When you marry, you hope that you have a friendly relationship with your in-laws. However, for some couples, that wish just never comes true. Your spouse’s parents may be controlling, negative, critical or just plain impossible to get along with. At worst, in-laws can undermine your marriage so much that you start thinking of divorce.
If they are “toxic narcissists,” they may be intent “on destroying your entire life, relationship, and self-esteem.” To phrase it bluntly, “They enjoy being cruel.”
Wake up to what is happening
Your partner may be unwilling to acknowledge their parents as the source of marital damage or friction. You might not even want to believe it yourself, especially if you are a person who loathes thinking the worst of people.
Even so, it’s preferable to open your eyes to what is going on. Recognizing the in-laws’ actions for what they are may help you to deflect them – and save your marriage.
In-law red flags
In-laws have all sorts of manipulative techniques. Don’t allow these behaviors to escape your notice:
- Slights and micro-aggressions: These minor acts are just hostile and disrespectful enough to get under your skin. Their unpleasant effect is cumulative.
- Turning the tables: This tactic makes you look mean-spirited for complaining about your in-laws. You could even start to feel like the villain.
- Making you feel like an outcast: Making the new son-in-law or daughter-in-law feel like an unwelcome outsider who does not fit into the family is another in-law strategy.
- Favoritism: The grandchildren of a favored daughter-in-law or son-in-law get preferential treatment. The youngsters of a less-favored daughter-in-law or son-in-law are treated comparatively shabbily. The in-laws may also make nasty comments to a grandchild about their mom or dad to stoke a conflict.
How to react
You and your spouse have to stand firm against the in-laws. They have to know they are not making progress in dismantling your marriage. If that fails, and you have had enough of their interference, your relationship may be headed for divorce.