Advice For New In-laws

By Kristen Castillo

June 21, 2018 5 min read

The idea of conflict between couples and their in-laws isn't new, but nowadays newlyweds and their respective parents are working hard to have good relationships. They'd rather have solutions instead of endless conflicts.

Andrea Imafidon has been married for seven years. She wants newlyweds and in-laws to get along. That's why the certified personal and professional development coach who calls herself "Brown Girl From Boston" offers this advice:

"Work out your differences between one another, and don't discuss your spats with your family or friends, because it will eventually place a wedge between the marital partners and family members."

If disagreements or fights aren't resolved, get marital counseling from a professional and unbiased therapist, suggests Imafidon.

*3 Rules

In his article in Psychology Today, Karl Pillemer, a family sociologist and gerontologist who has studied over 700 long-married older people, explains his three rules that can help couples get along with their in-laws:

1) Always be loyal to your spouse, especially when there's family conflict.

2) Remember that the reason you want a good in-law relationship is that you love your spouse.

3) Don't talk politics or other hot-button issues, which can trigger emotions for both adult children and in-laws.

*Balance and Boundaries

Making your spouse your ally will strengthen your relationship as a couple.

Decide how you plan to handle issues with your in-laws. For example, if your mother-in-law criticizes your cooking or nags you about your hobbies, how will you and your spouse handle the matter?

Explain to your spouse what you want to happen and how you can make that expectation a reality. Many couples choose to have each partner be the point person with his or her family when discussing in-law conflicts.

The first year of marriage is an adjustment period for everyone, including the couple, in-laws and extended family. Often adult children struggle with balancing loyalty to their parents and loyalty to their new husband or wife. Parents want to still keep a close relationship with their grown child, too. That's why it's so important for adult children to set boundaries with their parents. Both sides shouldn't be too drastic about expectations.

For example, are unannounced visits acceptable for the newlyweds and parents? Or does one party want advance notice? Decide these expectations early on, and be flexible until everyone understands and respects the boundaries.

If respect doesn't happen, realize you'll need to be firm about your expectations. Reinforce what you need from the relationship without being rude. It may take time, but adult kids and parents-in-law can learn to love and honor each other under new terms.

*Tips for Parents-in-Law

Licensed psychologist Farrah Hauke says a parent-in-law should keep an open mind and not offer unsolicited advice or feedback.

"Ask lots of open-ended questions," Hauke suggests. "Put in the effort to get to know them."

In particular, parents should take an interest in their child's significant other and learn what drew the couple together.

"Talk to your child in advance about your new son- or daughter-in-law, and ask them for advice and tips, as well," says Hauke.

She cautions parents to be mindful of their nonverbal behaviors, too, such as body language and facial expressions.

*Family Matters

Parents-in-law are often eager for grandkids, but that is often a sensitive subject.

"Please stop pressuring the bride and groom on family planning," says Imafidon, who also urges parents to mind their business and remember that deciding whether to have kids and when is a private matter for the couple, not for the whole family.

She says that if the couple decide not to have children or to wait, in-laws who want grandkids should still be supportive and loving.

Kristen Castillo is a three-time Emmy Award-winning journalist. An editor and writer for wedding magazines, she's written hundreds of wedding articles, as well as an e-book, "Weddings on a Dime."

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