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How to Set (and Maintain!) Boundaries with Your New In-Laws

Start off your marriage with a loving but firm understanding about things.

Contributing Writer
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Photography by: Archive Photos/Stringer

If you think you might inherit meddling in-laws on your wedding day—or even if you're sure you won't—it's smart to set up some boundaries before you get married. No need to turn it into a big dramafest but establishing a few guidelines from the get-go will make life clear for everyone's sake. Talking to them will be tough and probably awkward but it's necessary. Here are a few pointers.

 

Related: How to Have a Healthy Relationship with Your In-Laws

 

Talk to each other first.

Way before the wedding day, you and the groom have to sit down and figure out limits and expectations regarding your respective in-laws, including what topics should be taken off the table, like politics. Maybe "no surprise visits" is important to you or "planning a vacation that doesn't involve your family's beach house" is a big deal for him. Having a definitive list of what needs to be off-limits will be helpful going forward.

 

Establish that you're each other's number one.

Let the in-laws know that you and your groom come first with each other, always. They might be used to getting a vote on big decisions in his life—whether or not to take a new job, for example—but now you're his main sounding board, and decisions like that will be made by the two of you. But that's not to say they can't give their opinion but that's all it is—an opinion, not a decision.

 

Be kind.

The last thing you want to do is be insulting so handle this situation thoughtfully. Using harsh words or making accusations won't cut it. They're your partner's parents, after all, and need to be respected even if their behavior drives you crazy. To make it easier, he could do the talking to his parents, while you do the same with yours.

 

Be fair.

Holidays often cause a big problem with newlyweds. Rather than cower to the more demanding parents, tell them your plan: that you'll be doing every-other-year visits. That means if you go to his parents for Thanksgiving one year, you'll be going to your parents the following year. It's hard to argue with the calendar.

 

Give them quality time.

If the groom has a healthy relationship with his parents, chances are they want to see him—and you—on a regular basis. Whether that means once a week or once a month, set up a dedicated time to get together. Consider doing something they enjoy, even if going bowling isn't exactly your thing.