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In-Laws: The Good The Bad and The Ugly

By Edited Sep 7, 2016 12 22

"Till Death" 

"I now pronounce you husband and wife . . ." Almost everyone imagines their wedding day. They envision a picture perfect day with a flawless ceremony as they say "I Do" to the mate of their dreams. What most people don't consider, however, is the reality of how difficult it is to be with someone "till death" or what their future mate's family will truly be like. No one envisions the "in-laws" on their wedding day. But beware, not only will they will be there, they'll become a part of your life.


 One Big Happy Family - NOT! 

Do you feel you are accepted and a valued member of your spouse’s family? Or do you loath the idea of being in the same room with your in-laws? Many loving couples who otherwise have a harmonious marriage have a problem with in-laws. Whether it be an overbearing mother-in-law, an in-law who is constantly trying to butt-in and interfere, or in-laws who are just plain inconsiderate, couples everywhere must find a way to build boundaries but not walls when it comes to their in-laws. 

“[The] difference between law and in-law is you can justify yourself before law but never before in-laws.” ~ Unknown 

In-laws: Can’t Live with Them, Can’t Live Without . . . Well Maybe . . . 

old timers
Some couples believe the best thing they ever did was move far away from their families, drastically reducing the interaction with their in-laws. But even if you move hundreds of miles away, you eventually have to see your in-laws. There are always birthdays, weddings, other celebrations, funerals, and don't forget the dreaded holiday season. Also, when you live far away from your in-laws, expect them to visit and stay with you once in a while. The point being you will never truly be free from in-laws until one of you is dead. 

"Adam was the luckiest man; he had no mother-in-law." ~ Mark Twain

Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage
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Common Grounds 

If you're one of the lucky ones who get along with your in-laws, relish the fact that you are not one of the twenty-eight percent of people who report having a "terrible" or "bad" relationship with their in-laws. Likewise, a majority of women who responded to a 2010 survey said they would rather clean their homes than visit with their in-laws. Even more interesting is that 36% of the women taking the survey answered they would rather visit there gynecologist them their in-laws. 

So, what can you do when dealing with your in-laws is like nails on a chalkboard? The first thing you need to do is recognize the issues, show respect for your in-laws but set boundaries. Learn how to say "no" when warranted, being firm but diplomatic. Do not silently accept inappropriate behavior such as disrespectful conduct, foul language, meddling, and manipulation. Becoming entangled in a quiet or not so quiet war with your in-laws may erode your marriage and your health. 

"English Law prohibits a man from marrying his mother-in-law. This is our idea of useless legislation." ~ Unknown 

And The Two Shall Become One . . .

Husband and Wife

Two entities (individuals) become one when they enter into a marriage relationship and a married couple should remain loyal to one another when dealing with issues. When a spouse sides with his or her parents the non-biological family mate may feel unjustly attacked and overwhelmed, leaving long lasting negative residuals on the marriage. 

If one spouse is overly dependent on his or her parents, that issue should be addressed. Similarly, when one spouse is continually blaming the in-laws for a disagreement the couple is experiencing, that must be addressed, ideally with a marriage counselor. 

A married couple must have an unshakable foundation and should always support one another. When a husband and wife have an attitude of "It's us against the world," they will more likely feel secure and empowered. 

"Just got back from a pleasure trip: I took my mother-in-law to the airport" ~ Henry Youngman

Help For the In-Law Impaired 

Here are some suggestions if you find yourself dealing with unreasonable in-laws: 

  • Begin by being proactive, and ask yourself what you can do to build a positive relationship. Make it a practice to always look for the positive in each encounter with your in-laws. 
  • Try to always be firm but considerate and before you say something, think about whether it will encourage or discourage your in-laws. 
  • If you get into a disagreement try not to yell or raise your voice. Speaking in a calm and rational voice will have a greater effect than engaging in a screaming match. 
  • If you have done something wrong, admit it and accept responsibility. When the shoe is on the other foot and your in-laws have admitted to doing something wrong, do not demean or humiliate them. Instead, graciously accept their apology and move forward with the relationship. 

