When you marry someone, you marry their family too: In-laws are an obligation that comes with marriage. But if you’re lucky enough to still have a living mother-in-law and/or father-in-law, it’s important to make the most of those relationships. After all, in an ideal world, in-laws are keepers of family lore and providers of advice and support. They’re vacation buddies and babysitters who offer childcare help for busy families. They’re readers of bedtime stories and recipe-savers, playmates and teachers. They’re an invaluable asset for families.
Of course, in-law relationships are not always rosy, and can be difficult to navigate. In fact, issues involving in-laws are one of the biggest sources of conflict in marriage. It’s easy to see why: The dynamics are incredibly complex. Mothers-in-laws and fathers-in-law have expectations, hopes, and dreams that may conflict with the reality you represent. They may be prickly or passive aggressive or have views that do not align with yours. They may just flat out not like you or accept you. Or you may just not like or accept them. Any number of issues could be present. And when you bring kids into the picture? Whooo boy.
The good news is that having trouble with your father-in-law or mother-in-law doesn’t mean you’re in an unhealthy relationship. It just means you have work to do — and probably need to get some perspective.
How to Have a Good Relationship With Your In-Laws
Creating a good relationship with your in-laws is a crucial part of a happy marriage. Studies have shown that in marriages where the husband has a close relationship with his wife’s parents, the risk of divorce decreases by 20 percent. And let’s not forget the impact in-laws have on their children. So it pays to put forth effort.
If you want to have a better relationship with your in laws, you have to, well, try to have a better relationship with them. If you’re having trouble with your in-laws, the first question to ask is: What can I do better? Seriously. Do you actively help when you’re around them, or just sit on the couch? Have you taken an interest in their family history? Do you try to balance some of their family traditions with yours? Do you thank them for the help they provide? Do you routinely share photos of your kids with them so they can feel connected? It all adds up.
It’s also important to touch base with your partner early and often about what your relationship with her parents looks like. Talk about such things as how often they should come over and what they are or aren’t allowed to do with the kids. Then talk about it some more. Set boundaries, and then sync up regularly about what those boundaries look like. Work hard to stay on the same page. And, oh yeah, try as hard as you can from taking sides with in-laws over your spouse.
To provide more context and a lot more advice, Fatherly put together this guide to help make managing these relationships easier. You might be wondering how to deal with in-laws you hate or ones you feel hate you. Maybe your in-laws are overbearing, or you’re anxious about get-togethers during the holidays. It happens. We’ve talked to therapists and experts to offer guidance in resolving tricky issues and having the best relationship possible with your in-laws.