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In-Laws Are Part of the Package


In-Laws Are Part of the Package

    As a Marriage & Family Therapist, I often find myself guiding couples through the intricacies of relationships, especially with their in-laws and their spouses' extended family.  When in the initial stages of dating, it's easy to forget that marriage is not just a union of two people, it's the merger of two families, traditions, and histories.  In-laws, like it ot not, are an integral part of the package when you say, "I do".

    For many couples, the mention of in-laws can create a range of emotions from joy to anxiety.  Understanding that each partner brings a unique set of family dynamics into the marriage is crucial.  It's not merely about two people coming together, it's about two families becoming interconnected.

Embracing the Blend

    Succesfully integrating in-laws into your married life involves a delicate balance.  It's important to acknowledge the importance of your spouse's family and be open to embracing the differences.  Remember, it's not about choosing between your family of origin and your spouse, it's about creating a new family unit that incorporates elements from both sides.  It's important to have conversations with your spouse prior to marriage, or at least prior to events involving family, to discuss expectations about interactions with each other's families.  It's also important to discuss which family dynamics your spouse wants to keep or emulate and which dynamics they'd rather steer away from.  This opens the discussion between both partners as to what they want their family to look like and how they'd like to incorporate each other's families of origin.
    It's important to find areas of commonality, when possible, so that conversations can flow naturally and there aren't awkward moments.  It's also helpful for each person in the marriage to get to know their spouse's parents (and family) individually, as well as in the context of their spouse.  Spend time one on one with your spouse's parents and develop your own connection and relationships.  Your spouse shouldn't always have to carry the burden of maintaining communication or conversations.  Having your own relationship with your spouse's family is helpful and make gatherings so much more natural and comfortable.

Establishing Boundaries

    Clear communication and setting boundaries are essential when it comes to managing relationships with in-laws.  As mentioned above, it's important for the cocuple to determine what the boundaries are for THEIR family.  It's okay to assert your needs and wants as a couple, while still respecting the autonomy of each family.   Boundaries help prevent unnecessary interference and create a supportive environment for the growth of your marriage relationships.  Having conversations prior to family involvement is key to ensuring that both people are n the same page about boundaries - what's acceptable and what's not.

Cultivating Empathy

    Understanding and empathy are important cornerstones of a healthy marriage.  Recognize that your spouse may have a unique history and emotional connetion with their family.  They are used to certain types of family dynamics and interactions, and may not easily see any unhealthy patterns.  Approach disagreements about in-laws with sensitivity, and try to see things from your partner's perspective.  Find out which things are important to them, and which things they may be open to changing.  This not only strengthens your connection as a couple, but also fosters a sense of unity in dealing with external family dynamics.

Celebrating Traditions

    One of the joys of merging families is the opportunity to celebrate diverse traditions and create new ones as a couple.  Embrace the richness that both families bring to your marriage.  Whether it's holiday traditions, family gathering, or cultural practices, finding common ground and blending your unique backgounds can enhance the richness of your shared life.
    But also consider discussing important differences and how to include and honor each family's traditions in the best way possible.  For example, if one person's family is very conservative and religious, and the other peson's family is more liberal and do not consider themselves religious, it may be best to celebrate certain holidays and traditions separately, so as not to cause any unnecessary conflicts or put a damper on the spirit of the event.  But it's also important to ensure that both people in the marriage relationship determine what traditions are important to them, as a couple, and how they want to celebrate.

Seeking Professional Guidance

    Sometimes, the complexities of in-law relationships may require professional intervention.  Marriage & Family Therapists can provide a neutral space for couples to explore their feelings, improve communication, and develop strategies for navigating the challenges of family dynamics together.

    Except in rare instances, in-laws are an insepararable part of the marriage package.  By recognizing and understanding the important of family dynamics, establishing healthy boundaries, cultivating empahy, and celebrating the richness of famly traditions, couples can successfully integrate and involve their in-laws into their married lives.

If you'd like to see any of my previous blog posts, please click here.

If you'd like more direct and personal help with improving communication or harmony in your relationship, or how to better manage your in-law relationships, please visit my website and schedule a free 15 minute consultation -

I provide online couples counseling throughout California, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Florida.

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