Improve Your In-Law Relationships With These Tips

Published February 11, 2021
Family at the table drinking tea and eating cake

In-laws relationships can be a challenge, even for those who enjoy the families which they married into. The familial road traveled will not always be an easy one, but oftentimes if it's a challenge, it's worth doing. These tried-and-true tips can ease those times of stress with in-laws.

In-Laws Relationships Need Boundaries

Just like all relationships in life, those with in-laws need healthy boundaries.

Establish Equality Among Grandparents

If you find yourself preferring your own parents to your partner's, that is fine and probably pretty natural, but it doesn't mean that you should push your in-laws out of the picture. If they desire lots of face time with your kids, make sure that they feel like they are getting as much quality time as your parents get. A good way to work them in is to give them specific tasks, like picking your child up from school two days a week or taking over soccer practice duties.

Know When to Say "No Thank You"

It is possible to have too much of a good thing, and grandparents can overdo it even when their intentions are pure. If you are noticing that they are asking to constantly come over or help out, get comfortable with politely declining their offers. Being able to say no when it doesn't work for your family is a key part of setting boundaries.

Remember Who Is the Parent

You are the parents, and you call the shots. If they raised their kids in a different manner than you are choosing to, you'll find that you clash over plenty of child-rearing methods. Neither is right nor wrong, but what you choose for your kid is the right choice for your family. They did the parenting thing. Now it is your turn. Don't second guess your choices, especially when you feel strongly about them.

Happy three generations of women

Adjust Expectations

Your in-laws are not your own parents. They are going to do things in their own manner; that is normal and to be expected. Try to remove predispositions about how they should be grandparenting, according to you. Adjust your expectations, and you may discover that while they perform their grandparenting duties uniquely, different can be a good thing.

Don't Take Things Too Hard

If you are of a sensitive nature and your in-laws are blunt, your feelings are in great jeopardy of getting hurt. When you find yourself becoming increasingly upset by something they have said, consider the source. Is this just the way they speak? Are you reading too much into what they have said? Do you truly believe they spoke their words to hurt you?

Find Common Ground, Literally

When they come to your house, you stress over cleaning and cooking. At their home, you feel out of place and don't know how to infuse yourself into the space. Try spending time together in a neutral setting. Perhaps a restaurant lunch date, a day in the park, or an afternoon at the movies would fix this particular stress.

You Aren't Married to Them

You married their son or daughter, not them. Always remember who your loyalty lies with.

Your Spouse Isn't Your Mother-in-Law

If she is grating on you, remind yourself that she is not your spouse. It can be difficult not to transfer negative feelings about your in-laws to your partner because they are so closely related, but they are different people, and your relationship with each of them should be individualized, not generalized.

Vent to Someone Other Than Your Partner

Everyone needs someone to vent to, but in the case of in-laws, your spouse might not be the perfect person for this job. Try taking your emotions to a trusted friend, sister, or brother. Griping to a partner about their parents can create anger and resentment, further straining relationships.

Be a Team Player

Even when your mind wants to create a "self against them" mentality, it's important to remember that you and your spouse are the "team." Of course, your partner is a part of their family, but they are part of yours too. The two of you have to work hard to communicate and create a united front.

Family opening Christmas gifts

Don't Gang Up on Your Partner

Maybe you adore your in-laws, so much so that it often becomes you and them against your partner. Being too in sync with your in-laws can create just as much stress as not being close to them. Make sure your allegiances always revert to your spouse and let them all work out issues without you.

Create Consistency

Creating consistency might make everyone a bit more comfortable.

Schedule Time Together

Set schedules can solve a bevy of in-law woes. If your partner's parents have made it a thing to just drop by whenever, and that's a source of stress for you, give them set times to come visit. Make it work for them, but also for you. Choose times where you have an exercise class or use the visit to run needed errands or take a nap.

Refuse to Engage in Awkward Conversations

Warning: Uncomfortable conversations will come up from time to time. If there are certain hot topics that your in-laws tend to bring up often, such as why you continue to formula feed, try your best to not engage. Starting a war of words is never going to end well, and hurt feelings can last for a long time. Make it a point to not engage in any awkward conversation and further damage your in-law relationship. If you don't react, the conversation may just fall dead in the water.

Always Take the High Road

You will want to go to battle with them from time to time, but don't. The kids are always watching and listening and learning from the actions of the adults who love them. Don't let them witness your frustrations with their grandparents. No good will come of that.

Rules Aren't Meant to Be Broken

At least not when it comes to your rules and your in-laws. If you and your partner have decided that the baby can't have sweets, but any time your mother-in-law comes around your little one becomes covered in chocolate, put your foot down. While some confrontations can be avoided to better keep the peace, breaking your rules needs to be addressed. It can be done both gently and assertively.

Merge Your Worlds

You have merged your lives, so start acting like it!

Avoid Culture Clash

If your partner's parents are from another culture, you may have to work harder to embrace their attitudes and beliefs, should they be vastly different from your own. Learn about their culture and embrace all that you can. Remind yourself that your child is fortunate to have several enriching cultures as part of this fabric.

Try Their Hobbies

You are a stay-indoors and read a book kind of person, but your in-laws are outdoors lovers. Even if you don't love their choice of hobbies, put yourself out there and be a part of what they like. They will be appreciative to see your effort, and you may discover something new that you had never previously opened yourself up to before.

Respecting Their Values Doesn't Mean Following Them

Respect doesn't necessarily mean obey. You can respect your in-law's ideals and values but still follow your own path. So long as you aren't displaying a poor attitude or verbally offending them, it's okay to acknowledge that they feel one way and continue on with your own beliefs.

Family spends time together making cookies

Focus on What They Bring, Not Lack

It is easy to fall into a pattern of focusing on what in-laws lack, as opposed to what they bring to the mix. Maybe they are constantly crafting and engaging in creative play. You can look at this as messy or you can put a positive spin on it and be grateful for the creative teaching that they bring to your kids. Are they lovers of music? Do they let your kids bang on piano keys and pots and pans? You can be annoyed at the noise or thankful that they are focused on something that you don't particularly care for.

In the End, You All Have a Common Goal

While you might think that you and your in-laws come from different planets, you likely have more in common than you realize. Chances are, you can bond and come together over your shared love, the kids. You love your kids and so do they. In times of stress, focus on the fact that when all is said and done, they adore your little humans and would do anything for them. In-law relationships can be trying, but having them in your children's life is likely also enriching and beneficial.

Improve Your In-Law Relationships With These Tips