In-Law Issues

In-Law Issues by Dr. Randy Gilchrist, LDS Psychologist (FREE LDS online dating site)

There are a short list of about 5 common issues I see most in my office as a couples/marriage therapist. These issues include communication/conflict resolution issues, money/work, sex, addictions, and in-law issues. In-law issues can loosely relate to a partner’s parents, siblings, other extended family, and even in a sense, their close friends as well. One of the biggest challenges that quickly becomes apparent during the dating, engagement, and initial marriage period are these in-law issues. Naturally, all of these other relationships are still important to a new partner heading into a new dating relationship to varying degrees. Such family and friend connections help to satisfy the previous emotional intimacy/connection needs before a dating partner comes along. But now that a new dating partner has come into the equation, a natural push-pull power and control struggle and dynamic is common during the initial adjustment process, which sometimes can go on for years.

In-laws vary between graciously accepting and supporting a new partner in their son/daughter/sibling’s/friend’s life, to threatened, competitive, and even sabotaging of the new relationship. In similar fashion, a new partner will vary between being accepting and supportive of the other partner keeping connections and ties with their parents, siblings, and friends, or not. Some in-laws and/or the new partner can promote tension, arguments, contention, and even a “choose me/us or him/her” attitude. The more possessive, insecure, selfish, and competitive a partner or in-law tends to be, the greater the likelihood that conflict and competition will ensue. At the very least, some level of conflict is to be expected. It is just a part of the adjustment process.

The Ideal

Though some conflict in inevitable, there are some things that a new couple can do to assist the transition with in-laws/the other’s friends. Here are a few suggestions:

1) Patience. Remember that if you get engaged and married, you will have years and decades to adjust to all of this. It doesn’t all have to be figured out and smoothed out immediately. Just consistently, persistently work on it.
2) Priorities. The two of you, when you get married, will be the number 1 relationship, followed by your children, followed by the parents, followed by siblings/other extended family, and finally the friends. When those are your basic relational priorities, everything else over time falls into place. The problems come when a couple cuts off all other relationships, or one partner or the other puts other relationships over/above the marriage.
3) Kindness. When a partner is dealing with in-laws/the other’s friends, kindness is essential. Maintaining a sense of civility, respect, decency, and kindness with treatment of others greatly eases the pain and adjustment of changing and adjusting relationships. Being kind to in-laws and the other’s friends will ease the pain of their new lowered status and time together with their family member or friend.
4) Forgiveness. During the process of adjustment frictions can occur within the couple, with a partner and their in-laws/other’s friends, and/or with the partner and their own family/friends. When we can remember that some of the conflict is the result of caring and missing the old relationship that is changing, forgiveness of these moments will be essential in all maintaining relationships moving forward together. Without forgiveness, resentment and even relationship cut-offs are much more likely (a severing of relationships altogether). Understand, forgive early, and forgive often as you navigate these relationship changes. Often the in-laws/friends are grieving losing the previous family member/friend they knew and enjoyed before. A new relationship and marriage changes everything.
5) Learn Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills. You can’t take back the spoken word, so become more skilled, collaborative, and more of a peacemaker through your words. Three possibly helpful books to assist your communication/relationship skill improvement are the following:

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Tongue Fu by Sam Horn
Your Perfect Right by Robert Alberti

Final Thoughts

Start off on the most positive note possible with your new/future in-laws and partner’s friends. This will save your new relationship and future marriage much grief, resentment, contention, and division. Be Christlike. Be kind and be a peacemaker. Give your new relationship the best chance for success as possible. Making your new marriage work is worth it. Because "…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:11).

Dr. G

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2018-02-05 Randy Gilchrist Healthy relationships, Conflict resolution

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About the author

Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (, practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at; email me questions to