How to Keep Your Family From Ruining Your Relationship

How to Save Your Marriage From Your In-Laws

How to Keep Your Family From Ruining Your Relationship

In-laws come with marriage, but it will surprise no one that a lot couples struggle to navigate these relationships over time. Even under the best circumstances, where there’s easy affection and mutual respect, frustrations and conflicts arise — and tend to intensify once grandchildren enter the picture.

It’s easy to see why: In-laws have expectations, hopes, and dreams that may, uh, conflict with the reality you represent.

They might also your brother-in-law more than you and enjoy critiquing your parenting choices with a passive aggressive mmmhmm. But that comes with the territory.

So when in-law issues arise in your marriage, how do you keep the peace with each other’s parents while making sure you’re aligned with your spouse?

READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to In-Laws

It’s all about recognizing where the control issues arise (in both you and your spouse, and with your in-laws) and forming a united front with your partner, says Dr. Dion Metzger a relationships expert and board certified psychiatrist who’s helped with many couples deal with intrusive in-laws. Here, per Metzger is how to keep in-laws under control.

Form a United Front

Metzger says one of the most common conflicts she sees is grandparents criticizing how their grandchild is being raised.

But the good news is, since that’s actually an attack on both of you, it should be easier for you to stand up to it. “I almost always see the spouses unite [on this],” says Metzger.

“To say, ‘You know what mom and dad? This is how we’re doing it.’” Then, just to rub it in, let your kids swim in a kiddie pool full of mac ’n’ cheese.

Be Wise When Choosing Sides

Understand that whichever side you take in an in-laws fight, you’re going to end up making someone unhappy.

Metzger says “feelings of resentment can build” in situations where a partner chooses their parent over their spouse, “and when those feelings start building, you get into a danger zone where it puts a strain on the marriage.

Not only in how you communicate — children may notice too.” In the long run, your kids will thank you for freezing out Grandma.

And, if you do end up taking your parents’ side, try to do it in a way that doesn’t discount your wife’s feelings. “I’ve seen with husbands — if their wife has an issue often the reflex is to minimize it,” says Metzger.

“But eventually if you’re going to keep brushing it under the rug, it’s going to come out in other ways in terms of anger and resentment.” If she’s raised an issue (spoiler alert) it’s because she’s upset about it.

And you know that being compassionate was part of the gig when you signed up.

Examine the Relationship

If neither partner can seem to wriggle their parents’ control, that’s reflective of their childhood, says Metzger. “[They may have] had a very authoritative relationship with the parent, where whatever Mom/Dad says goes,” says Metzger. “Sometimes it’s culturally related, sometimes it’s just parenting styles.

” In extreme cases, she says, a partner might even discuss big decisions with their parents before talking to their spouse, which, intentionally or not, sends the message that they don’t value their partner’s opinion.

So both partners need to make a concerted effort to examine the relationship and understand how to better approach the dynamic.

Complain Constructively

If your wife’s family is driving you nuts, and she either doesn’t notice their bad behavior or just isn’t bothered by it, you have the right to bring it up and ask for change.

Metzger’s overall advice is to talk about any issues right away so they don’t fester. Keep the conversation solution-oriented. Bad idea: Shouting about how hard her family sucks.

Good idea: “Talk from an angle of trying to improve things and seeing what you can do better in your relationship in terms of communication.”

You can still hit all of your bullet points. You just want to do it in a way that explains how you’re feeling, and what you’d to see both of you do to work on making it better.

, say, “I would to see you ask your mom to stop inviting your ex-boyfriend to family events” or “I would us to agree that Grandpa is cut off from the baby after three glasses of eggnog.” Once you have that conversation, be patient while they’re trying to change.

Remember: They’ve had this relationship with their parents a lot longer than they’ve had one with you.

Fighting Guide to In-Laws


12 Ways Your Parents (or His) Are Ruining Your Relationship

How to Keep Your Family From Ruining Your Relationship

Learn how their actions may be sabotaging your marital bliss and get tips to help you deal.

