Marriage brings a whole set of challenges in a person’s life, changes and challenges that you probably never even saw coming. The biggest and, probably, the toughest challenge is dealing with the in-laws. God forbid it, but if you are stuck with a set of toxic ones, who either nag or criticize you nonstop, we would suggest distancing yourself from in-laws, for sake of your peace of mind.
Toxic in-laws tend to control and manipulate your relationship with your partner. They’ll find faults with everything you do and meddle in your life nonstop. They’ll always find ways to pull you down and make you feel bad. If you’re tired of constantly having to deal with disrespectful in-laws and are looking for a way out, consider maintaining a distance from them.
Distancing yourself from in-laws does not mean cutting off ties completely. Once you’re married, that’s kind of impossible. Maintain the respect and dignity you can for them, even if you don’t receive it back. What we mean by distancing yourself from in-laws is setting a few boundaries and limiting your contact with them while maintaining a cordial and polite relationship. Keeping a healthy distance will help both sides and could, possibly, strengthen your bond with both your partner and in-laws. We are here to help you identify the signs of toxic in-laws and figure out ways to distance yourself from them.
When To Consider Distancing Yourself From In-Laws?
Only if we had the power to choose our in-laws! But sadly, we do not. They’re, by default, a part of the marriage package. If you’re lucky, your in-laws might be the nicest and most friendly people on earth. But you have to be extremely fortunate for that. On the other hand, if you have to deal with manipulative in-laws who make you feel like an outsider, then it’s best if you carefully weigh your interactions with them and work toward keeping distance from in-laws.
Toxic in-laws behave in different ways. In a lot of cases, they tend to be cold because they feel threatened by you and that’s when in-laws exclude you from family discussions, activities, conversations, making you feel like an outsider in your marriage. This is simply because they’re jealous of your presence and the fact that your spouse’s attention has diverted from them to you. Almost sounds like a Mean Girls reboot, we know.
They treat your spouse like their personal property and are scared you’ll take him away from them. If you can get to the root of their hostile behavior, you might just be able to mend the relationship and build a strong bond with them. But, if not, then there are a few warning signs you might want to identify before you consider distancing yourself from in-laws. A few signs to look out for include:
- They try to pit you and your partner against each other: Toxic in-laws will always try to turn you and your partner against each other for the most trivial of matters. They’ll start the ‘he said this’ and ‘she said that’ game and try to strain your relationship with your spouse, thereby creating confusion between the two of you. Meddling sisters-in-law do that especially
- They exercise control over your married life: If your in-laws interfere with your decisions as a couple, then you have a problem. for sure. Toxic in-laws often want you and your spouse to do everything they want. It’s their way of exercising control over your life and marriage
- They always put you down: If your in-laws always find fault with everything that you do, put you down or taunt you in front of others, intentionally hurt you or behave like you don’t exist, it’s a sign that they are toxic and you need to get away from them
- They gossip about you in your absence: If can’t shake off the “do my in-laws gossip about me” question, it’s a sign of their toxicity. Disrespectful in-laws tend to badmouth or gossip about you to other people – friends, relatives, neighbors, or anyone willing to listen – when you’re not around
- They don’t respect your privacy or boundaries: Do your in-laws turn up unannounced? Are they always telling you what you should do and how you should behave? If they are, then it’s a sure-shot sign of toxicity. You should consider distancing yourself from in-laws and drawing necessary boundaries
Talk to your partner if you notice any of these signs and are considering distancing yourself from in-laws. Both of you need to unite as a couple if you want to successfully deal with disrespectful in-laws. Make sure you communicate with them together as a family unit and couple. It’s up to you to protect the privacy and sanctity of your household and your marriage.
Distancing Yourself From In-Laws – The 7 Tips That Almost Always Work
Now that you’ve read the signs and scrolled further down, there’s a good chance this thought is buzzing in your head – “I think my husband’s family is trying to get in between us and I want to protect my marriage from toxic in-laws.” If you are indeed thinking this, then you’ve come to the right place.
There’s a certain boundary or distance that exists in every relationship we have in life, be it friends, family, neighbors, and so on. The relationship you share with your in-laws is no different. Some things are exclusive only to you and, in a marriage, to you and your partner. There are certain issues, problems, relationship fights, and discussions that you can have only with your spouse. It is, in this case, that in-laws should respect your boundaries.
If they aren’t doing so, you have a major problem on your hands and maybe you should try to talk to them about it. Explain your point of view to them. If they still don’t understand, then take a stand for yourself and your family. Distancing yourself from in-laws does not mean snapping all communication. It just means limiting contact in a way that there’s no interference from their side in matters that do not concern them. It means drawing boundaries to respect the personal space of your family.
