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Sharp Health News

How to get along with your in-laws

July 15, 2021

Family talking at dinner table
Not the biggest fan of your in-laws? You’re not alone. It’s a tale as old as time; as long as there has been marriage, there has been discord between spouses and their in-laws.

In fact, a British researcher found that more than 60% of bonds between women and their partner’s mothers are described as “strained.” The younger women reported that their relationship with their mother-in-law caused them long-term stress.

It can be tricky navigating that relationship while not letting it affect the one between you and your partner. Luckily, certain practices can help you keep the peace while maintaining a positive relationship with your spouse.

5 tips for managing tricky in-law relationships
Michelle Myking-Scheufler, a therapist at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, offers these 5 tips for managing in-law relationships:

  1. Have a united front
    Discuss the values that are important for you and your family. Do not assume you and your spouse agree and are on the same page until you talk about it. Examples include how you celebrate holidays and with whom, how long guests can stay at your home when visiting, and whether or not people are welcome to stop by without calling.

  2. Establish boundaries and stick to them
    Many couples who do not discuss their values or boundary setting with each other find themselves in conflict later in the relationship. Open communication with your spouse is key; it is important for you to stand up for your own needs and wants, and to communicate these clearly. No one is a mind reader.

  3. Don’t make your spouse choose between you and their family
    This one is rather self-explanatory. If you try to make your spouse make such a difficult choice, it will put definite strain on your relationship.

  4. Allow your spouse to be the messenger
    It is important that your spouse — not you — be the messenger to their own parents. You do not want to get in the middle of their relationship and create tension between you and your in-laws that may not already exist. Parents can take boundary setting from their own children but not necessarily from others.

  5. Be kind and mature
    Take time out for yourself if someone says or does something to upset you. Breathing and grounding techniques can be extremely helpful in finding your center again. You do not want to say or do something you will regret or cause additional friction. If you cannot say something nice, don’t say anything; sometimes we need to bite our tongues to keep the peace.
While there is no magic solution and no guarantee that there will never be tension with your in-laws, Myking-Scheufler notes that these practices should help.

“I believe everyone does the best they can with what they know,” says Myking-Scheufler. “Understanding that others have different ways of communicating, showing love and establishing value systems can have a positive impact on relationships with others whose perspectives may be different from ours.”

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