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Interests & Expectations   ::   Time   ::   Recreation   ::   Household   ::   In-laws  ::   Religion & Spirituality

Expectations About In-laws

"Be tolerant of the human race. Your whole family belongs to it -- and some of your spouse's family does too."
- Unknown

"There are no individuals in the world, only fragments of families."
- Carl Whitaker

The preceding statement by the late Carl Whitaker, one of the founding fathers of marriage and family therapy, indicates his belief that that when you marry an individual you are also marrying their family. We've all heard negative jokes about in-laws, mother-in-laws in particular. But why do in-laws get such a bad reputation? Many people have wonderful, positive relationships with their in-laws. However, problems can arise for couples when one or both spouse's parents are not willing to let go of their child and give them the freedom they need to form a new life of their own with the partner they have chosen. Another source of problems is that new spouses (husbands and wives included) are sometimes unwilling to let go of their parents. Either way it can be a recipe for problems in a new marriage.

Research indicates that when in-laws are sources of conflict in a new marriage, that the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are usually the most likely to have problems. However, problems can arise between any combination of married children, their parents, and their in-laws. There are many stories that could be told of either parent's or children's reluctance to lessen the influence they have in each others lives so that the married child's marital relationship could be strengthened. Following are just two examples to get you thinking about their potentially damaging effects in a marriage.

Quick Suggestions for Mother and Father-in-laws

  • If your son or daughter has made the decision to get married, give your approval of the marriage.
  • Get to know your prospective son or daughter-in-law.
  • Get to know your son or daughter-in-laws parents.
  • Encourage your married children to have and maintain separate living quarters from you.
  • Maintain your own marriage at a high level of enjoyment if currently married.
  • Change the relationship with your children from parent-child to parent-peer.
  • Read about and discuss with other couples how to be effective in-laws.
  • Give special attention to any daughters or sons-in-law who are engaged in the family business.
  • Share some social interests and activities with your married children.
  • Frequently call your son or daughter-in-law by an affectionate name.
  • Treat your married children and their spouses as a unit.
  • Give advice and suggestions to your married children only if you are asked and only after you have listened to them carefully.
  • Encourage and allow married children and their spouses to make their own decisions.
  • If you make a financial loan or gift to your married children, let them know what strings are attached, if any.
  • Find ways to learn from and appreciate your son or daughter-in-law.
  • Publicly and privately praise your son or daughter-in-law where appropriate.
  • Remember that both generations should be flexible in relating to one another.
  • Remember that sons and daughters-in-law may change very slowly and fault finding will not speed the process.
  • Remember that your son or daughter loves your son or daughter-in-law.
  • When you visit your married children remember that you are an in-law as well as a parent.
  • Learn to love your son or daughter-in-law because they will likely have a say in your end of life care.

Quick Suggestions for Son and Daughter-in-laws

  • Obtain formal or informal education for marriage.
  • Gain approval for the marriage from parents on both sides.
  • Meet and associate with your prospective partner's family before the marriage.
  • Establish a separate living place from your parents and your in-laws.
  • Demonstrate and tell of your love for your spouse in front of your parents.
  • Share some social interests are activities with your new in-law family.
  • Frequently call your mother and father-in-law an affectionate name (mom and dad).
  • Frequently use the word "we." Be a team.
  • Respond to your mother and father-in-law as a team as much as possible.
  • Listen to advice and counsel from your in-laws but make your own decisions regarding finances, children, etc.
  • Seldom give advice and suggestions to your in-laws.
  • Gradually move your relationship with your parents from parent-child to parent-peer.
  • Remember that financial help from your parents or in-laws often comes with some strings attached.
  • Look for ways to appreciate and learn from your in-laws.
  • Don't tell in-law jokes.
  • Publicly and privately praise your in-laws where appropriate.
  • Remember that you, your parents, and your in-laws must be flexible in relating to one another.
  • Remember that in-laws change very slowly. Fault finding seldom speeds the process.
  • Remember your in-laws love your spouse and your spouse loves them.
  • Remember your in-laws are the parents of your spouse.
  • When visiting your in-laws, do it as a couple, and remember that short visits are usually better than long ones.
  • Give your marital and in-law relationships time to form. It may take a year or two.
  • Learn to love your in-laws. Someday they may live with you.



Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, December 06). Personal Interests & Expectations. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License