Many of us struggle with our in-laws and outlaws. We feel like they haven’t accepted our choice of spouse, lifestyle or parenting.
Having difficulties with your in-laws and outlaws doesn’t mean you’re in an unhealthy marriage. Conflict is inevitable in every family. Those conflicts can either tear you apart or bring you closer together. The key is in how you resolve them. And the same is true for difficulties with your in-laws.
Here’s some suggestions:
Realize your in-laws and outlaws are different people.
You are engaged in a “cross cultural” experience. Both of you came from different family cultures. One of your families was big into celebrations; the other one’s family rarely celebrated anything. This isn’t necessarily wrong … it is different.
Make an effort with the in-laws and outlaws.
Don’t forget how important your spouse’s parents are to your spouse. Treat them with respect. Allow them to participate in family events. Make an effort, even though they may not always agree with or understand your family’s dynamics, rituals or traditions.
Separate your marriage from the in-laws and outlaws.
You are not married to them! So when parents are being especially difficult to deal with, make an extra effort to be kind to your spouse. Say “I love you” or perform a sweet gesture.
Keep talking about this issue.
Processing the difficulties in loving conversations is one of the most important tools a couple has for dealing with in-laws/outlaws. Share your own feelings and positions on the differing issues; listen to each other and sympathize with each other.
Set clear boundaries.
Talk about how your parents interfere with your spouse’s routines. Maybe your spouse is OK with your mom stopping in unannounced but you’re not. Set a boundary. “Mom, we love to have you stop in … but would you please give us a call to make sure it’s a good time to stop over? We have a busy schedule with the kids and want to make sure we have the time you deserve on your visit.
Your in-laws are important to your spouse, and they’re part of your family’s life, whether you like it or not. So, it’s up to both of you to find a way to make time with extended family as enjoyable as possible!