The course of true love never runs smoothly, especially if parents are involved (just ask Romeo and Juliet). But even if your parents aren't quite the Capulets and Montagues, they can stir up plenty of drama in your relationship. Read on for the ways they may be sabotaging your marriage — even if their actions seem completely innocent — and get expert tips on how to cope.

They're too intrusive. Just on that old sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, your parents may feel a little too welcome in your life.

“If you have parents who show up uninvited, or who spend too much time with you, you might have too little time to be alone with your new partner and formulate your life as a couple,” says Susan Newman, PhD, a social psychologist and author of The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It — and Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever.

How to deal: Set some rules — and fast. “You need to clearly define your boundaries in regard to visits and time spent with parents,” Newman says. Once you and your mate agree on the rules, tell your parents that you love them, but they need to call before they come by — or whatever other guidelines you need to set for the sake of your marriage.

They assume that you're a mini-them. You and your partner may share genes with your respective parents — but that doesn't necessarily mean that you plan to follow in their footsteps.

“Your parents may make assumptions that you two think the way that they do, and then get angry when you don't,” says Tina B. Tessina, PhD (aka “Dr.

Romance”), a psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage.

How to deal: Tell your parents that you appreciate their viewpoints, but sometimes you need to go your own way. “You need to learn how to communicate clearly with them so they won't bully you or cause you to be at odds with each other,” Tessina says.

Your parents try to do everything for you. Your doting parents may simply want to shower you with everything they can — from a new car to your next vacation (with them, of course).

“This can seem good, especially if they help you with the down payment on your house, take care of your kids or bail you financial problems,” Tessina says.

But you need to be careful that you don't become too dependent on Mom's help or accept gifts that come with strings attached.

How to deal: “Be very aware of the cost of parental help,” Tessina warns.

If your parents seem to be engaging in a quid pro quo, where you're forced to do their bidding in return for their generosity, tell them you won't be accepting any more gifts — and stick to it.

It may take you longer to save on your own for your house and you may be staycationing instead of heading to Hawaii, but you'll be able to do it on your own terms.

They treat you babies. You and your mate may be grown-ups with mortgages and steady jobs — but your parents may still see you as toddlers who need their constant supervision.

How to deal: Assert your independence. “You need to clearly tell them that you're not their 'baby' anymore,” says Newman. ly, this goes hand in hand with gift giving (see #3), and you may need to put a stop to handouts from your parents to help assert your responsibility for your own life.

They bad-mouth your partner. You know that saying, “If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all?” Well, your parents apparently never heard that.

How to deal: Explain that the snide comments upset you — and firmly tell them to stop.

“Most parents don't want to alienate their own child, and 'calling them out' will usually get them to stop,” Newman says. If they continue, you need to show that you mean business.

“When your parent starts, simply say, 'I'm not going to listen. I married him and I'm happy,'” Newman advises. And if they continue, leave the room.

They critique your lifestyle. Maybe they don't that you moved several hours away from home — or how you spend your money. But either way, their constant criticism (especially if it starts to influence your opinion) can lead to friction in your marriage.

How to deal: Stand by your choices — and stand by your man. “You must live your life your way,” Tessina says. “Don't side with your parents against your spouse, and don't carry their criticisms home to your spouse. If you want to change something, work it out in adult fashion with your spouse.”

They make a mountain a molehill. You picked your sister-in-law's wedding over the annual family reunion — and now your parents aren't speaking to you.

How to deal: Gently remind your parents that you now have two families to consider when you're making plans. “They have to learn that you have a new family now, and you'll be connected, but not joined at the hip,” Tessina says. And hope that your parents realize that it's not worth losing their son or daughter over something that silly.

Your parents set a bad example for you. Your thrice-divorced mom and his spendthrift parents aren't exactly giving you much to emulate in the responsible-couple department.

