Relationships 101

8 ways to deal with disrespectful in-laws

You can perhaps choose your spouse, but you don't get to choose your in-laws.
Sandhya

Relationship with one’s in-laws is always a tricky one – if I may generalise. Of course, family dynamics vary from family to family, so there may be a lucky few who have been blessed with great in-laws. But for the rest of us, who have to deal with toxic, bickering and pushing in-laws, the fight can take a serious turn when they also turn disrespectful.

8 ways to deal with disrespectful in-laws

Having a tainted and strained relationship with 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. Here are 8 ways to deal with disrespectful in-laws:

1. Unite as a couple

If your in-laws manage 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 in-laws say or do, but you can regulate your reactions to those things, as a couple.

Talk to your spouse gently, opening your heart out and explaining how their behaviour 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.

couple discussing
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Most importantly, do not jump to conclusions and steam off until you have heard your spouse on the matter in hand. Once he is on your side, half the battle is won.

2. Be firm and stand your ground

Standing firm and not budging an inch will prevent your 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 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 in-laws may just get the message and stop pushing you their way.

Don’t be difficult, just stop adjusting and giving in to their whims and fancies.

3. Set boundaries

Simply put, draw the lines. If your in-laws have a habit to drop by unexpectedly, and you end up cancelling 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.

If your in-laws are still not respecting the boundaries and continue to disrespect your wishes, bring it to your spouse’s notice. Remember, training your in-laws may seem very similar to raising your children.

4. Limit your interaction with your 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. In simple words, your in-laws hate you. Obviously, they 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 labelled as overly sensitive.

Your best bet in such a scenario would be to limit your interaction to the bare minimum with your in-laws. Keeping distance geographically may make sense as well. They will get less opportunity to hurt you, and you will be crying a lot less.

woman not talking with in laws
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5. Only spend time with in-laws when your spouse is present

Your spouse needs to be in the centre of all the activity that involves your 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 in-laws behaviour in check, and they will not be able to call shots as easily. You will also feel less vulnerable.

6. Don’t take loan or favours, and don’t extend to them as well

Financial or otherwise, any favours, 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 favours, you complicate the power dynamics of control at play, and one side will generally end up crushing the other under the weight of gratitude.

Have a no-gift policy even for festivals and special occasions.

7. Be sensitive towards your spouse’s feelings

Managing your in-laws who can be a pain in the ass 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 spoil 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 towards 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.

woman consoling man
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8. Tell them you know you have done nothing to be disrespected

Talk to your in-laws and explain to them that you do not believe that you have done anything to deserve disrespect and rude behaviour from them. Take a step forward and ask them what have you 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 about yourself that are doing the rounds.

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 sitting together as a family and by not showing contempt towards each other. If this does not happen, your in-laws may simply not like you and you have to live with it.

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 treating you like they do. Agreed, managing in-laws is easier said than done. They don’t generally see the 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 suffocating and you end up spending all your energies on people who don’t care.

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