You’ve all heard it before, when you get married, you are not only marrying your spouse, you are also marrying their family. I have heard from so many people that their relationship with their in laws is challenging. They don’t respect you, they are nosy, they think they know what’s best for you, the list goes on and on. Obviously you love your spouse and you don’t want to disrespect their parents, but you also don’t want to be a doormat or dread spending time with them. So what can you do? Set healthy boundaries!
When you hear the word “boundaries”, do you immediately think of it as selfish? I don’t know about you, but at an early age, I learned that I need to accommodate other people and that my own feelings were secondary, because prioritizing myself was selfish. I need to be more considerate, more flexible, basically more of a people pleaser and less of me. Well, setting boundaries is not selfish. It’s actually another form of practicing self care. This means communicating clearly what you want, how you want to be treated, and what you will and will not allow. All of this can be done respectfully!
Ideally, you would discuss this topic with your spouse BEFORE getting married, but if you’re past that, now is better than never. Don’t be surprised if it’s a recurring conversation as new things come up. Just remember, you’re a TEAM!
What this looks like: They come over unannounced or have expectations to hang out more often than you’d like.
What you can do: Talk to your spouse and come to an agreement on what the visitation rules are and communicate them clearly to your in laws. How often do you want to see them? If they’re not local, will they stay with you? How long can they stay for? For locals, this could mean having plans for dinner (weekly, biweekly) with them so they know what to expect and look forward to it. For out-of-towners, it could be that you see each other every month/quarter/year, whatever you two agree on! Doing this will communicate that you also find it important to regularly connect, but that you two have a life outside of the extended family.
What this looks like: Maybe they don’t like the house you bought, how you discipline your child or the way you spend your money.
What you can do: Ask your spouse how they would like to handle it. You don’t know if this is a habit that their parents have. I’d recommend one of you having a conversation with them about it. It’s possible they’re just trying to help and are unaware of how judgmental they’re coming off. The conversation can go something like, “I feel (emotion) when you say (whatever they say). Please stop making those kinds of comments.” There is a chance they won’t care and get defensive. If that’s the case, I would recommend limiting your interactions with them.
What this looks like: “You should quit your job and be a stay at home mom.”
”You should put your kids to bed earlier.” “You should spend less money on eating out.” We all do this to a certain extent. We have experiences we like to share with others and so we give advice even when people aren’t asking for any.
What you can do: You two can respond with, “Thank you for your concern, we’ll ask you for advice when we need it, we got this handled.” Over time, it’ll be the norm and they’ll stop.
What this looks like: In regular conversation you might mention that you’re in the market for buying a new house and they start offering suggestions on where you should live based on what they think. That’s fine and to be expected…but then they don’t stop pushing their ideas onto you after you and your spouse have decided on something different.
What you can do: You can nod, show interest in what they’re saying and still do what you two want to do and stop discussing things with them until you’ve come to a decision. Unless you want their advice, you can just keep things to yourself until it’s done. The other option is you can share that you value their thoughts, but that this is a decision that you and your spouse need to make on your own. The latter may have a longer lasting impact.
What this looks like: They contradict how you and your spouse decide to discipline your kids. This could mean you’re in the middle of handling a situation with your kids and then they insert themselves by making side comments in front of the kids or they take over. Another way this can look is if they plan your kid’s 1st birthday party without discussing it with you. They are proud of their grandkids and want to spoil them. That’s great, but their excitement is giving them tunnel vision and they forget what it was like to be on the receiving end of having in laws. All parents want to joy of experiencing firsts with their kids and getting to raise their kids how they see fit. Sometimes in laws can forget about your experience and focus on what they want for their precious grandkids. If you feel like your role as a parent isn’t being respected, then it’s time to communicate!
What you can do: Try to understand what they’re trying to accomplish. It’s likely they want what’s best for their grandkids and to spend time with them. When it comes to disciplining and what you want your kids exposed to, it’s best to clearly let them know what your wishes are. If they have concerns with how you’re disciplining the kids, offer the option to talk to you away from the kids after the situation is over. You can then either accept the feedback or tell them that you have it handled. With the birthday party, you can assign them a meaningful task to help with the party and explain that you have been dreaming of this party for awhile now and that you’d love for them to be a part of it. For other unexpected occurrences, communicate what doesn’t work for your family. It’s ok to say no to things. You can recommend alternative options so it doesn’t come off as you not wanting them to have a relationship with their grandkids. Note that this may involve compromising on both ends.
I’m sure you’ve noticed a theme here; in any scenario the key is to get on the same page as your spouse. If one of you wavers, then it’ll be the same as having no boundaries. Function as a team, uphold what you two agree is best for your family, communicate it with confidence and be unapologetic about it. By getting married, you have started your own family and it’s important to build up that foundation. Anyone who wants to be in your life will honor your boundaries. If they don’t, then it may be time to consider limiting your family’s time with them. With that said, make sure that you check yourself. It is more important to have the right relationship than to be right.
To sum it all up, if your in laws do any of the following, then it’s time to set up healthier boundaries with them so that you don’t resent them and you can do things to build on the relationship!
They don’t respect your space
They openly criticize you and your family
They regularly give unsolicited advice
They insert themselves into your decision-making process
They interfere with your role as parents
If you and your spouse aren’t seeing eye to eye on things, it might just be time to do things to reconnect with your spouse. Check out this post to learn how!
Now that you are equipped with the tools to shift what you allow into your life, I am giving you permission to practice self care in the form of putting these boundaries in place. If you need tips on how to create or uplevel your self care routine, scroll down for a free guide!
Communicate and give them the chance to show they care about you. If they don’t, then you know what to do, your needs matter. You are enough. Get it girl, you got this!