Most people have trouble getting along with their in-laws. In fact, your toxic relationship with your partner’s parents (or family in general) can become quite the war zone. When you don’t see eye to eye or you feel like his family is too imposing or rude, it’s only natural that you’ll feel resentment and won’t want to be around them anymore.
Like it or not, though, his family will always be there, so you have to find a way to deal with in-laws and handle this discomfort. Your relationship with your in-laws doesn’t have to be perfect — or even happy.
But instead of exclaiming “I hate my in-laws!” you should work so that it doesn’t burden you or your relationship with your partner.
Here are 8 small-but-powerful ways to fix your toxic relationship with your in-laws:
1. Find common ground.
Your partner’s parents are incredibly religious, but you’re not. They are feverishly right wing, and you are adamantly left wing. Those are differences that are difficult to ignore. But remember, you don’t have to be best friends with your in-laws or even agree with them.
What is important is finding common ground. Don’t focus on what separates you; focus on what brings you together. It can be something simple, like ice skating or a sports team you have an affinity for. Make those topics and activities that you have in common the core of your relationship with your in-laws.
2. Plan an easy activity both parties can enjoy.
You’re going to have to see your in-laws occasionally, so instead of it being awkward, you might as well find activities that you can all enjoy. If you don’t want to talk to them too much, then plan accordingly (i.e., a sports game or music concert). This way, you can hang out with your partner’s parents, but for a very specific amount of time.
3. Have an honest conversation.
It might be painful, but sometimes the best thing to do is to clear the air. Let them know what’s bothering you or what they did to offend you. Don’t be overly accusatory or angry, or you’ll completely defeat the purpose of trying to mend bridges.
The best way to handle this type of communication is to suggest solutions to your mutual problems. If your in-laws come over to your house too frequently (and perhaps unannounced) for your comfort, then suggest reserving certain days for spending time with them. That way, they will have the time they crave with their kid but they won’t suffocate you.
If you don’t get anywhere, you might want to think about consulting a therapist to help mediate.
4. Avoid talking about divisive subjects.
Even if you have an open conversation, your in-laws still might not change the way they interact with you. If they insist on bringing up sore subjects, you have to be able to maneuver around them.
Learn how to seamlessly switch topics of conversation. For example, if they keep asking you about when you’re going to have a baby, redirect the conversation to how your partner was as a baby. Every parent will take any opportunity to talk about their baby, and you’ll successfully avoid a stressful topic.
5. Plan your visits wisely.
If you really can’t stand the idea of being around your in-laws, plan group visits instead. Hang out with your in-laws when they are having other family members or friends over so that you won’t be their primary target.
If you can’t take both of his parents at the same time, plan to have dinner with one while the other is away or at work.
6. Set necessary boundaries.
An abstract conversation might not be enough to change his parents’ behavior. If you need to, implement rules and hold fast to them. Let them know what topics of conversation are off-limits or just how much they can inject themselves in your marriage or partnership.
What is important about learning how to deal with in-laws is that you enforce these rules, but do so as kindly as possible. If you waver once, then they will know that they can break your rules more in the future.
7. Have your partner talk to them for you.
If all of your efforts are still not getting through to your in-laws, have your partner reach out to them on your behalf. They are more likely to take his feelings into account than yours. This is also an important option when you are trying to avoid heated conflict.
You can also approach his parents as a couple so that they know you are united in your opinions and that it’s not just you that’s the problem.
8. Accept what can’t be changed.
Unfortunately, sometimes you really can’t teach an old dog new tricks. If his parents are that uncooperative and stubborn, then all you can do is accept that and figure out how to handle yourself.
Is this a relationship you really want to be in? Can you learn to adapt to these conditions? What can you do on your end to make this situation more bearable? These are important questions you’ll need to ask yourself.
Taylor Markarian is a freelance writer and editor with a special interest in music, lifestyle, culture, the arts, entertainment, and literature. Her work has been featured in Reader’s Digest, Fox News, Insider, BRIDES, Alternative Press, Loudwire, Kerrang!, and MSN, among many other publications.