Four ways to handle overbearing in-laws and maintain the peace, according to relationship experts

MARRYING the love of your life is supposed to be beautiful and seamless, but that’s not always the case thanks to in-laws who can’t quite let their baby go. 

Luckily, experts have shared a few methods for handling overbearing in-laws in order to maintain the peace.


DON’T TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY

Of course, most things are more easily said than done.

But licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Omar Ruiz suggested taking a step back from whatever situation is bothering you so you can realize your in-laws’ behavior is likely not a personal problem they have with you.

In fact, it may have everything to do with themselves.

According to KidsHeath, bullies often act out because they feel threatened by someone or want attention.

While in-laws are grown adults, the same idea can apply.

For instance, one woman posted anonymously on Reddit that she was hurt over the fact that her mother-in-law told her husband that no one could love him like she does.

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This may have nothing to do with the daughter-in-law at all, but may have everything to do with the mother’s own insecurities and her inability to accept the fact that she is losing a part of her son to someone else.

And despite you probably wanting to rip your hair out over seemingly backhanded compliments or snide remarks by your in-law, NYC-based psychotherapist Dr. Valeria Aliendres said reframing a situation might also ease your nerves. 

“Unless you have evidence for mal-intent, it can be helpful to assume your in-laws have good intentions and may just be communicating their feelings and thoughts in an unhelpful way,” she explained.

“For example, instead of leaning into the idea that your mother-in-law is overbearing and controlling, you can choose to reframe it as: ‘My mother in law really cares for my partner and is having a difficult time adjusting to the boundaries of our new marriage.’ 

“Changing the way in which we automatically perceive intentions can help alleviate tension and decrease overall feelings of resentment.”

SET BOUNDARIES 

Several therapists believe setting boundaries is a vital step in maintaining civil interactions between family members.

However, you need to do it in a calm and non-threatening way, according to Dr. Ruiz.

“Going toe-to-toe with your in-laws will only add fuel to the fire of their desire [or] need to control your situation, relationship, or life,” he warned. 

“Instead, stand your ground in a calm way. 

“Let them know that what they are doing or saying is not okay with you and if they continue to do so, you then inform them of possible consequences.”

He continued: “Don't think about consequences as confrontational threats, but rather assert your need to be respected and if they continue disrespecting you that you will leave the conversation or completely remove yourself from their presence.”

For example, one woman openly complained online that her mother-in-law was whining about her baby name choice while she was in labor. 

Instead of screaming at her mother-in-law to shut her mouth, the woman calmly gave her two options: to stop complaining or to leave the room.

BE OPEN WITH YOUR PARTNER

Your in-laws are not the only ones that need to be aware of your ideal boundaries.

Your partner needs to know as well, but it can be almost as difficult as speaking to your in-laws if your partner isn’t on the same page as you.

“In these scenarios, it will be important to communicate your boundaries with your partner in a way that will elicit empathy from them,” licensed marriage and family therapist and adjunct professor of marriage and family therapy Ashera DeRosa told The Sun.

She suggested that instead of bluntly stating what infuriates you about your partner’s mother or father, you can give them a reason with supporting evidence and an opportunity to unite.

“For example, saying: ‘It makes me angry and really hurts when your mother makes offhand comments about how we raise our children. 

‘Could you help me with addressing this so that family gatherings don't become tense?’ creates a situation in which your partner can collaborate with you and gives them the space to question their parent's behavior,” she explained.

Another approach, according to Dr. Ruiz, is acknowledging your position within the issue.

“Explain that you know you nor them cannot choose who their family is, but you do have a choice on the type of relationship you will have with them,” he advised.

“People struggle to see issues that exist within their families because these behaviors [or] actions have been deemed normal. 

“The culture may be to either ignore it or accept it, instead of challenging it or approach it with setting up necessary boundaries.”

He added that if the open and empathetic communication with your partner becomes difficult, reaching out ot a family therapist can work wonders.

Alternatively, author, public speaker, and cognitive-behavioral coach Dr. Robin Buckley said to treat current or potential issues as a business would: by having a set plan in place.

“Having a standard operating procedure (SOP) in place in regards to managing the ‘collaterals’ in your marriage is important,” she noted.

“Just as you have SOPs in place in your professional settings to ensure situations are handled in the most effective manner possible, having clearly identified SOPs in your marriage can have the same benefit. 

“These should be written out to allow both partners access to the SOP when a situation arises.”

She added: “If a partner disagrees that there is an issue, doing an analysis of whether the collaterals' behaviors support the goals and roles within the relationship that the partners have identified. 

“Using this objective approach to looking at the situation can reduce emotionality and allow a couple to create a strategic plan which will support each other and the marriage.”

In the end, the fact is that in-law relationships involve more than just two beings and bind multiple people together, so it’s beneficial for everyone to be on the same page.

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK

Dr. Ruiz reminded people that while there are many uncontrollable factors that occur in any given situation, there is one thing you can control: You.

“Instead of focusing on what can be done to change them and their behavior, focus on what you have the most control of, yourself,” he suggested.

“You have all the control of what you say and do. 

“If you make the choice to respond to their behavior, you only have yourself to blame if the outcome of that interaction does not go in your favor.”

In the end, relationship and communication expert and founder of Chloe's Consciousness Training Chloe Ballatore said the best thing to do for yourself in stressful situations involving your in-laws is to give yourself a break.

“Go to the bathroom, step outside, get some water,” she urged.

“Interacting with in-laws can be very triggering, so give yourself an out.

“This will help you in the moment and prevent you from flying off the handle.” 

Furthermore, she recommended shortening periods of face-to-face contact and only sticking to certain topics of conversation to avoid controversial subjects.

She also said meeting your in-laws in public rather than in a private residence may encourage them to act polite and remember their manners.

The one thing she said to definitely not do is try to change someone, especially when they’re older and maybe set in their ways.

“It's a lose-lose situation,” she warned.

She concluded: “Remember that your most important relationship is with your significant other.

“Hopefully, you two are on the same page about your in-laws. 

“If you're not, you may have to agree to disagree. 

“If the disagreements add up, however, you may need to reconsider your relationship.”


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