In-law problems can be the bane of a marriage. You can’t have a negative relationship with your in-laws and expect that it won’t affect your marriage. Thankfully, most in-laws truly aren’t out to do you or your marriage harm- most simply are well-meaning, but misguided souls. But what do you do when your in-laws are interfering to the point that it’s harmful to your marriage?
The main thing to remember is that your in-laws are your spouse’s “first” family. This means that they are the family that your spouse grew up with and has known all of his or her life. He or she will naturally feel some loyalty towards the “first family,” and in a normal, healthy relationship- will come with time, to naturally be loyal to you over his or her “first family.” This is only natural, and patience is required.
This does not mean, however, that they should continue to take “first place” in your spouse’s life. Ideally, you and your spouse should place each other first in your lives, and everyone else secondary. If you and your spouse are already doing this, then this places you at a bit of an advantage over interfering in-laws.
However, if this isn’t the case and you find your in-laws interfere more often than you’d prefer or are a bit too “involved” in the day to day communications or life of you and your spouse, then it’s time to have a heart-to-heart talk with your spouse and let your concerns be known. If your spouse absolutely will not hear your concerns or defends his or her family, then there is a deeper issue within your relationship besides in-law problems.
Regardless of which relationship category you fall into, there are some things that you can do to gain your spouse’s loyalty when it comes to problems with your in-laws. Don’t ever talk disparagingly of your spouse’s family. No matter how much your in-laws might hurt you or infuriate you, talking badly of them can only cause a rift between you and your spouse.
If the situation is reversed for some reason, and both you and your spouse are upset with problems your in-laws are giving- don’t encourage your spouse to talk badly about your in-laws. Even if you agree with him or her, it’s never a good idea to state such or to encourage “bad-mouthing.”
Venting about something that’s an issue between you and the in-laws is one thing, but talking badly of them and their character is not appropriate and can cause more problems in the long run. If you bad-mouth your in-laws, encourage your partner talking badly of them, etc- things like that have a way of making their way back to the people that they’re said about. Even if you’re encouraging your partner, it could turn into a confrontation at some point with his or her family, then the blame could be shifted to you.
When dealing with problem in-laws, if you truly want your spouse on your side- try to maintain a sense of neutrality when dealing with them, make every attempt to compromise with your spouse about them, and try to make the effort to maintain a positive relationship.
If your spouse sees that you are willing to make the effort and willing to bite your tongue even if in-laws attempt to provoke you, then he or she is more likely to stay loyal to you. If your in-laws are trying to drive a wedge between you and your spouse, it won’t work as long as you maintain a positive attitude, a willingness to work things out with his or her family, and you don’t nag at your spouse about their family.
If your in-laws simply can’t be dealt with, and there’s no end in sight to problems caused by them- don’t demand that your spouse make the choice between you and their family. Many spouses have done this, with bad results for their marriage. The reason is simple, if the other person doesn’t see that their family is causing problems and their spouse issues an ultimatum, resentment builds and it becomes the other person’s fault.
Keep your spouse’s loyalty- don’t make demands, no matter how bad the problems between you and your in-laws get, don’t speak badly of his or her “first family,” and give it time. Make sure you’ve made every effort possible to reach out to and have a relationship with your in-laws, and don’t get into arguments or confrontations with your in-laws. When your spouse sees you being the cool-headed, calm one- he or she will take your side in arguments or disagreements.
And one last thing, don’t demand your spouse’s loyalty. Give your loyalty to your spouse, make sure you have his or her best interests at heart, show that you are there for your spouse no matter what, and don’t make every issue with your in-laws a major drama. If you truly have “problem in-laws,” your spouse will eventually see that and take your side.