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Setting Boundaries With Parents After You Get Married

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr, studioD

When you marry someone, you create a new life and a new home. If you have been close with your parents, that could require you to set boundaries to keep them from interfering in your marriage or spending too much time with you as you begin your married life. Setting boundaries can be sticky, but with persistence you can maintain boundaries that make your relationships with your spouse and your family work.

Why Set Boundaries?

If you are relatively young, your parents might still be used to an arrangement in which they set the rules and you obey. Once you are married, that dynamic changes, and it can be difficult to make the transition, according to psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery for Focus on the Family in “Setting Boundaries with Parents.” If you don’t set those boundaries and do it early, you can create conflict between you and your new spouse. Your spouse may not appreciate your desire to talk things over with your mom or dad and could feel slighted by your choice of confidant.

Which Boundaries?

The boundaries most important to set can depend on the areas in which your parents feel most free to butt in. Financial, emotional and physical boundaries are good ones to set, according to Amy Morin, LCSW, in an article entitled “3 Healthy Boundaries to Set With Your Parents After You’re Married” on The Marriage Counseling Blog. Explain that it’s your prerogative to make your own choices, successes and mistakes in these areas. You can determine how you deal with money and credit, as long as it does not crater their credit. You should turn to your spouse first to share personal and career matters, as well as marriage bumps and highs. Your parents don’t need to know what goes on in your bedroom or determine how you parent your kids and conduct your social life.

Boundaries Conversation

Gently tell your parents that you appreciate and love them, but that you and your spouse need to be the decision makers regarding how you conduct your life. Thank them for their parenting efforts, and ask them to trust that their parenting has prepared you for this day. Promise to consult them if you need their advice, but ask them to realize the final choice is yours. Be clear about the boundaries, such as not showing up unexpectedly at your home, keeping their advice to themselves unless you ask for it, respecting your spouse and treating you as an adult, suggests the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center in an article about cutting the cord.

Maintaining Boundaries

Stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your spouse regarding interference from your parents. Discuss concerns and then approach your parents to set or adjust boundaries. Openly offer your primary loyalty to your spouse, with whom you should continue to establish a loving, intimate relationship. If you continue to enforce boundaries when necessary, your parents will finally learn to live with the new dynamic.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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