People say that, when picking a spouse, consider their family, too. This is because, in theory, you’re marrying not only your intended partner but their entire family. The reality is, while most people have heard it, they also choose to ignore it. Because love is a powerful thing and your feelings for your partner are so strong, it’s easy to overlook annoying, meddling, or even quirky family members in the beginning. Problems can come down the road when your spouse’s family members become toxic, cause stress in your relationship, or place demands on you as a couple.
If you’re wondering why you didn’t pay closer attention to the red flags your future in-laws were throwing out when you first met your partner, you’re not alone. The great news is that, even though you’re stuck with them now, there are easy ways to handle your difficult in-laws. For some tips and tricks, read on.
Presenting a United Front and Self Definition
Many couples aren’t even months away from checking out lab created diamonds for the perfect engagement ring before the extreme pressure comes from one side of the soon-to-be family or the other. Even the ring itself can be a problem. Maybe you have a mother-in-law who still insists her son should have bought you a CZ stone to save up for a house and has no use for real diamonds. Maybe it’s that your own mother thinks diamond jewelry isn’t enough and won’t forget that he forgot your first anniversary. Whatever’s causing the rift, the best way to handle it is to take a deep breath and work together on a united front. Lab diamond, synthetic diamond, minded diamond, or no gemstone at all, the real gem is the relationship. It’s important to remember that.
Make time for an honest conversation where you’re alone. Agree that the conversation will stay private. Discuss where you’re at and how you both expect your daily life to be handled without high pressure. Decide together how much input you want from both sides of the family. Determine whether or not you’ll be in regular contact and how often. Come up with a plan on how to defend each other when the going gets tough. Remind each other that you’re in this together for the long haul.
After you’ve had the honest conversation about how you’ll handle family members who won’t lay off, the best thing to do is to come up with a list of boundaries. The reality is that, even with a united front, family members will test your relationship with unsolicited opinions and more.
Maybe you have a spouse coping with a family member being in jail. The trouble is that just as you relax at night and plan to watch your favorite show together or make dinner, her mother calls. For hours, her mother keeps her on the phone discussing the extra struggles involved with her new life as the mother of a prisoner. This is the perfect example of where you’ll need a united front. Plan a number of calls your partner will take and carve out date nights or nights where the phone goes off. Whether your partner informs her mother of the new rules or not, be sure you’re both willing to stick by the plan for quality time for each other.
You aren’t married to her mother. She’s not either. At the same time, it’s natural to want to help. Setting those boundaries now will be a great next step in a healthier overall relationship for you all. Let her mother make those phone calls to someone else.
While it can be tempting, full cut-offs are not generally advised for your mental health. Other than in abusive or highly toxic relationships, it’s important to still main connections with family members. Before visits, negotiate the length of stay. You can do the same with phone calls, too. If the situation becomes high pressure, remember to keep that united front.
The truth is that your mental health and relationship depend on your ability to unite as a couple when trouble comes along. Whether that trouble is toxic family members meddling in your daily life, or with intrusive phone calls, or that you no longer have the energy to fake that all’s well, the best way to handle it is to set boundaries that you agree on. Talk to your partner about your limits, and work to reach compromises for the best outcome in how you’ll handle both families going forward.