A relationship with one’s in-laws is always a tricky one – if I may generalize. Of course, the dynamics vary from family to family, so there may be a lucky few who have been blessed with great in-laws. But in most cases, people are left to deal with toxic, bickering and pushy in-laws. The tension escalates when they also turn out to be disrespectful. You may find yourself spending many a sleepless night, wondering how to deal with disrespectful in-laws.
From undermining you at every step of the way to making you feel like an outsider in the family and acting territorial over your spouse, the signs of toxic in-laws are hard to miss and emotionally taxing to deal with. On the one hand, you know that you have to handle the situation skillfully because any unpleasantness in your equation with your in-laws can spill over to your relationship with your spouse. On the other, you don’t want to let them walk all over you.
There are no easy answers to how to deal with disrespectful in-laws. You need to assess the situation and plan your course of action that counters their hostilities without causing any affront. Sure, it can be a tricky balance to strike. That’s why we’re here to help you figure out a way to deal with unfriendly in-laws without letting it impact your marriage.
10 Ways To Deal With Disrespectful In-Laws
Having a tainted and strained relationship with toxic in-laws can be a harmful influence on your marriage. In-laws can be a real pain, especially if you notice your marriage deteriorating due to their negative influence. If your in-laws are rude, discourteous, cheeky and manipulative, there are bound to be issues and they will squeeze the happiness from your marriage and your life.
Whether you’re trying to deal with a rude father-in-law, manipulative mother-in-law, or sister-in-law who doesn’t understand boundaries, the key is to assert yourself firmly without coming off as rude. How does that translate into tangible actions? Find out these 10 ways to deal with disrespectful in-laws:
1. Unite as a couple
“My in-laws treat me like an outsider. I don’t think I’ll ever find my place in this family,” says Kiara, a newly married nurse practitioner who’s struggling to cope with her spouse’s overbearing family. When your in-laws give you the cold shoulder and subtly convey that you’re the outsider and they’re family, you must channel your energies toward fostering your bond with your spouse.
If your in-laws try to pit you and your spouse against each other for the pettiest of issues, you need to ensure that you are in this together. You cannot really control what your horrible in-laws say or do, but you can regulate your reactions to those things, as a couple.
Improve communication in your relationship so that you can talk to your spouse candidly about how their behavior has been affecting your life, your marriage and the family as a whole. Have a frank conversation with your spouse, telling him the good, the bad and the ugly that has been happening behind his back between you and your disrespectful in-laws.
Most importantly, do not jump to conclusions and steam off until you have heard your spouse’s opinion on the matter. Once he is on your side, half the battle is won. You’ll find it easier to deal with unfriendly in-laws when you know your spouse has got your back.
2. Be firm and stand your ground while dealing with disrespectful in-laws
How to deal with disrespectful in-laws? By letting them know early on that you’re not someone they can walk all over. Stand your ground firmly and do not budge an inch on matters that are truly important to you. This will prevent your disrespectful in-laws from having their way.
If you feel like giving up because they are elders, remind yourself that you too are an adult and can handle things effectively, your own way. Do not budge an inch if you are sure of what you are doing. After you stand up for yourself a few times, your abusive in-laws may just get the message and stop pushing you their way.
In-laws can be destructive for marriages, especially in cultures where close-knit families take precedence over happy marriages. Standing up for yourself can be difficult in such circumstances but also all the more important. Don’t let labels like ‘difficult’, ‘uncultured’, ‘stubborn’ deter you. Stop adjusting and giving in to their whims and fancies on issues that are truly critical to your happiness and the well-being of your marriage.
3. Set boundaries
Simply put, draw the line. If your in-laws have a habit to drop by unexpectedly, and you end up canceling your plans as a couple all the time, set boundaries so that your space as a couple is respected. Appreciate their concern, that they will likely disguise their interference as, but communicate in clear terms that you’d like to handle things your way, and on your own.
Setting boundaries with in-laws can be tricky since they may choose to ignore them completely or take it as an insult. That’s why it’s imperative to reiterate and enforce these boundaries consistently. For instance, you may need to reiterate that you don’t appreciate being spoken to in a certain manner to deal with a rude father-in-law. Or stop engaging with him, if he continues to use harsh words despite being told that you do not appreciate this line of communication.
If your disrespectful in-laws are still not respecting the boundaries and continue to dishonor your wishes, bring it to your spouse’s notice. Remember, training your in-laws may seem very similar to raising your children. Older people can be too set in their ways and may simply be emulating the behavior they have internalized over the years. Unlearning and relearning can be arduous tasks for them. Consistency at your end can go a long way in helping them change their behavior patterns.
4. Limit your interaction with your disrespectful in-laws
If your in-laws intentionally do or say things that hurt you and get under your skin more often than you’d like, it is evident that they don’t like you. Perhaps, your mother-in-law hates you for some reason or your sister-in-law feels insecure by your inclusion in the family.
Obviously, these toxic in-laws cannot process their feelings like mature adults and intentionally do or say things to pinch you where it hurts the most. While the probable advice would be to talk to them one-on-one, chances are you will be likely labeled as overly sensitive.
Your best bet in such a scenario would be to limit your interaction with your disrespectful in-laws to the bare minimum. Keeping distance geographically may make sense as well. They will get less opportunity to hurt you, and you will be crying a lot less. Once you spot the clear signs of toxic in-laws, there is no point in exposing yourself to their unhealthy dynamics and hampering your mental health in the process.
5. Only spend time with disrespectful in-laws when your spouse is present
Your spouse needs to be in the center of all the activity that involves your abusive in-laws. He needs to take a lead in talking to his family; grabbing the bull by its horns, so to say. Because he is the connection between you and his family, make sure you do not spend time with your in-laws during his absence.
