One area of challenge for most couples are relationships with the in-laws. Why? Because the new mother and father-in-law are a part of the package of what you commit to in marriage, but they are not necessarily people you would seek out and befriend if they were not connected to your spouse. And how you navigate the relationship with your new extended family members will be important to the health and longevity of your marriage. This article will review ideas about in-laws to assist you for your future marriage.
Why In-Law Relationships Can Be Challenging:
*Worlds colliding: remember a mother and father-in-law are the literal parents of your future new spouse. As such, they care greatly for your spouse and already have been for decades. They want the best for him or her but they don’t really know you very well. Their bias and loyalty will always be towards your spouse. Please don’t take that personally, just know that is how it will be. So, when you come into their lives as the new spouse of their child, this will be “worlds colliding”. Their previous family dynamic will be colliding with the new marriage and family that you will be establishing with their son or daughter. These conflicting worlds commonly can lead to power struggles, hurt feelings, and growing pains.
*Blurry and changing roles: before you came alone your new parents-in-law had more of a direct, supportive role to your new spouse. Now that you will be there, it can be challenging for the in-laws to know how to shift gears and defer to you and the both of you together as a new married unit. Some in-laws do a better job of gracefully stepping back and promoting you both to be your own main decision makers. However, other in-laws may not be so willing to lessen their power, control, and influence over their child. Power struggles, passive-aggression, and conflict often follow during this transition and perhaps throughout the marriage.
*Personality Issues: perhaps the biggest issue that can create friction, stress, and conflict are personality issues. If you and/or a new parent-in-law have strong or even aggressive personalities, you very well may have conflict and even arguments with an in-law. Conversely, if you and/or the in-law are more passive or conflict avoidant, quiet resentment, hurt feelings, and passive aggression may follow (which isn’t good either). If one or both members of a new in-law relationship are giving, accommodating, and devoted to getting along, the trait of personality can actually be a great asset and help towards getting along. Because personality types vary, so will how big of and effect each personality will make towards the outcome of family harmony. Just be aware of all of the personalities involved and carefully navigate accordingly.
Suggestions to Navigate the In-Laws:
*Establish boundaries. Boundaries are simply the limits of what you will and will not allow or accept from another person. Because a spouse relationship is the most important relationship, practice making joint decisions as a marriage respectfully yet firmly and consistently let the in-laws know it. This is an important precedent to set and maintain. Your new spouse can inform his or her parents of your joint decision or you can both share the information with your in-laws together. This includes saying no, letting the in-laws know what you will and won’t do, and making decisions on get togethers (and most anything else). Be assertive and follow through. Avoid being aggressive, passive, or passive aggressive.
*Balance your time with them. Spend an adequate amount of time with the in-laws to nurture and maintain that relationship (as long as they are acting minimally civil and respectful). Spend enough time to stay decently close, but spend enough time away from them to have some space, to decompress, and have your own life. Strangely enough, if your in-laws feel a roughly even balance of feeling a bit taken advantage of and feeling a bit neglected at the same time, you are probably doing a decent job of balancing your time with them. If you spend too much time with them, they may feel taken advantage of by you, especially if you have children that they will be watching. If you spend too little time with them, they will usually feel neglected and ignored. So, strive for balance.
*Do unto others… When making decisions involving and/or effecting the in-laws, consider if your treatment of them is reasonable, civil, respectful, and something you could basically understand if your future child and son/daughter-in-law treated you in a similar way towards you. Maintain empathy, understanding, and a consideration of this “golden rule” with every decision you make with them. The more empathy and consideration you have with them as you make decisions involving them, the better you can feel afterwards. Balance and mutual consideration are important keys to decisions. Nevertheless, when push comes to shove, the considerations with your spouse should come above the in-laws.
Final Thoughts: The marriage is the number one priority and the number one relationship. Make your decisions accordingly, but also maintain a civil and respectful relationship with the in-laws. The better you balance and navigate this complicated relationship, the better, healthier, and happier your marriage will be. And remember, “…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 11:11.
P.S. If you can questions, comments, or a future article request for me, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|2020-09-20||Randy Gilchrist||Healthy relationships|
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 (www.dr-rg.com), 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 email@example.com. 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 www.dr-rg.com/lds; email me questions to firstname.lastname@example.org).