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6 Practical Ways to *Put Up* Deal with Difficult In-Laws

Do you sometimes wonder if your in-laws are deliberately trying to make your life a living hell? You’re not alone. Here’s how to handle it.

difficult in-laws

I met the love of my life early last year through a group of friends. And I must admit, the moment I laid my eyes on him, the song “I Knew I Loved You” from Savage Garden started looping in my mind! In a couple of months, we couldn’t hold on anymore and before we know it, we were married. A lot of people, especially our mutual friends, thought that our life was going to stay a fairytale. You know, singing birds, coffee in bed, romantic evenings, and whatnot.

But real life is very, very different from reel life, and it wasn’t until I was married that I realized the bitter fact – in-laws. For the first few weeks, everything seemed perfect, in fact, it was awesome. My in-laws weren’t living with us, so our life was pretty much the same as it was before our wedding. We were both sexually active, had breakfast in bed, went to movies, and did much of the same things we usually did together. Then the bubble burst. [Read: How to make the best first impression on your partner’s parents]

The ‘in-law’ apocalypse – does life have to change?

One day, a friend of mine opened up to me and said, “My mother-in-law is really difficult to deal with, and my sister-in-law is just impossible. My father-in-law keeps my husband awake, and encourages him to watch the telly all the time, and I just can’t bear it. I feel stressed out, and I have no one to turn to.”

Well, that was awkward, I thought. I mean, how difficult can it be? I consoled her, and told her to speak her mind and to do what’s right. I didn’t know what it all felt like, as I wasn’t living with my in-laws, so it was a challenge to tackle the issue. And then, when I got back home, and I heard my messages…

The arrival of my in-laws – How it affected our lives

My husband left me a message saying that his family would be coming over to visit for a while. I didn’t know how or what exactly to feel, especially since that morning, I had heard so many horrible in-law stories.

Should I be excited? Should I be scared? Will my life change? Will it affect how we feel for each other? These feelings fogged my mind up, and I was afraid that these emotions might spill into my conversations with them. And then they called.

The arrival of my in-laws

The day my in-laws were scheduled to come over had finally arrived. Don’t get me wrong, I had met his family before we got married, but we all know that meeting them before the wedding and meeting them again after the wedding are two very different things! I wasn’t sure what to expect, really, but I just kept hoping that it won’t be a nightmare.

As I was cleaning and putting things in their place, the bell rang, and I took a deep breath – it was time. I opened the door only to be greeted by a very tired mother-in-law, a texting sister-in-law, a hippie-looking brother-in-law, and a stern father-in-law.

Oh my god, I thought, but I reminded myself that they were just visiting, so I plastered a warm smile on my face and welcomed them in. Later on, I heard my MIL say, “Wow, how do you live in such a compact house, darling? You hardly have any space! I wanted to blah, blah, blah…” I just kept smiling and nodding, but in my heart, I just wanted to yell.

As if that wasn’t enough, my SIL and BIL quarreled about how tired they were, and my FIL, well, he just kept complaining about how his son, my husband, was careless. Things were definitely changing, and I wasn’t sure I liked the changes.

Unexpected changes and meeting expectations

It was Saturday evening, a time when my husband and I would usually spend quality time with each other, but reality snapped, he was sitting with his family while I was busy making cocktails. They kept encouraging him move to his hometown, so they can all live together in a “big” house. They even asked my husband to study and possibly take up a good job in their hometown.

I just kept stirring the cocktails. I didn’t like the idea of living together with them. I didn’t hate them, but I wasn’t sure I liked them enough to live with them, either. Then they announced the big news – they were going to stay for a couple of months. Not a few days. Now a week or two. A couple of months! Did I hear that right? It was time for Plan B – dealing with difficult in-laws.

How I learned to deal with difficult in-laws

I know it’s difficult, but when you’ve tried everything possible so that they can treat you with love and affection, and it fails, then it’s time to learn how to deal with them. Remember, you are an individual, whether you’re a husband dealing with your wife’s parents or a wife dealing with your husband’s, this is how you deal with difficult in-laws.

#1 Work with your spouse – you’re in this together. It’s very important to remember to never leave your partner in a situation where they have to decide between you and “them.” Try and understand their relationship with your spouse, and always keep your opinions between the two of you – trust me on this, unless they ask for it.

#2 Set your boundaries – No means no, it doesn’t mean okay or maybe. You might be living a healthy lifestyle before they arrived. Now you have to do everything, and you’re missing out on things you enjoy as a person. Don’t let this happen to you – if 4pm is gym time, it should be gym time, no matter what. Make sure you communicate that to your spouse. If you don’t set your boundaries, you’ll find yourself dancing to your in-laws’ tunes. [Read: 10 tips for setting boundaries with difficult people]

#3 Be strict in a polite manner. Once you set your boundaries, make sure you enforce them, and this means that if you don’t want your in-laws to drop in “at their convenience,” make sure you ask them to call you first before they visit. If they don’t call you and they knock your door, don’t open it. Make it seem like you’re not at home, and that you could have stayed back at home if only they had called.

#4 Communicate to them yourself. If they’ve done something that hurt your feelings, tell that to them in a polite manner yourself. Don’t involve a third party to do the talking for you. Most of the times, we ask our spouses to do the talking, and this needs to stop – you should voice your thoughts yourself so you don’t look like you’re hiding behind your spouse all the time.

#5 Stop expecting them to be ideal in-laws. Don’t expect your FIL to help you with the dishes, or your SIL to help with the laundry, or your MIL to help you bake cookies with your children, or your BIL to bring you groceries. The more you expect, the more you hurt yourself. Snap out of it, and accept that there are just some people we need to deal with, difficult as they may be. [Read: 9 easy things you can do to get his mom to adore you]

#6 Keep your head cool, even if they deserve to hear what you have in mind. If you really want peace of mind at home, keep your head cool. There’s seriously no point in insulting or attacking their characters, because it simply won’t make a difference. What you can do is stand firm in what you believe in, especially when it comes to house rules, and enforce the rules in the politest, gentlest, and most understanding tone you can muster… hard as that may be.

[Read: 10 simple ways to deal with difficult people]

Remember, they are your in-laws, not your parents. I know this is very hard to digest, but you have to understand that in-laws weren’t designed to give you motherly, fatherly, brotherly or sisterly love. They were designed to treat you like their beloved family member’s spouse. Deal with it. Try to be kind, and if you can’t say anything nice to them, shut up, and smile!

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Lakeisha Ethans
They say life is a roller coaster ride, so I’m here, trying my bit (virtually of course) to make your ride worthwhile. Ups and downs are inevitable, but how y...
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