THE BLOG
11/17/2014 03:10 pm ET Updated Jan 17, 2015

In-Laws or Outlaws?

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A marriage is not just a tie between two people who love each other. It also marks the advent of another new relationship -- the one you have with your in-laws. It is often said that once you get married you are also marrying your partner's family. This may be truer for some than for others but interacting with your spouse's family and developing some sort of a relationship with them is inevitable.

In-laws may be considered a group of people who act as the bane of many marriages. While this is not an accurate definition from a dictionary, the sentiment surely resonates for a large number of married folk. Divorce lawyers around the world have performed the last rites on countless marriages due to interference from in-laws.

Some use humor to cope and while jokes, mostly aimed at mothers-in-laws, may provide some comic relief, they do downplay the seriousness of the role of in-laws in the breakdown of relationships. In-law interference can be extremely damaging to a couple and if not dealt with in a correct manner, it can lead to families being torn apart.

Your in-laws are a group of people who have a unique personal and intimate relationship with your spouse which existed long before your involvement with him or her. However, some men and women find it very difficult to leave the influence of their own families, especially their mothers, and this may create some tension in the marriage. It is not uncommon for a son to be tied to his mother's apron strings long after marriage which can easily become a source of nuisance for his wife.

There are many things you can do to limit your in-laws interference in your married life. Here are a few pointers to help you manage your in-laws:

• Do not have divided loyalties. Your first loyalty should be to the person you married and the family you created with him or her.
• Create strong boundaries. Make sure your in-laws know that the boundaries are not meant to close them out.
• If a wife has a problem with her mother-in-law, the husband needs to step in and vice versa. The person with the primary relationship should help in sorting out the differences.
• Do not criticize your partner's relationship with your in-laws.
• Solve your problems within the marriage without involving your parents. Couples tend to speak to their families mostly about arguments and not about making up or the good times they share. This leaves their families with a skewed view of the relationship and gives them permission and license to interfere.
• Let your in-laws know, albeit gently, that their concern and care is appreciated but they do not hold a decision-making role in your family life.

There is also great merit in talking to your spouse about your feelings. They are the reason that you have a relationship with your in-laws and strategizing and discussing ways of coping with that relationship can prove to be useful in two ways.

Firstly, it will provide some insight into the best ways to handle your in-laws. Secondly, and most importantly, it will help in separating your own relationship with your spouse from the one you have with your in laws.

In the current economic climate, many couples turn to their parents to provide support with finances or help with child care. When you accept an offer of babysitting or a loan there is an expectation that they will naturally have a higher involvement in your life. A large number of complaints come from couples who fear their in-laws are too involved in their lives and have a say in every major decision ranging from how to discipline their children or how much money they should be spending. Hence, it is always advisable to maintain your independence as a couple and if that is not achievable then to create firmer boundaries.

If your married life has been tainted by in-law interference do keep in mind that your in-laws are largely coming from a place of love and care for their son or daughter. Give them the respect they deserve as parents and treat them with affection. And if you happen to be a meddling in-law, remember that you have done your job as a parent and have raised your children and now it's time for your own child to do the same. It is time to loosen the apron strings and accept your son or daughter-in-law as the person who holds the reins to your offspring's happiness.

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