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Love Your In-Laws

Many of us have a rough time at first dealing with our in-laws. Why? Because our claim on our life partner is so much newer than theirs is. Everything we do to protect it makes them uneasy.

So don't set yourself up as competitors. These are parents and siblings, not your competition for wife or husband or life partner. When you want to explain your point of view, begin with words like:

  • "I know you love _____, and..."

  • "You are very important to ____, and..."

  • "I appreciate how you want the best for ____, and..."

I put the "and" in there deliberately, because we so often use "but" when we mean "and." "And" is a lot more effective.

You will never persuade anyone of anything until they understand that you two already agree on something. These are things you can agree on.

You are the one who changed the family. You are the one who doesn't have a relationship based on who your spouse was as a child; for this reason alone, it is a less complex and complicated one. You can afford to be generous to them.

You can also afford to get to know them as adults, as real people instead of parents and siblings, unless you sink to childish behaviors when you watch your spouse relating to them as if still part child.

Real people have great strengths, quite likely in areas where you don't. You can see this as threat or as opportunity. If you see it as threat, you will always be working way too hard to appear as good as them in these areas or feeling unfairly judged. If you see it as opportunity, you will ask for help and maybe even for mentoring, which is extremely flattering. Whatever our strengths are, we all enjoy life more when we find opportunities to use them.

Remember, too, that we are all capable of quite a lot of loving. What your mate does for his or her parents and siblings in no way diminishes what is available for you.


Hi Patty,

I wish I had discovered your website years ago and had read this article about in-laws. I don't have a relationship with my in-laws because of language barriers and I don't have resentments towards them. However, my wife does not want to have anything to do with my parents, and carries some huge resentments towards them. Some of the interactions between my mother and my wife have really poisoned and fractured our marriage. In fact, the biggest resentment I have towards my wife probably stems from this (see my blog). I wished I had read this article years ago, because it would have helped me understand the interactions between my wife and my mother better. Perhaps, it could have made a difference then (and it might make a difference for someone else) but I am afraid it's too late now for my wife and my parents. Thank you for all the great advice.

I am so sorry to hear it's too late for your relationship, Ed. I thought it was too late for mine once, too. It's amazing how easily it can all look different with a simple change of perspective.

Yesterday, I received a comment on another post from someone currently in the shoes you write about in your latest blog post. I think he has a good chance of saving his marriage. You might want to read his comment and my reply.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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