How to deal: You can't fix your parents or the past — so don't try. Simply acknowledge their shortcomings and work hard to follow a less disastrous path.

“Be careful that you don't pick up any of the older generation's bad habits,” Tessina says.

“Admit that your parents have problems and work together to keep their bad influence from affecting your immediate family.”

They don't want to share. Your parents have been used to having you there for every birthday or holiday celebration — and those old traditions may die hard. “They've never had to share their child before,” Newman says. “They may expect holidays and family celebrations to remain the same.”

How to deal: Come up with a plan with your mate, and then break it to your family, gently. “Assure your parents that you and your partner want them to be part of your life,” Newman says. “Explain to your parents that you understand how they feel.

You might say, 'I know you're unhappy that we won't be spending the holiday with you. Let's arrange another time to celebrate.

' Your parents realize that you understand how they might be feeling, and that goes so much further than the blatant dismissal: 'We're spending the holiday with my in-laws.'”

They take you on a guilt trip. Parents are notoriously good at finding your weak spots — and making you feel terrible if you don't give in to their every bidding (which is sure to make your partner feel their needs aren't being considered).

How to deal: “Find a way to insulate your marriage from their guilt-producing behavior,” Tessina says. “You're supposed to be primary to each other now, not to your parents.” Don't give in to the guilt trips.

They flout your rules for your kids. Remember those parents who wouldn't let you have sugary cereal or watch TV? They're the same ones who now load your kids up with gummy worms and let them stay up three hours past their bedtime.

How to deal: Don't fight with each other if your parents aren't following the rules — but lay down the law with your parents. “Limit your parents to short periods of time with your kids if they don't follow your rules and schedules,” Tessina says. “You are the parents of your children, and you have a right to control how they're treated.”

They rub you the wrong way. Sometimes, your in-laws (or your parents) can create marital friction by simply existing.

How to deal: Talk it out with your mate to see if you can sort out why your parents are a sore subject — but if you can't, it might be time to call in a pro. “If the friction your parents or in-laws cause is subtle, and you don't understand why you're fighting, a marriage counselor can help you sort it out,” Tessina says.


Signs Your Family Is Ruining Your Relationship

How to Keep Your Family From Ruining Your Relationship

Mature daughter embracing senior mother after outdoor family dinner party. (via Getty)

Maintaining a successful relationship is tough enough to achieve on your own, so when you have outside sources (in this case family) doing everything they can to sabotage your union, the odds are stacked against you, to say the least.

If your man is a mama’s boy, it’s ly he’ll put her needs above everyone else’s — including yours.

If your dad is convinced no one is good enough for his baby girl, him dropping that little note in your ear from time to time could eventually have you questioning whether your partner is the one.

And we haven’t even gotten into sibling drama, nosy aunties, and cousins who start problems every family gathering. Need a little more proof that your family is doing more harm than good to your relationship? Check out these signs and see if anything on this list rings true.

African couple arriving with Christmas gifts. (via Getty)

They’re Very Intrusive

We understand that sometimes it’s hard for family members to give you the respect you deserve because they are so used to seeing you as a child. However, there comes a time when you have to put your foot down and demand things change.

This is especially true when you have family who are repeatedly intrusive in your relationship. Whether they continuously pop up to your home unannounced, insert themselves into the inner-workings of your relationship without being asked, or find ways to make a moment about you and your partner somehow about them, constant intrusion is a relationship killer.

African man looking angry. (via Getty)

They Constantly Speak Negatively About Your Partner

If you family never misses the opportunity to speak negatively about your partner, it’s up to you stop it in its tracks or it will continue to get hand.

Sure, you may be hesitant to approach your family fear of disrespect…but disrespect is exactly what they’re showing your partner.

This can cause serious problems in your relationship because your partner is bound to feel you don’t have their back and put your family’s feelings before theirs.


