Are your in-laws driving you nuts?
Are you incredibly frustrated but not sure what to do because they are your partner’s parents and you want to be respectful?
I get it. In-laws can be a challenge. I know there were certainly in-law struggles in my marriage and sometimes things didn’t go well.
I have thought about my struggles during those early days of our marriage and what I could have done differently. I have many more life skills now than I had then and I have decided that I could have done things differently.
What I have learned since then is that you can’t change other’s behavior but you can change your reaction to them. A person is how a person is and, unless they want to change, they won’t. Controlling how you react to their behaviors is something that you can do and, when you do, you might find that dealing with an overbearing in law is possible.
So, with that idea in mind, here are some things to keep in mind about your in laws that might help you change your reaction to them so that you can deal with them in a healthy way.
#1 – They have experience that you don’t have.
Your in-laws have been doing what you are just beginning to do for probably more than a few decades. That is a lot of experience, experience that you should appreciate and take advantage of. Much like when you start a new job, you are new at this and looking towards someone with more experience, whether you like them or not, can help you succeed. And, as a parent or a newlywed, whether you realize it or not, you can use all of the help and insight that you can get.
An excellent way to deal with in-laws driving you crazy is to ask them to share that experience with you. Asking them questions, getting their opinions, sometimes even deferring to their wishes, will all help you connect with them. And if they feel like they are playing some part in their child’s new life then they will be way easier to get along with.
Of course, you don’t necessarily have to follow their advice but even being asked about it will give them some satisfaction. That being said, you might just learn something that you never thought of and is an excellent idea!
So, mine some of the experience that you have right at hand. You will be glad you did, for many reasons.
#2 – They raised you partner.
I know it’s hard to imagine but your in-laws did raise your partner. They fed them and bathed them and changed their diapers for years. They taught them how to do just about everything that they do.
Your in-laws had a profound influence your partner’s life for 18 years or more. And that shouldn’t be discounted. They even deserve some credit and respect for the fact that they did that. And you love your partner – that is why you are with them. Your in-laws must have done some things right.
And even if they didn’t do such a great job as parents, chances are they will be great grandparents. For some reason, good parenting can skip generations.
My mother-in-law always told me that her son could clean a toilet and vacuum like a madman. I told her that, after 20 years of marriage, I had retrained him: he cleaned nothing anymore. I see now that that was a slap in her face. She worked hard to raise the person that she did and she should to be recognized, and appreciated, for that.
And I did love the person who her son had become. I wish I had had more respect for that.
#3 – They love your kids as much, if not more, than you do.
They say that being a grandparent is the most wonderful thing in the world. That you get all of the joys of being a parent without all the difficulties. So, know that, at the very least, one more person is madly in love with your child.
I know that my grandmother was a huge positive influence in my life. She hadn’t been a great mother to my mother but, for me, she was amazing. And I have learned, from my own mother, that having grandchildren is the best thing that ever happened to her.
So, appreciate that this person loves your children as much as they do. After all, every person who loves your child is a gift.
#4 – They really do just want to help.
In-laws don’t set out to drive us crazy. They don’t mean to criticize our parenting or complain about the state of our kitchen. They are there, in the house, to be with their children and grandchildren.
And, more often than not, their intentions are good.
Perhaps the manner in which they speak up about our parenting or our housekeeping skills is abrasive and stinging but remember they are only human and are most likely just trying to support you in any way they can. Really.
So, next time your in-laws is are in your house, put them to work. They could hang out with the kids or help you fold the laundry or take your partner out for a break. Mothers, in particular, are used to being busy and when she is at your house, a ‘guest,’ she might feel put out and useless. Fathers might be bored and grumpy and happy to be helpful.
Try to recognize that your in-laws are there for good reason, even if you find them overbearing at times. But if you can recognize and accept their motives you will go a long way towards dealing with them successfully.
And I am sure there is some help somewhere that you really need.
#5 – They won’t always be there.
So many mothers start out with no support. Their mother and mother-in-law is far away, or no longer alive, or absent for some reason.
When we are newlyweds or new parents, or even more seasoned ones, we are lucky to have someone there who can support us when we need it. My mother lived in Virginia and, while she was there right after my daughter was born, she could only stay a week.
Fortunately, my mother-in-law lived close by. And while we didn’t always see eye to eye, she was there some times when I really needed her. I am very lucky that I had that.
Also, remember, none of us are getting any younger and that our in-laws might not always be there for us. Appreciate how lucky you are and make the best of it.
I know that when your in-laws are driving you nuts life can be very challenging.
But I can promise you that, if you can adjust your reaction to their behaviors, your efforts will be worth it in the long run.
In-laws are in so many ways an asset to every relationship, even if they can be trying at times.
Learn from their experience, have respect for the years they cared for your spouse, know that they adore your kids, put them to work and appreciate that they exist.
After all, your partner loves them. They are his or her mother or father. You loving them too shows your partner just how much you love them, which makes everybody happy.
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.