What To Do with Problems You're Having with In-Laws

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Question: What should I do about theproblems I'm having with my in-laws?

Answer: If you love your spouse and he or she loves his or her family, then you have to find a way to get along with your in-laws. Sometimes, that's a big challenge for newlyweds. Here, you'll find some frequently asked questions about in-law problems -- and how you can use communication to solve them:

Q: My husband and I are in the honeymoon phase.

We’re very much in love and enjoying post-wedding bliss. Our lives would be perfect if only my in-laws were less intrusive. They come over all the time. I want more privacy and alone time with my husband. What should I do?

A: Talk to your husband. Kindly tell him that you want your marriage to start on the right foot and for that to happen you need to be alone together more often. Gently remind him that you’re two independent adults who are starting your own life and family. Tell him you want to spend time with his family but you also need your own space and independence. Ask him if he’ll talk to his family about coming over at certain designated times and not others. Be sure he knows he can spend as much time with his own family as he wants, but you don’t always have to be there.

Be aware of his feelings. Never bad mouth his family. This only causes hurt feelings, and it will alienate your husband.

Eventually, he’ll resent you for your attitude. Remember your in-laws are at least partially responsible for creating the man you love. For that, you owe them appreciation and respect. They probably don’t mean to be intrusive. They just love their son and want to get to know his wife and remain a part of his life.

Q: My wife always chooses her family over me. If I want something for our home and her parents criticize it, she sides with them – and we don’t get it. If my wife and I make plans for dinner, and her sister calls and asks her to go out, she breaks our plans to go with her sister. I feel like I’m always in second place with my wife. What should I do?

A: You might want to preface the conversation with your wife by saying, “I know you love me and you don’t mean for me to feel left out…” Then, calmly and kindly tell your wife that she hurts your feelings when she makes the needs and wants of her family come before your relationship. Remind her that she lives with you and decisions about your home and lifestyle should be made by the two of you without interference from others. Then, ask her to agree to one night a week when the two of you can have alone time without phone calls, e-mails, or visits from family members. Suggest she chooses another night for her to devote to her relatives. If you have a good relationship with your in-laws, you might invite them over to dinner to show your wife her family is important to you too and you are not asking her to give them up. You just want your relationship to be her top priority, which is perfectly natural once you’re married.

Q: My in-laws never wanted me to marry their son. I made some mistakes in my past and I have not been great at keeping a job, and they think I’m too flighty for their son. I know I have a lot of challenges ahead, but I am committed to their son and I’m working to change my ways to make our marriage – and life – work. My in-laws, however, don’t see the changes in me. They came to the wedding with grimaces on their faces and barely congratulated us. I know my husband is hurt that we don’t have more of a relationship with them now. What should I do?

A: You should organize a meeting with your in-laws and husband. Make dinner for them or take them out to dinner and tell them that you understand their concerns about your marriage. Tell them, however, that you love their son and you’re putting your life together one piece at a time with his help and encouragement.

Express your desire to have a relationship with his parents and let them know that they are welcome in your lives and in your heart. Then, give them the chance to give their side of the story. Listen carefully to what they say without interrupting. Find out what they want and what it will take to repair your relationship with them for the sake of your husband. Control your anger and speak in a calm tone. Show them respect and be honest. They’ll likely return the favor. It won’t be easy, but you’ll be able to build a relationship. Your husband will be grateful – and your lives will be more peaceful. Plus, you won’t feel guilty for keeping your husband and his family apart.