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Mother and adult daughter embracing outdoors. (via Getty)

Honestly, this is something that will be hard to overcome, especially if it’s been this way your whole life. Your adult family members are so used to you being a child that it’s almost impossible for them to see you any other way. This means that they not only treat you a child, they also devalue your relationship by not taking it seriously.

Even if you know that their behavior won’t change overnight, you still have to stand up for yourself and your relationship and let them know that you are an adult and capable of running your own life.


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Upset teenage girl gestures while arguing with her mother. (via Getty)

Making you feel guilty for missing family functions, missing regular visits or not calling enough, are just a ways your family uses its secret weapon of the guilt trip. Don’t let them do it. Apologize when necessary, but don’t feel guilty for living your life and prioritizing your relationship.


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Mother and daughter arguing in living room. (via Getty)

Your family can often be more critical than a stranger and a lot of times we take the criticism because we’re used to it. Remember there is a distinct difference between being overly critical and offering your opinion on things. If your family’s critiques are mostly negative and they make you feel bad about yourself, then you have to address it immediately.

Express to them that what and how they say things about you hurts your feelings. If their critiques of you also include your relationship, then address that as well. You could be in a bad relationship, but your family’s constant criticism of it isn’t going to make you end it any faster.


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Close up of senior African couple looking at each other outdoors. (via Getty)

They Project Their Relationship Issues On You

If certain members of your family have a bad relationship history, it’s ly that they’ll project those issues on to you. ning your partner to the unworthy exes in their past is both unfair to you and your significant other.

Your relationship is your own and you don’t need someone revisiting their past and negatively effecting your present. Make it clear that their issues are theirs and you are navigating through your relationship on your own terms.


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close-up of a young woman. (via Getty)

Now, on one hand it’s common for family members to discuss embarrassing things you did when you were a kid in front of your partner because most of the time it’s harmless. However, when your family members embarrass you due to their own behavior, that’s an entirely different story.

If you find that whenever you are around certain family members something totally embarrassing happens, causing your partner to give you the side-eye, then you might want to reevaluate how much time you spend around them. You don’t want your partner to think that the apple doesn’t fall from the tree and that you’re capable of embarrassing them too.


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Multiethnic family, Serious Teenage girl posing with their very upset parents in the background. (via Getty)


6 Big Mistakes That Destroy Family Relationships

How to Keep Your Family From Ruining Your Relationship

Family should be a person’s first source for love, acceptance, and support. Unfortunately, many extended families are failing miserably as the people within the family do things to undercut family unity. Understanding the problem is the first step in finding a solution.

6 things that destroy extended family include:

1. Insults and Criticism

Words carry weight. In some cases they can carry the weight of the world. When unkind words are said to family, they hurt. Your family is supposed to be your source of encouragement and support. Negative words damage the core of family relationships.

Some family members may say things off the cuff and think that because these things were said casually, they don’t hurt the other person. The truth is that such words hurt, however they are said. When negative words are spoken to family members it creates a chasm in the relationship.

It takes time and positive interactions to repair the harm that is done when insults, criticisms, and jabs take place.

When there is any outpouring of these negative words to a family member the chasm can grow so great that it can almost seem beyond repair. Any relationship can be resolved with apologies and forgiveness, but the hurt can still remain long after words are exchanged. Be careful with your words.

Remind yourself that as family you are there to be one another’s greatest supporters in life. Tearing others in the family down with words is destructive to the family unit. Keep the old adage in mind when speaking to your family “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

If there are people in your family who have problems with words, then set the example and set it strong. Use words that encourage and uplift family members. Doing so makes you a person that others want to be around.

People don’t want to be around people who make them feel bad. They want to be around those who make them feel good about themselves.

Help your family by looking for the positive in each and every person, so that you can set the example of using words that uplift fellow family members.

2. Gossip

Gossip is very damaging. Most often gossip occurs when someone is upset by something related to the person they are gossiping about.

It may make a person feel better temporarily, but in the end it does not solve the problem as the gossip itself is certainly not done kindness or love. If you have a problem or issue with someone in the family then go to them directly.