"Never rely on the glory of the morning nor the smiles of your mother-in-law."  ~ Japanese Proverb 

In-Laws: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly 


Good: Many couples are fortunate enough to enjoy a loving and healthy relationship with their in-laws. Boundaries are acknowledged and respected. The in-laws (including brother and sister-in-laws) do not interfere or expect that everything should be done their way. These individuals are truly a family and holidays are a joyous occasion for all. 

Bad: Couples who have a bad relationship with their in-laws are usually not able to communicate their feelings without being judged. Boundaries are usually not respected and in-laws habitually try to interfere in the lives of the couple. Holidays are usually dreaded and many times end-up in an argument. 

Ugly: This is the worst of the worst in in-law relationships. Many people in this category do not even have a relationship with their in-laws. There are feelings of hurt and anger over past actions, and the couples and their in-laws don’t see each other. Holidays are always spent separate from each other. 

What is your relationship like with your in-laws? Is it good, bad, or ugly? 

"Mother-in-law: A woman who destroys her son-in-law's peace of mind by giving him a piece of hers." ~ Unknown

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Jul 29, 2012 1:44pm
Love the funny quotes and the look at in-laws. I was one of those exceptions. My mother-in-law and I were like best friends and did a lot of creative projects whenever we got together. Of course the happy relationship may have to do with the fact that we lived in different states!
Jul 29, 2012 6:17pm
Maybe . . . but I bet it has more to do with two wonderful women who respected and cared about one another. Thanks for the comment!
Jul 29, 2012 6:57pm
This is an extremely interesting and mindful article--especially for a person who writes a lot about relationships. The ideal of course is that marriage simply enlarges the family and so family ties with love and caring. As you point out, that is seldom the case--sad but true--Very well written so two big thumbs up for you.
Jul 29, 2012 7:20pm
Thank you very much, Marlando! I appreciate the comment and the 'big' thumbs-up!!
Aug 2, 2012 2:18am
Awesome article. This is one reason why Islam has encouraged the couple to live separate. I am getting an idea for my next article!

Thumbs up.
Aug 2, 2012 8:38am
Thanks so much yummy-treasures; I'm looking forward to reading your next article!
Aug 2, 2012 8:59am
Congratulations on ANOTHER!!!!! feature. You deserve it.
Aug 2, 2012 9:27am
:o) Thanks so much divaonline!
Aug 2, 2012 3:13pm
Dang it, another feature outta you, woman. I'll never catch up!!! Congrats!!
Aug 5, 2012 8:59am
Oh, you will! Thanks . . . you're a great friend to have!
Aug 3, 2012 6:33pm
It's funny but is really true! I've seen several couples having a problem because of in-laws. Wish i won't have one when it's my time. Congratulations!
Aug 5, 2012 9:01am
Thanks so much for the comment, telecaster09. I also hope your future in-laws are in the "good" category.
Aug 4, 2012 2:00am
Nice analysis! I am one of the lucky ones. I have very good relationship with my in-laws. We have a good time when ever meet.
Aug 5, 2012 9:02am
That's so nice to hear. Thank you very much for your comment.
Aug 5, 2012 10:03am
Like Divaonline, my relationship with my mother-in-law was one of close friendship. Since my husband was an only child, I became her daughter. The only thing we didn't completely bond on was golf; I really tried to love it, but at best, I was only competent at the game. This lady, who hit a hole-in-one at the age of 81, was greatly loved and admired by me. Another Thumbs Up article!
Aug 5, 2012 10:37am
What a beautiful testament of not only a good relationship, but a great and loving relationship with your mother-in-law (sorry you didn't get the whole golf thing; it's difficult, I know). Oh, and a hole-in-one?!?! At the age of 81 no less, now that's incredible!! Thanks for the comment and the "Thumbs-Up," southerngirl09.
Aug 5, 2012 12:40pm
My in-laws are the best, just like my wife!
Nov 28, 2012 9:30am
;o) Thanks!!!
Aug 8, 2012 7:18am
Very decent and corporate writer .well done
Nov 28, 2012 9:29am
Nov 27, 2012 10:00pm
Just started familiarizing myself with your your articles.This is a very interesting article.For many years,I have been advocating for peaceful and harmonious co-existence between in-laws.Of course with success and failure.
The reason being our different natures.Happiness is all we aspire for in co-existence.Triple thumbs.
Nov 28, 2012 9:29am
Thank you for the comment.
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