Your spouse may be under his parents’ control and this becomes more apparent after the wedding. Instead of putting you first- his parents may retain their position of being in charge of his life. There are ways to loosen those ties without severing them completely.
1. Get some clear boundaries. Robert Frost was correct when he stated “Good fences make good neighbors.” Set up your fences (boundaries) with your in-laws to make sure that you are all on the same page. They may be used to just popping in whenever they please with family and friends. Let know that your policy is for everyone to call first. If you have a health issue, that can be your excuse. One woman with lupus explained that she required naps and down time and even a locked gate to keep out unwanted visitors.
2. Do not give your in-laws your house key for emergencies. Instead, give it to a neighbour or friend. Even if you are out of town, that can be an opportunity to snoop. One woman was stark naked when her in-laws walked into her house unannounced. If they have keys, have the locks changed, stating that too many people have access to your house keys.
3. Set up guidelines with your spouse regarding what personal information can be shared with others, whether it is financial or intimate subjects. If in-laws are nosey, be vague or say that is between Jerry and me.
4. In-laws may give unsolicited advice, no matter how loving they are. Have some stock answers ready for this barrage of suggestions. Some are: “I’ll check on that”, “I will get the pediatrician’s input” or “that is interesting.” Some savvy women pre-empted unwanted advice by asking specifically what to do in a situation. Some answers were actually helpful and it cut down on the amount of unwelcomed advice.
5. Be the social director and plan get-togethers with your in-laws directly. Then you have control and your spouse does not cave in to their demands. When one couple moved to her husband’s hometown, the mother-in-law started planning every Sunday afternoon to see them. This was the main time to take hikes or go to movies, so the wife put an end to this in a kind way.
She called her mother-in law and said that they had some things lined up on some Sundays. She then asked which night that they would like to come over for supper. They then could vary the amount of time and how often that was spent with his family, and the in-laws knew contact would be on a regular basis. Talk to your in-laws and plan how to spend holidays with them. Let them know that the kids like being home on Christmas morning in their PJs. Give them times when you can get-together, so you are not dictated to and can work it around your schedule.
6. If there are cultural or religious differences, it may be best to agree to disagree and then move on. If you are tense around your in-laws, then limit how much you see them. Do encourage your spouse to spend time with his parents on his own. This may be the ticket to having a more relaxed get-togethers. Perhaps you get along well with his sister or another family member by marriage. They can be a buffer between you and his parents. You talk more to these people, yet are still in the same room as his parents.
7. Do not tolerate your in-laws treating you disrespectfully in front of your children. This situation is upsetting and does not send a good message to your kids. Of course using kids in a tug of war game is unhealthy, so is hearing their mother being badmouthed. The child-grandparent bond is important, but only when they are not trashing a parent. Have your spouse talk to his parents and it may be necessary to keep the kids away from them until they decide to respect their grandchildren’s mother.
8. In-laws may want to get in a battle, so choose not to participate. Getting in a verbal fight benefits no one. Feel free to remove yourself from a stressful situation. Consider counselling for you as a couple, or alone if your spouse denies there is a problem. In therapy, your feelings are validated, you learn helpful strategies or how to cease abusive contact.
Usually in-laws are well-meaning and are motivated by love. Have a friendly discussion, if possible to align expectations.