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Home / Girl Talk

The two basic rules for dealing with meddling in-laws

 They are constantly criticising me and and offering unwanted advice (Shutterstock)

Hi Chris,

I love my new husband, I really do, but I’m struggling with the way my new in-laws seem determined to meddle in our relationship.

They are constantly criticising me and and offering unwanted advice. Especially my new mother-in-law, who has an astonishing ability to make me feel really small!

Does it have to be that way? And is there some way we can get it to stop?

Meddling in-Laws

——

Hi, Meddling in-Laws!

In-laws are often a problem in a new marriage. Their precious child’s new spouse can never be perfect enough to stop them wanting to interfere.

So both and your husband need to learn to deal with each other’s families. Because you’re not just marrying the person you love. You’re marrying into their entire family, from the sponging cousins to the controlling mother-in-law.

Everything they say seems critical, so you wonder if your in-laws will ever be nice. You know you’re doing your best, so why does their disapproval bother you so much?

Partly it’s because their comments makes you feel like a child again. And perhaps you still feel a little insecure in your new role.

They may even feel they have your best interests at heart, but whatever the reason, getting them to have a more adult relationship with you is all about the way you react to their criticism.

One, don’t show them that you are upset. Getting upset reinforces their behaviour, so you need them to see you as a confident and relaxed adult, even if you’re actually churning inside.

That starts with making sure your husband is supportive, so let him know you need his help. Then both of you can respond to their criticism calmly, without getting drawn into the put-down.

Two, agree with your husband how you’ll reply to the unwanted advice, so that you’re both presenting a united front.

Saying nothing at all for a few moments is a good start, because the lack of reaction has a good chance of stopping the comments.

But if it doesn’t, just say something like ‘Thanks for that suggestion, we’ll think about it’. And then move the conversation on to something else.

The whole idea is to avoid anyone feeling that they’ve got to either of you. Then the comments will almost certainly get less frequent.

But what if some of the criticisms ring true? If you’re resisting good advice, you should ask yourself why.

Discuss their comments with your husband, so you can take advice on board when it’s useful and reject the rest. And begin to build a warm and adult relationship with everyone, in both your families.

All the best,

Chris

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