By-Laws for In-Laws: Three Don'ts

Before I talk about what NOT to do as in-laws, let me first say that I'm new at this role myself. Most of what I have learned came through my twenty year counseling practice, experiencing what it was like to have in-laws, and helping navigate couples through some troubled waters. I love being a mother-in-law and I'm learning first hand about relationship boundaries as it relates to my son-in-law and my daughter. I don't pretend to have all the answers. I just wanted to share a few things that I've learned along the way; hopefully, it will encourage you either as an in-law or as an adult son or daughter who's trying to figure out if your expectations are reasonable or not.

We're going to start with the "don'ts" in this post and address the "do's" in the next.


your adult son or daughter from normal circumstances that all couples face. Financial issues, communication difficulties, or adjustments to married life. You can certainly be supportive in the midst of these circumstances, but don't tackle the problem as if it is your own! Don't jump into the situation to try to alleviate the issue even if you are asked to do so. Stand back, affirm and encourage, and offer suggestions only when asked.


through guilt-manipulation, anger, or emotional abandonment. I think we're all familiar with television portrayals of the "meddling mother-in-law" whose primary method of getting her way is to dramatize her rejection and hurt in order to get her way. Don't try to make your adult children feel guilty about making decisions on their own or not adopting your methods! Using anger never helps to build genuine connection. And finally, don't use emotional abandonment to silently voice your disapproval. In case you don't know what that looks like, it is essentially using the "silent treatment" in conjunction with emotional detachment. Even if a word is not spoken, the message comes through loud and clear and it is a sure way to cause hurt, disillusionment, and distrust in your relationship.


by keeping score. It is easy to do this, especially as it relates to the other "in-laws" or family members. I've heard couples share the following statements made by their parents or in-laws:

"Well, you spent last Easter with her family so your father and I just assumed you'd be here..."

"Your grandfather is getting quite old and I'm just not sure how much longer he has."

"It certainly seems as though you enjoy his family much more than ours!"

Parents or in-laws who keep a running tally concerning holidays, birthdays, and family events may accomplish their goal of "keeping things even," but in time, resentment will build and it may ultimately result in a boycott.

There are probably more don'ts that you could suggest, but these are a few that are imperative. Next time we'll look at three important do's in relationship to in-laws. 

Have an issue with your parents or in-laws that you'd like to hear me talk about? Just contact me.  I'd love to hear from you!