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Irked by In-Laws? Here's How to Deal

Jul 21, 2008
Does your mother-in-law probe too much into your personal life? Perhaps your father-in-law gives unwanted advice on how you should provide for your family or run your household. Some in-laws seem to smother, while others exclude. Instead of dwelling on the endless list of reasons why you may be clashing, consider what you can do about it. Here are some ideas to help you change your relationship with in-laws for the better:

1. Side with your spouse. Experts agree that for a healthy marriage, your loyalties must be first and foremost to each other. If you run to your parents for support regarding a problem in your marriage without trying to work it out with your spouse first, several things can happen: your spouse may feel betrayed, your parents will probably take your side and lose respect for your spouse, driving a wedge between your marriage and in-law relationships. Make your spouse your go-to person, and your first priority.

2. Set boundaries, and kindly make them clear. It may be hard to believe, but your in-laws probably don't try to drive you nuts, but just want to be included in your lives. With your spouse, identify appropriate boundaries and communicate them to your in-laws. Don't just set up rules to keep them out of your lives. Try and put them in a positive light. If your mother-in-law tends to drop by unannounced, tell her that she's welcome to call you any time to see if it's a good time for a visit. If your father-in-law complains that he never gets to see his grandkids enough, give him a specific, regular time (such as Saturday afternoons or dinner every other Sunday) that he can look forward to.

3. Remember-you can't change anyone but yourself. Instead of complaining endlessly about their annoying habits or wishing they would stop butting in, think more about the things you can change: your attitude and your reactions. Your feelings may be valid, but you could be holding on to unnecessary grudges or being overly-sensitive. Try using humor to diffuse tough situations, or even ask for their advice on occasion so they know you respect what they have to say. If they know you will come to them for help when you need it, they may not feel so inclined to force their opinions on you when you don't want them.

4. Try to see them as real people instead of "in-laws." What would you think of them if they weren't your relatives? You might be more inclined to notice their good qualities-traits that may have been overshadowed by your own hang-ups with them. Acknowledging their attributes will help you appreciate them more, and seeing them as real people will help you to be more forgiving and cut them some slack-they're only human, after all.

5. Think about the relationship you want your children (or future children) to have with their grandparents. The bond between grandparent and grandchild can be a priceless gift to each of them. This might make you think twice about shutting your in-laws out of your life.

Your in-laws don't have to be your best friends, but trying to maintain a healthy relationship with them is a good idea. It could mean less-stressful holiday visits, less-frequent criticism, or free babysitting. And who knows? You may even have some fun once in a while.
About the Author
Art Gib writes and contributes to many baby, child, family and parent online publications including HugaMonkey. Art is an avid baby sling supporter because of the positive impact it can have on families. For more information regarding baby slings, visit http://www.hugamonkey.com.
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