How to deal with problematic in-laws? Tips from a couples therapist in Long Beach.

In-laws. This is a very tricky topic because you have to consider your partners needs and feelings. First you should know that it is always okay to stand up for yourself in a kind, non-blaming, non-angry way (this includes your words, body language and tone of voice). You deserve to be treated with respect and you are allowed to say something if you are not being treated with respect.

Tip #1: Consult your partner. Ask them if they notice what you are noticing. Ask your partner how you can stand up for yourself without hurting your partner’s feelings. They have known their family their whole lives and can often give some insight on how to handle different relatives and how they have learned to let some of it go for themselves.

Tip #2: Ask your partner to stand up FOR YOU. Talk to them about what is bothering you. Then, ask them if when they notice those things happening if they can stand up for you. Remember, it’s easier for a family to hold a grudge against an in-law (you) because they might think you aren’t permanent. It is often harder for a family to hold a grudge against someone who they know will be in the family forever. Also, it’s easier for your in-laws to team up with other family members against you whereas your partner already has their connections and clicks in the family who will back them up.

Tip #3: Ask your partner to get you out of the situation. Talk to them about what is bothering you. Then, ask them if when they notice those things happening if they can tell you to go do something (just to allow you an excuse to leave the room/house/situation). They can tell you to run to the store, go fix something that is “broken” at the house, or some other excuse to get you out of the situation.

Tip #3: Limit your interactions with in-laws. Many people think that whenever they visit their family, they have to bring their spouse. Even if everyone loves being around everyone, dynamics are different when your spouse brings you with them. It is my opinion that it is a better idea (even when things are great) for people to have time with their family without their spouse. If you aren’t feeling respected, then limit your interactions even more with them. Obviously, this is something you and your spouse have to both be okay with, but it is a definite option. Sometimes, when you aren’t around them as often, they won’t annoy you so quickly (and you won’t annoy them as quickly).

If none of these things work, consider talking to a couple’s therapist about this issue so that the therapist can help you find ways to stand up for yourself that are unique to you and your in-laws.  Even if your spouse doesn’t want to come in because it is “your issue”, set up an appointment for just you.  The therapist can give you ideas on how to handle the situation with the in-laws, how to talk to your spouse, etc.

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