How Parents Feel About Their Relationship With Their In-Laws

The mother (and father) of all surveys.

by Fatherly

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If Meet The Parents taught America anything, it’s that you can milk anything with nipples. Oh, and that relationships between you, your wife, and your respective folks can be complicated. Some of you call your father-in-law “dad.” Some would rather fake an aneurysm than spend a second alone with your mother-in-law. Battling with your in-laws seems like a bad sitcom trope, so we decided to find out if there really was such a big rift between the parents and grandparents.

READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to In-Laws

Presenting Fatherly’s 2016 In-Law Survey. How do you feel about your MIL versus your FIL? Do your kids prefer Mamaw to Grandma? Can you talk more than turkey — like, say, a President-Elect — with your father-in-law? Find out how your fellow parents are dealing with their own parents below.

Stress Level

Women said they definitely feel more of a sense of dread when they have to hang with the in-laws — about 16 percent more than the men. And it’s not because someone has to see if grandpa’s still breathing when he takes a nap during the Lions game.

According to Dr. Suzanne Burger, a Gottman Method couples therapist for over 25 years, says an average of “about one-third of couples” have moderate to severe conflict with their in-laws and it, “generally gets compounded when people become parents.” She points out (and the survey backs it up) that a lot of it stems from your mother telling your wife how to be a mother. But, is your spouse’s level of discontent just a “I Can’t Make Awkward Small Talk About NCIS,” level of agita. Or is it a, “I’m Going To Beat You With A Gravy Boat,” all out war?


If moms are more stressed about their in-laws, dads reported they have a slightly better relationship with both their mother-in-law and father-in-law. Which is a good thing, because one 26-year longitudinal study of 373 married couples found that men who felt close to their spouse’s parents at the time of marriage were 20 percent less likely to get divorced in the next 16 years than the overall group. It’s what’s known in the business as “a keeper.”


Surprisingly, while a majority said their in-laws irked them, only 38 percent admitted they didn’t have it out. When they did argue, 29 percent said it was about “parenting style,” followed by 15 percent who brought up “politics,” 14 percent said “money,” and 4 percent said their in-laws needled them about “career success.”

When comparing men and women, the women said they were more likely to argue with their in-laws over parenting styles. Men are more likely to argue with their in-laws over money and politics. So, leave that PowerPoint presentation on campaign finance reform at home.


You know which grandparents buy your kids all the toys you won’t. Give them all the candy you don’t. And show them the kind of fawning attention you would, if your days were just playing golf and watching CNBC. Both parents said their kids have mostly an equal relationship with their folks. Although, the moms believe that the kids love their husband’s parents slightly more. But really, isn’t it mostly just who puts the bow on the Power Wheels at Christmas?


If you’re looking to keep the holidays at home — surprise, most of you already are. Thirty five percent reported that they stay home for the holidays, while 26 percent said they went to the wife’s parents, and 20 percent went to the husband’s folks. But, since you apparently get less stressed than she does about in-laws, that’s probably a fair trade.

Remember, no matter where you’re headed for the holidays, or which parents you have to interact with, know that you’re not alone in the struggle. Maybe this will be the season that you and you wife get over the in-law strife. Or, maybe not. Just keep in mind your family is a united front, the old folks are entitled to their opinions, and everyone can agree that pumpkin pie is goddamn delicious.

Survey Demographics


  • 52.7% Male
  • 47.3% Female

Number Of Kids

  • 44% 1 Kid
  • 35% 2 Kids
  • 11% 3 Kids
  • 4% 4+ Kids
  • 6% No Kids

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