You don’t need to announce your issue in front of the whole family. Some people do this to force family members to choose sides in a situation .

When sides are taken, there is a divide in the family. Instead, go to that person privately with whom you have a problem. Discuss the issues, but do so with the the goal of reconciliation. Doing so with hardness in your heart or wanting to attribute blame won’t solve the problem.

Voice your concerns in a manner that helps them see things from your perspective. That way they may better want to heal the relationship and rectify any wrongs. Don’t talk badly about family members behind their back. If they have some drama in their life and it has nothing to do with you, then don’t spread their stories around. Tell yourself “not my monkeys, not my circus”.

3. Lack of Inclusion

An Ask Amy article was posted online that clearly puts family inclusion into perspective. Here is that wonderfully articulated response from Amy Dickinson of the Chicago Tribute:

Inclusion of family members is essential to family unity. Include all family members at family functions. Even if you “know” they are going to say no. Ask anyway. The hard feelings come because of failure to ask and failure to include.

It is up to them whether they attend whatever function or trip you are inviting them to, but the most important part is that they are asked. If your goal is family unity and love among all members, then include all members in family gatherings and functions.

Don’t find excuses to not include, as that is wrong and will create hard feelings.

4. Deception and Lies

Deception in a family is destructive. The truth always prevails. Sometimes it may take years or even a generation for the lies and deceit to become known, but know that they will come to light someday. If you can’t be honest with your family, who can you be honest with?

Lying to family or using deception to keep secrets leads to brokenness in a family. This brokenness comes from trust being corroded. The bigger the lie, the bigger the corrosion. Some lies, such as secret children born from an affair, can create insurmountable corrosion that will leave a family damaged for generations.

Your actions have consequences. Not just to you, but to your extended family for generations to come. It is much better to admit your wrong doings and work toward healing, than to lie and work to carry that lie around indefinitely (or until you are found out). Don’t burden yourself with lies.

Be open and honest with your family. If you have done something that is hurtful to family members, then you need to apologize and make an effort to rectify the situation for the sake of family unity. Trying to hide the truth only compounds the hurt.

The longer the truth is hidden, the more compounded the hurt.

5. Failure to Accept Differences

Children who grow up in the same home with the same parents, same discipline, and same guidance do not turn out to be the same exact adults as their siblings. We all have differences. Allow others to be different. Just because you are family doesn’t mean you have to share the same political views or even the same religion.

People will grow up and have different parenting styles and lifestyle choices, but it is not the job of family members to judge. Love and acceptance starts in the family. If a family is not providing this to one another, then they are fundamentally failing as a family.

If you choose to put a foothold in the differences and create family strife because of differences, then the extended family unit is ultimately damaged. Accept people for who they are and for where they are in life. Acceptance of a person for who they are, is the ultimate form or love.

6. No Apologies and No Forgiveness

Apologies and forgiveness are the glue that keep a family together. Nobody is perfect. At some point in time you will hurt a member of the family. It is up to you to say the words “I am sorry for…”.

Those words can heal wounds and create a stronger family bond.

When you apologize to a family member, the message you are sending to the person is that they matter and that you don’t want ill feelings between you and them.

Not apologizing, is sending the message that the person does not matter or that their feelings don’t matter. Failure to apologize is a personality flaw and weakness of character.

Be the bigger person and apologize when you do something wrong against a family member, whether your words or actions that hurt the person were intentional or not does not matter. What matters is that the apology takes place.

You can explain intentions, but you can’t make someone unfeel being wronged.

When someone apologizes, be a gracious forgiver. Families need one another. Don’t hold grudges, as that is a burden to you and it harms the family. Forgive and show your forgiveness with your actions as well as your words.

This means that if you forgot to invite a family member to a birthday celebration, then ask for their forgiveness and offer to do something to make it up to the family member taking him or her to lunch.

Actions speak louder than words, so make your apology count by making your actions parallel a heartfelt apology.


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