If you are looking for ways to distance yourself from your in-laws, here are 7 tips that almost always work:
Related Reading: 10 Ways To Impress Your Future Mother-In-Law
1. Enforce set boundaries
It is important to draw the line somewhere. Setting certain boundaries is necessary if you are considering distancing yourself from in-laws. Make sure you discuss those boundaries with your spouse as well. Talk about what’s important and then, communicate the same to your in-laws as well. You all need to be on the same page.
Don’t want your in-laws to show up at your door without notice? Tell them that you prefer to be informed beforehand. If they’re interfering too much with your parenting style, politely but firmly tell them that you appreciate the advice but it’s not their place to intervene and you’d like to handle it your way. If they have a habit of checking your drawers or documents, tell them that it’s your private space and you would want them to respect it.
Setting boundaries with in-laws is important. If they are invading your space, it is necessary to explain to them that they respect your privacy. To balance things out, decide on a date every week or month when you can spend time together as a family.
2. Stay away from your meddling sisters in-law
“Is it okay to stay away from meddling sisters-in-law?” “Can I refuse to live with my in-laws?” If questions such as these are on your mind, the answer is yes. You can refuse to stay with your in-laws and you most definitely do not need to be best friends with your sisters-in-law. It is absolutely normal to want to stay away from them.
Staying away from your in-laws does not mean that you don’t like them or don’t want to spend time with them. So, never feel guilty about it, for just wanting your own space. Living away from them means less drama. You don’t have to deal with toxic or controlling behaviors all the time. Plus, you get your own privacy and space.
3. Make sure your partner supports you
Your in-laws are two of the most important people in your partner’s life and, by extension, yours too. Be careful with your words when talking to your spouse about their parents. Your spouse should know that you’re having a hard time with their folks but don’t make it sound like you’re insulting or blaming them in any way as that may put your partner on the defensive.
Dealing with extended family requires teamwork, especially if you’re contemplating distancing yourself from in-laws. You have to stand together as a couple, which is why your partner must support you in your decision to distance yourself from his parents/her folks. Be honest about how you feel while dealing with the in-laws. Explain your reasons and, at the same time, listen to what he has to say. There is nothing better than a partner’s support in moments like these.
Regina Wilkey, a consultant, spoke to us about her relationship with her husband’s family. “Even though my in-laws live four hours away from us, they are too involved in my and my husband’s life. I tried to walk away from them and avoid family events and calls but they are starting to condemn that. My in-laws gossip about me distancing myself from husband’s family. But throughout all this, the only thing that makes things easier is John’s support. When he defends me, I do not feel bad anymore. And this is because I always openly express my concerns to him.”
Remember, having a tussle with the in-laws is a sensitive issue. Your partner may get angry or be taken aback and it is absolutely normal. Make sure to communicate your thoughts respectfully. Give him time to process all the information. Your relationship with your partner and how you deal with the in-laws together as a couple is what matters the most. Make sure you give him a reason to support you and not dislike you.
Related Reading: 8 Signs of a Poisonous Mother-In-Law
4. Family time? Stick to a schedule
Make sure you stick to a schedule when it comes to spending time with your in-laws. As long as interaction between both parties is pleasant and comfortable, spending time together as a family should not be a problem. Ensure that plans are made beforehand to avoid unannounced visits. Picnics, family dinners, Christmas or Thanksgiving gatherings are fun every once in a while no matter how crazy the in-laws can be.
It is always nice to get together after a long time, so do not cancel on them constantly. But don’t compromise on your plans or schedule to accommodate theirs. For example, if you had planned on spending Christmas at your parents’ house, stick to it if that is something you really want. Don’t let your in-laws get in the way of that plan just because they would love it if you spend the holidays with them.
It will send a clear message that they can’t just walk all over your plans or expect you to constantly do things their way. Also, if conversations at family gatherings get weird or make you feel uncomfortable, excuse yourself and spend that time with your spouse and kids instead. Even if that sends a clear message that you’re offended or unhappy, it is still a more decent way of going about it than lashing out.
5. Don’t take their jibes personally
One of the most important things to keep in mind if you’re considering distancing yourself from in-laws is to not take anything they say or do personally. For your own peace of mind, ignore the negative comments and jibes hurled at you or your kids or spouse. We understand how hard it can be but it is just necessary to keep the peace.
