


It is good to maintain a healthy relationship with your in-laws so that everyone will be living in a loving and peaceful environment that benefits every member of the family on both sides. For some, it may take a lot of work, but it’s a relationship worth working out for.