Some of us are lucky to have in-laws who are considerate, kind, and respectful. However, there are also in-laws who are exploitative, manipulative, and downright life-sucking.
In some cultures, it is expected that once you marry into a family, the kith and kin become your responsibility. You are to serve them, fund their lives, and never complain.
It does not have to be this way. With a little planning, you can put a stop to it, reclaim your freedom, and start living your life.
1. Talk to your spouse
It is important that you have your spouse on your side. Speak freely and honestly about the effect that the in-laws are having on your relationship and your family. Pick a good time to broach the subject. Do not use the behaviour of in-laws as a chance to get back at your spouse. The goal is to have your spouse in your corner because you will need all the help you can get
2. Reduce contact
Families should be close, right? Yes, they should be close but that does not mean face to face interactions daily are necessary or even helpful. Sometimes distance helps. If in-laws are always in your face, they will drive you up the wall. You must still interact with them but if every Sunday evening dinner you have to encounter their sniggers, their back-biting and denigrations, maybe it is time you made this dinner a monthly affair.
3. Commit to specific obligations
The nature of exploitative in-laws is that they start with one request. If you accede to the request, they demand a bit more. This hunting game goes on. You yield more and more until finally, you are being ruled. Of course you cannot say “no” to all requests all the time. However, when you consider something to be a fair request, be sure to make it clear the boundaries.
4. Address issues head-on with the ringleader
Sometimes it feels as if all your in-laws have ganged up on you. Rarely is that the true. There is possibly one member of the family who gives the impression that bullying is Ok. You need to identify the person and have a heart-to-heart talk. Be assertive and stand your ground. Demand to be treated with respect, if for no other reason, because you are human. It would help if this talk is held with your spouse present.
5. Develop family priorities together with your spouse
In-laws from hell usually take advantage of relationships which are shaky on priorities. For example, your sister-in-law wants you and your husband to fund her new business. She claims she has always stood by her brother and cannot see why you have a problem supporting her.
However, your son is joining college this fall and you will need all the money you have. What comes first? If you and your husband are not on the same page, your sister-in-law will get her way. Later, it will be you and your husband struggling to send the kid to college. Having common priorities and a plan for your family helps you to quickly decide that the answer is “no”.
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