There is some truth in the saying “you don’t just marry a person; you marry his or her family.”
Plenty of women get married and have great relationships with their parents-in-law, but for others that are not so lucky, there is still hope.
Pregnancy and the anticipation of having a grandchild can make some in-laws a little too opinionated over baby names, family traditions, religious practices, home location and closeness, healthcare expectations, and finances.1 Other in-laws are just hard to deal with even before a child enters the picture. If you are married and have trouble with your in-laws, the signs of dysfunction are probably noticeable before you and your spouse ever get pregnant. However, pregnancy can make dealing with your “crazy” in-laws even more stressful, especially with all of the other changes going on in your life.
Pregnant or not, stress is never good. During pregnancy, excessive maternal stress can negatively affect the health of the mother and baby.2 It is important to find ways to cope with stress especially during pregnancy. Avoiding problems can create more stress, so you need to find active coping skills.3 Active coping skills include a direct way of addressing the problem at hand such as relaxation techniques, positive thinking, identifying negative thoughts, emotional expression, acceptance, preparation, and prayer.3
There are several tips that can help you and your spouse make it through pregnancy if you are dealing with “crazy in-laws.”1,4
- Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page. Understand that you and your spouse are starting your family and need to make your own decisions.
- Keep the lines of communication open.
- Communicate clearly (and nicely) with your in-laws.
- Encourage love and attention, but set boundaries.
Even in marriages where your in-laws are great, there are practical tips for maintaining a healthy relationship with them.5,6
- Get to know your in-laws.
Your in-laws are people with their own set of values and beliefs. Not only can getting to know them help you understand where they are coming from, but it is respectful to your spouse.
- Make an effort.
It is important to show your in-laws respect even if you don’t always agree with them. Attend family events.
- Set boundaries.
Be clear and respectful about any boundaries that you set with your in-laws.
- Refrain from insulting your in-laws.
Even if you don’t agree with your spouse’s parents, they should still be treated with respect. Insulting your in-laws around your spouse can create tension within your own relationship.
- Maintain distance.
Attend family events, but realize that you and your spouse have your own family.
- Keep your relationship with your spouse separate and make it the top priority over the relationship with your in-laws.
The relationship your spouse has with his or her parents is very important, but the relationship between you and your spouse is most important.
- Don’t take things your in-laws say personally
Try to understand your in-laws’ viewpoints, but know you don’t have to agree with them. Opinions are not always the truth.
Pregnancy should not be an overly stressful time. So, if your in-laws are driving you crazy, try to actively cope with the stress. Avoiding the craziness will only make things worse, so deal with the issue head-on. Clear and open communication, setting boundaries, showing empathy, and being respectful are all ways to actively address stressful situations with in-laws. While it’s important to respect and love your in-laws, your relationship with your spouse is most important especially when you are starting a family of your own. If your active coping skills don’t seem to be effective, counseling is an option that can bring new perspective to your situation and provide you with additional coping skills.