You’re newly married, and now you are navigating life with in-laws. As you establish your own traditions and routines as a young family, it can be difficult if you have overbearing in-laws. Maybe they show up unannounced or your mother-in-law throws passive aggressive remarks your way at chance she gets. 

Keep your head up. The tension with in-laws can dissipate in time when healthy limits are set. Here’s how to establish boundaries with the in-laws.

Discuss Expectations and Limitations

When it comes to setting healthy boundaries, as a couple, you must first establish how you want the relationship with your in-laws to look. Do you have expectations of your in-laws to help with the kids? Do your in-laws have expectations of you and your partner to spend the holidays with them? You and your partner should take time to talk through familial expectations, traditions and your personal limitations.

Find a Middle Ground

When it comes to setting boundaries with in-laws, it’s important to consider both your needs and the needs of your partner. Finding a middle ground might look like limiting in-law visits to once a month. Finding a middle ground might mean communicating boundaries for when the in-laws babysit (such as what movies your kids can watch or where they can and cannot go). Establishing a happy medium as a couple is important so that you both are comfortable with the boundaries you set. 

Communicate Openly 

The key to boundaries is open lines of communication. You can’t accuse someone of encroaching on your boundaries if you have not communicated them. If a certain behavior is off limits to your in-laws, tell them so. Perhaps, you do not want unsolicited parenting advice or your in-laws giving your kids money. You and your partner should both communicate these boundaries and stick to them.

Operate as a Team

As a couple, it’s important to show a united front and have each other’s backs. This requires open and frequent communication about the relationship you want to have with your in-laws and the role you want them to play in your lives. You can navigate the ups and downs of family when you and your partner are working together.

Operate With Curiosity and Empathy

Once you establish boundaries, if you notice tension with your in-laws, don’t run and hide. Instead, lean into the discomfort and address it. While your first instinct might be to brush it under the rug, this never works. Ignoring the issue will only allow it to fester and cause you to write your own narrative in your head. 

Spend time with your in-laws to better understand them and where the tension is coming from. When tensions arise, speak directly to your in-law about what you are feeling and what is bothering you. Your first instinct might be to involve your spouse, but instead, try speaking to them directly first. This will avoid an unnecessary strain on your relationship.