His presence would mean fewer issues, plus he will be able to manage any issues that arise. Likely, the presence of the son will keep your disrespectful in-laws in check, and they will not be able to take digs at you as easily. You will also feel less vulnerable. Whether it is family dinners or weekends together, agree to any plans with your in-laws only if your husband is going to be present.
If there are children involved, there is a possibility that your in-laws may guilt you into agreeing to spend time with them on the pretext of wanting to be more involved in their grandchildren’s lives. However, you know well how those visits are going to pan out for you. So, let it be known clearly that your husband’s presence is non-negotiable in any and all interactions you have with them.
Related Reading: Why I Became Happier When I Stopped Trying To Please My In-Laws
6. Don’t take loans or favors from in-laws, and don’t extend them as well
How to deal with disrespectful in-laws? One of the simplest answers to this seemingly unresolvable conundrum is to keep them at an arm’s length in every way possible. That includes not asking for or extending any favor to them. For instance, if you don’t get along well with your spouse’s sister, don’t accept any lavish gifts or agree to help her out financially. The less involved you are in each other’s lives, the easier it will be to deal with a disrespectful sister-in-law.
Financial or otherwise, any favors, gifts, etc. often come with strings attached. You should not owe anything to people who disrespect you and are never nice to you. When you exchange gifts or favors, you complicate the power dynamics of control at play by adding financial stress to the equation, and one side will generally end up crushing the other under the weight of gratitude. Have a no-gift or minimum gifts policy even for festivals and special occasions.
7. Be sensitive toward your spouse’s feelings
Managing your disrespectful in-laws can be a sensitive issue at times – simply because your spouse and they share a lot more than you think. Acting too fast and not giving them enough time to change can backfire and ruin your relationship with your husband.
Make sure he is not made to feel that he is being pushed to take sides or assign blame every time a difficult situation arises. Assure him that you just want to be respected and have nothing against his feelings for his parents and vice versa. Being mindful of and sensitive toward your spouse’s feelings will ensure that you both are on the same side.
Explain to him that in seeking respect for you and him, he is not belittling or betraying his parents. Acknowledge his feelings and assure him that you are with him in maintaining a healthy relationship with his parents. Knowing where to draw the line between self-preservation and prioritizing your relationship is the key to deal with unfriendly in-laws effectively.
8. Turn your controlling sister-in-law into an ally
In a lot of toxic in-laws situations, it is the controlling sister-in-law who encourages her parents and plays devil’s advocate. Ideally, being closer to your husband, she should be closer to you too but sometimes that isn’t the case. Try to strike a chord with your controlling sister-in-law and make her understand your predicament.
If you’re successful in this, you have gained a powerful ally. But if she continues to be her old self and trash talks you to her parents, don’t be afraid to snub her. Whether you’re trying to deal with a disrespectful sister-in-law or your spouse’s parents who don’t grant you your respectful place in the family, your first line of action should be to try to thaw the ice. However, not at the cost of your self-respect and peace of mind.
9. Ignore your abusive in-laws
Once you have spent enough time with your disrespectful in-laws, you’ll know if they have the potential to change or not. If you see a possible future where your in-laws will accept you, understand you and your perspective, then work toward turning that future into a reality.
However, if this is not the case and you know for a fact that they are beyond repair and will continue down this path of hate, ignore them. Ignore their snarky remarks and pretend they didn’t even say anything. Once you stop biting the bait, your in-laws will see the futility of their actions and back off.
Until that happens, acknowledge them and respond to everything they say calmly, no matter how rude it might be. Your composure will unnerve them and if they see their tricks no longer working on you, they might just give up trying.
10. Tell them you know you have done nothing to be disrespected
Talk to your rude in-laws and explain to them that you do not believe that you have done anything to deserve disrespect and rude behavior from them. Take a step forward and ask them what you have done to upset them so much that they have been disrespecting you and even badmouthing you in front of other relatives. Tell them you know the gossip that’s been going around.
Perhaps the conversation will take a mean turn and they will share incidents when you have indeed caused them pain. In this case, request them to sort such issues by sitting together as a family and not showing contempt toward each other. If this does not happen, it’s possible that your disrespectful in-laws simply do not like you and you have to live with that. Distancing yourself from your in-laws is the best recourse for everyone involved in such a situation.
How to deal with in-laws who ignore you?
When you have in-laws who ignore you and yet you have to be calm and courteous to them, life can be very difficult. Living with your in-laws, sharing the same space and being ignored by them could be extremely insulting. Whether it is their ego, insecurity or simply rude behavior, the first thing to remember when dealing with in-laws who ignore you is that none of it is your fault.
Even if they tend to manipulate you into believing that it is your fault or something you did, do not let these thoughts get to your head. Remember you do not need their approval for everything! You are an individual and they need to accept you as you are. Most of us women also get into the overthinking mode and keep on overanalyzing situations until we speak their language and start believing everything has been our fault only. STOP! Stop right there!
Try to keep yourself busy and look at the positive side of this – they are giving you space. Talk things out with your spouse. Do not take it on your shoulders to be the ideal daughter-in-law and please everyone at the cost of your own peace. Relax. Maybe that’s how they are – they simply do not like to talk or interact much. Perhaps they ignore their other family members too and that’s how they live.
Drop the pressure. Be yourself, take things slowly and let everyone come to terms with you being you. These steps will send your in-laws the message that they are dealing with an adult and not a child, and they cannot get away with treating you like they do. Agreed, dealing with toxic in-laws is easier said than done. They don’t generally see problems as you do, and if they do, they seem to care the least. If such is the case with you, you will need to take charge before it becomes too suffocating to endure. You don’t want to end up spending all your energy on people who don’t care.