You and Your In-Laws
There is a truth about partnered relationships that is frequently not understood until you are already in the relationship: WHEN YOU COMMITTED TO YOUR PARTNER YOU ALSO COMMITTED TO THEIR PARENTS (FAMILY). What?!? That’s right, you are not just in a relationship with your partner. You are in a relationship with their parents too.
We’ve all seen the movies and heard the stories about crazy in-laws and how disastrous these relationships can be. However, for many, the reality of interacting with in-laws is not comical. Rather, these relationships can be complex, confusing, hurtful, and they can create massive amounts of conflict between partners. Then, add kids to the mix and it becomes even more challenging to know how to navigate the in-law/grandparent relationship.
When two individuals commit to a partnered relationship, they experience many of the joys and stresses that come with any transition. There is the excitement and newness of change and the anticipation of “a new life” and the euphoric feelings of love. There is the stress of figuring out something new and “learning” how to be in relationship with another person. Partners are not the only persons that experience this change. Each partner’s parents (and extended family) also go through a transition. In some instances, there is great excitement for parents as their child steps into a committed relationship. At the same time parents can experience a sense of loss as another person steps into a significant and influential place in their child’s life. Everyone, partners and their parents, are experiencing change.
This process of change can result in some significant challenges for partners as they begin to establish their own identity. At times, in-laws may have opposing views about “how the couple should be” or “what should be important to the couple” or “what their role (how much control and input) should be as in-laws/parents in the couple relationship.” Many times, these differences are communicated by in-laws in passive aggressive ways, through their child to the new partner, directly in condescending or patronizing tones, directly in harsh or controlling terms, indirectly through nonverbal sighs/looks/actions, through withholding finances/visitation/verbal support, and by simply not showing any interest in their daughter-in-law or son-in-law.
Granted this is not always the case and just because there are challenges in the in-law relationship does not mean the relationship cannot be close or grow. This workshop series can help couples:
- Establish how they want their relationships with their in-laws to be
- Help couples communicate with one another about their expectations, boundaries, and challenges with their parents/in-laws (also the things they enjoy)
- Learn how to communicate boundaries with in-laws
- Navigate the in-law/grandparent relationship in a manner that supports the family’s relationship with in-laws and grandparents
- Maintain their couple connection even during conflict, differing views, and feeling pulled between family and their partnered relationship.
Your couple relationship may be facing challenges as you navigate your relationship with in-laws. In many ways this is a normal part of being in a committed partnered relationship and these challenges can be understood and there can be growth. Couples can maintain their sense of togetherness and closeness as they define their relationships with their parents/in-laws and your relationship with your in-laws can be good. Let’s get started and do the hard work it takes to strengthen your couple relationship and your relationship with your parents/in-laws.