Relationships with in-laws can make or break a marriage. This is especially true if you and your spouse find yourselves in a rough patch. Tension in your marriage can be heightened by blurry in-law boundaries and how your spouse feels about your parents. If you find yourself being forced to take sides between your parents and your spouse, bringing your relationship back into proper focus can help.
Family in Focus
Getting your immediate family into focus helps your spouse know that he and your children are your top priority. Where parents are concerned, it is easy to fall into bad habits if you have not set boundaries as a couple. If your spouse and your parents cannot get along, take time as a couple to understand where the bad feelings are coming from and what you can do to build bridges between your spouse and your parents. Dr. Phil reminds couples that in marriage there can be no divided loyalties. When you marry and start your own family, that's where your primary loyalty needs to be for the relationship to grow and be successful.
Couples who spend too much time with their in-laws can often find themselves at odds with each other. This is especially true if your parents come over unexpectedly or call at all hours of the day or evening. Respecting one another’s personal time within an extended family can be a challenge, especially during the early days of marriage. If your marriage is in jeopardy and the root of the problem is bad feelings between your spouse and your parents, changing the way you interact with them shows your spouse she is the most important thing in your life. Dr. Phil encourages couples to make it clear to their parents that the spouse comes first. Once competition between parents and their child’s spouse is removed, relationships tend to improve.
Tied to the Apron Strings
If your spouse’s relationship with your parents is putting your marriage at risk, consider that your dependence on them may be part of the problem. Newly married individuals often find it difficult to “cut the apron strings” where their parents are concerned. This can create an unhealthy relationship between them and your spouse as she needs you to be fully engaged in building your new life together. Focus on the Family points out that each person in the marriage needs to feel protected and valued by their spouse. If you allow your parents to be meddlesome or are too dependent on them it can undermine your spouse’s happiness.
Your New Reality
People with unique personalities do not always get along. Accepting this may help protect your marriage, even if your spouse and your parents dislike each other. Finding ways to make things work within your new reality may be the best choice. Consider the feelings of everyone involved, view them as individuals, and accept that you can understand but not control them, suggests Dr. Judy Kuriansky on Family Education.com suggests. Spend time with them separately and let your spouse and your parents know you love them but are not getting in the middle to play peace maker.
Patti Richards has been a writer since 1990. She writes children’s books and articles on parenting, women's health and education. Her credits include San Diego Family Magazine, Metro Parent Magazine, Boys' Quest Magazine and many others. Richards has a Bachelor of Science in English/secondary education from Welch College.