They are neurotic, pushy, overbearing and opinionated, but you love them anyway. After all, they gave birth to you. While you may have come to accept your parents’ foibles, your spouse hasn’t had as much time to accept their eccentricities.  Failing to learn to deal with in-laws has torn marriages apart, but it doesn’t have to.

First of all, your spouse and children should always come first. This is the golden rule of having a healthy relationship with in-laws. Whenever dealing with in-laws you need to show a united front. Going behind your spouse’s back to complain about your marriage to your parents is toxic. Ignoring when your parents talk down or argue with your spouse will make matters worse in the long run. If you are having problems, you need to sit down with your spouse just the two of you and discuss what actions can be taken.

The most common friction points involve housekeeping, jobs, lifestyle and raising children. Over 70% of couples have a tense or terrible relationship with one of their mothers-in-law, according to a Daily Telegraph online survey. Of the problems reported, 42% were criticism of housekeeping skills, jobs and lifestyle. Offering parenting advice was reported for 40% of those reporting problems.

Generally, women have more problems dealing with their mother-in-laws than men. According to a survey conducted by Dr. Terri Apter, 60% of women felt that friction with their husband’s mother had caused them long-term stress compared to 15% of men. Problems arise when a mother-in-law is jealous of the amount of attention her daughter-in-law receives and feels threatened.

If you find yourself at odds with the in-laws, here are some suggestions on how to right the ship:

  • Never put your spouse in a situation where they have to choose between you and a relative.
  • Never go behind your spouse’s back when dealing with in-laws. Don’t tolerate it if your spouse does.
  • Set boundaries and rules.
  • Enforce limits and boundaries.
  • Try and stay neutral whenever possible.
  • Whenever possible, avoid communicating through a third party. Don’t ask your spouse to be a go between.
  • Don’t try and remake yourself into the person your in-laws want you to be.
  • Avoid the insults and character attacks.
  • In-laws are not your parents and won’t follow the same rules.
  • Try to be nice.
  • Keep a sense of humor.
  • If you have a problem with your in-laws, your spouse needs to step in and help fix it.
  • Talk to your spouse about the role you want your in-laws to have.
  • Don’t turn to your parents with marital problems. Problems in the marriage need to be resolved in the marriage.
  • The in-laws only know what you tell them. If you go to them every time you are upset, they hear that but not about the good times.
  • Examine why your in-laws’ actions upset you.

Additional Resources

Family Education Ten Basic Rules for Dealing with In-Laws:

Dr. Phil Managing Your In-Laws:

Real Simple Dealing with Your In-Laws:

For Your Marriage Interfering In-Laws:

Monster In-Laws:

Making Peace With Your In-Laws:

Time Mother-in-Law Problems: They’re Worse for Women:,8599,1863282,00.html

Dr. Terri Apter Advice:

Herald Sun Monster-In-Law Myth is a Reality:

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