Portland Marriage Counselor: Tips for Coping with Your In-Laws

December 14, 2011 by

In-laws can be the cause a lot of relationship problems – especially for newlyweds who are also trying to learn how to live as a married couple for the first time. Perhaps your wife’s parents are always making cutting remarks or overriding the decisions you’ve made together as a couple. Or your husband’s mother is constantly around and doing things in your home that you feel are none of her business.

The best way to handle these situations is to talk about it. For many of my clients, this is the last thing that they want to do. After all, who wants to talk badly about the family of his or her spouse? But as a Portland marriage counselor, I can tell you that whether the relationship problems are between you and your in-laws or you and your spouse, they still have to be dealt with or they’ll just grow worse over time.

Relationships Problems: How to Talk about the In-Laws

So you know that you need to bring up your in-law issues with your partner, but you don’t want to exacerbate relationship problems you’re already having. Unfortunately there’s no guarantee that you won’t offend, but there are ways to approach the situation to minimize hurt feelings on both sides.

Show respect and appreciation. Let your spouse know that you are grateful for all of the helpful things your in-laws have done, and always be respectful when talking about them, even when bringing up the negative.

Don’t blame or criticize. Instead of complaining about how annoying it is that your mother-in-law is always cleaning your house when she’s there, tell your partner it makes you feel like the two of you aren’t doing a good enough job. Instead of yelling because your partner is always spending time with her family, explain that you feel like you barely see her and you miss her.

Set ground rules. Once your feelings are on the table, tell your partner that you’d like to set boundaries for your in-laws that both of you can agree on. Be willing to compromise. Instead of his family coming over four times a week, maybe it can be twice a week – but make sure that your partner understands that your feelings should come first (and vice versa) and create a password to end their visits should you become overwhelmed by them. This is also a great time to reciprocate, asking if your spouse has issues with your family and wants to set any ground rules for them.

Veto power. Even if you’ve agreed on something like two visits a week, there are days when it can just be too much. For these times, you need the power to say no. Likewise, there may be special circumstances beyond your agreement when your spouse simply needs to see his or her family.

You may want to seek out the advice of a Portland marriage counselor if you feel the discussion is becoming too intense, or your relationship problems don’t improve.