Drawing The Line: Establishing Healthy Boundaries With the In-Laws
We've heard so many horror stories about overreaching in-laws. Here's how you can enjoy their presence in your family life without the drama.
For most newlyweds, one of the first issues the couple faces is deciding where to spend the first Christmas or New Year, whether with his or her family. This is often quite complicated and can be a source of fights for some. This can create misunderstanding with in-laws. It may appear trivial, but according to research, in-law difficulties occur more frequently in the early part of marriage. Married couples may encounter typical in-law problems such as loyalty issues, meddling in raising the children, and lack of marital approval, among others.
Before we get to know how to deal with these issues, we need to understand first the dynamics of marital and in-law relationships. As a new family is formed, the couple is also connected with the family of their in-laws, while at the same time maintaining the relationship with the family of origin. This is also the stage where they try to achieve the balance between dependence and independence. But, sometimes, the parents and other family members, find it difficult to change expectations. The families of origin of the couple are both adjusting to the addition of a new member to the family. However, all of these are part of the normal transitions of starting a family. If both parties are not able to adjust smoothly, complications may arise. The newlywed couple (and sometimes even those married for over 10 years) may feel the negative emotions within the family. It can also affect the marriage, with one spouse feeling that his or her family is not loved and valued enough.
But before it gets worse, you should A.C.T. on these issues related to in-laws.
Align with your spouse.
Remember that you are a team. Your marriage is your top priority. Whether the issue is your or your spouse’s family, you should work together and stay united in dealing with this. So anytime your in-laws or your parents will request from you, respond by saying, that is a nice idea, we will talk about it and we will let you know our decision. Talk first as a couple and then inform parents or in-laws of your decision.
Studies have shown that marital satisfaction is high when in-laws are not involved in the marital relationship. Boundaries between the parent-child relationship and the marital relationship should be clear. How often do you visit your in-laws? Can they come unannounced to your house? What is the role of your in-laws in your marital decisions? When to say no?
Take a new perspective.
Try to understand your in-laws and look at the situation from their perspective. What makes them react that way? Where are they coming from? Their interference may be misunderstood but this usually comes from the posture of love. It is also an opportunity to look within yourself. What triggers your negative reactions to them?
The above may require an intentional effort but it will be a huge help to maintain a harmonious relationship among the families. Communicate to your parents the new guidelines you will implement regarding visits, their role and their expectations. Avoid talking to your in-laws directly, request your spouse to have that chat with his or her parents. Having a good relationship with our in-laws will also send a message to our kids that despite differences in opinions and values, family will always be family.
About The Expert
MA. ISABEL SISON DIONISIO, MA, Family, Relationship & Marriage Expert
Maribel, a Relationship and Parenting Consultant for over 25 years has co-authored books, like “Helping our Children do Well in School, Growing up Wired” and “I’ve been Dating…now what?”. She was a contributor and the Parenting Expert of Wyeth’s Nurture Network from 2010 to 2018. Maribel is a regular Parenting Expert for various TV and radio programs, like Radyo Singko’s Relasyon and ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda. Maribel served as a Judge for the Jollibee Family Values Award.
In 2008, she set-up AMD Love Consultants for Families and Couples. She worked at the Center for Family Ministries and trained as an Imago Therapist of the Imago Relationships International, New York. Maribel and husband, Allan, are both graduates of the Family Ministry course, Ateneo de Manila. They prepare couples for marriage in the Discovery Weekend and are columnists for the Feast Magazine. They have co-authored two relationship books, Thinking of Marriage and Teen Crush. Allan and Maribel, happily married for 36 years, have 3 children, Rafael, David, and Angelica.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.