Adrian, a coffee-shop owner who lives in Wisconsin with his wife, told us about how he thinks his wife’s parents constantly mock him. “They keep calling me a ‘barista’ and while I do not mind it, my father-in-law does it nonstop. My meddling sisters-in-law also keep joking about my work, as if running a coffee shop is a lame thing. I am a business owner and I’m very happy about what I do. So I just ignore my in-laws now. I smile anytime they say such things and just do not respond.”
Toxic in-laws tend to make you feel like you’re lesser than or inferior to them. They’ll constantly criticize you. They’ll find faults with everything that you do – work, parenting style, the way you run your house, and so on. But you know you are more than that. You don’t have to live your life as per their expectations and rules.
It’s just a Thanksgiving dinner or family outing or a weekend that you have to get through. It’s best if you keep your calm and ignore the taunts or criticism that come your way. Don’t let them get on your nerves. Avoid topics that can act as triggers or lead to arguments. Your in-laws will try to pick a bone with you in an attempt to get a reaction so they can point fingers at your behavior again. Don’t give them that satisfaction. Be firm in your response but keep your emotions under control.
6. Limit your visits and start distancing yourself from in-laws
Another important tip to consider while distancing yourself from in-laws is to limit your visits. If questions like “is it okay if I don’t want to visit my in-laws” or “is it wrong to not visit my in-laws” cross your mind, let us tell you that it is absolutely normal to feel that way. Set aside that guilt because you don’t want to be spending time with people who are toxic to your mental health. And if you’re often wondering, “Do my in-laws gossip about me distancing myself from husband’s family (or wife’s)?”, we recommend you stop overthinking it.
As long as you and your spouse are on the same page, there is no need to give this so much thought. Treat your in-laws as you would treat any other guest who visits your home for a meal or to spend a few days with you. Make sure you let them know of your availability so as to avoid a clash with prior engagements. Set a time limit. For instance, if they want to spend a few days at your home, let them know on which days you’ll be available and for how long.
If you don’t want them to stay at your home, politely ask them to book a hotel room. If you’re the one visiting, feel free to check into a hotel. It makes things easier for the in-laws too when it comes to having you over at their home. If your partner wants to stay back for a few days, give him/her the option of going ahead without you.
Related Reading: 21 Gifts For Your Girlfriend’s Parents & In-Laws
7. Resort to silent treatment if nothing works
This should ideally be your last resort for distancing yourself from in-laws. If none of the above tips work, give them the cold shoulder. It’s not the best idea but it will certainly work. If your in-laws refuse to abide by any of the boundaries you’ve set and continue interfering in your decisions and family life, take the silent treatment route.
It’ll send a clear message and they might just back off. Don’t react to what they say or how they behave. Don’t give them the power to control or manipulate your married life. Once they realize that their behavior, mind games, and actions do not affect you, they may well stop and give you some breathing room.
It is important to establish healthy relationship boundaries to maintain harmony within the family even if it means maintaining a distance from certain people who are toxic to your being. It’s worth the effort. As they say, it’s better to stay apart and be happy than to stay together and be miserable. When push comes to shove, stand up for yourself.
- Wanting to maintain some distance from your in-laws is absolutely acceptable as long as you do it with respect and be polite about it
- Make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page and that you are not upsetting your spouse
- Meet your in-laws once in a while and don’t respond to them criticizing or meddling. Just stay calm and steer the conversation elsewhere
Marriage isn’t a walk in the park. It involves not just two people but two families. You’re suddenly burdened with extra responsibility and expectations and, as a newlywed, relationships with in-laws and other members of your spouse’s family can be difficult to navigate. The family you married into should also make an effort to make you feel at home.
Don’t get us wrong. We are not saying all in-laws are toxic or disrespectful. But, if they are the kind who have sucked the life out of you, there’s no point in putting your time and effort into building a strong bond with them. If distancing yourself from in-laws reduces all the unnecessary drama and brings peace to your marriage, then do it without hesitation.
Yes. It is absolutely normal to not like your in-laws. If they are disrespectful toward you, aren’t sensitive to your feelings or understanding of your needs, it’s totally okay to not be fond of them. It’s not a big deal.
Notice their attitude toward you. If they constantly find faults with everything you do, exclude you from family plans, ignore you at gatherings, are passive-aggressive toward you or intentionally hurt you, they probably don’t like you.
Think about what you want from your relationship with the in-laws. Make sure your partner is on your side. Communicate your point of view to your in-laws and try to understand theirs as well. Explain the boundaries you’ve set and give them time to adapt to it.