What to Do When You Don’t Like Your Partner’s Parents

A senior and younger man sit under orange tree similingMuch of life is shaped by the choices we make. We choose where we want to work and where we will live. We choose friends and partners. Most of us also choose who we marry (if we choose to marry). When we commit to someone, typically we are agreeing not only to commit to them, but to what—and who—they bring with them. In many cases, family members are part of what a partner brings to a committed, long-term relationship. And although we can choose our partner, we cannot choose their family.

Building a relationship with a long-term partner’s family can be difficult for all involved. Everyone involved is adjusting to a major life transition: parents are trying to adjust to a new relationship dynamic with their child and build a relationship with their child’s partner. The couple is establishing and strengthening their own relationship and making their own life choices. If these choices conflict with what the parents envisioned for their child, the parents may perceive this as rejection, which can put strain on the relationship. Parents who miss their child and want to have more of a relationship may seem pushy or over-involved. Any number of other reasons may serve to complicate this particular relationship.

In my experience as a therapist, strained relationships with a partner’s family members, especially the relationship between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, are quite common. If you find building a relationship with your partner’s parents to be challenging, or if you just don’t like your partner’s parents, the following tips and considerations may be helpful:

  • Discuss the level of involvement you would like to have with your partner’s family. Do you envision seeing them every week for Sunday dinner? Do you envision seeing them for three hours on a major holiday once per year? If you choose to have children, what type of involvement should they have with them? If you and your partner disagree, you can talk through the reasons and try to reach a compromise that leaves you both satisfied.
  • Work on building a positive relationship and focusing on the good. It can be hard to relate to someone if you don’t know them well. Try to have more shared experiences. Plan an activity, such as a picnic or mini-golf. Try seeking advice on small things, like which tablecloth is best or what dishes you could serve at a family meal. Maybe one parent is financially savvy and can help you figure out your mortgage application. Maybe the other parent is excellent at fixing things around the house. Seek out and enjoy each person’s strengths.
  • This is a long-term relationship, so it is likely worth investing in. In most areas of life, it’s fairly easy to minimize contact with people we don’t like. However, in a marriage or other committed partnership, it may be worth trying to reach common ground. Discover the good aspects about your partner’s parents and learn what you can like about them.
  • Hear their feelings behind the comments. When your partner’s mother asks, “Why don’t you move closer?” or “Why did you move so far away?” try to hear the feelings rather than the criticisms. Your partner’s parents are probably not trying to control you or tell you what to do. They may simply be trying to tell you how they feel about something, such as “I miss you and wish we could spend more time together.”
  • Learn their love language as a way to communicate with them better. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages as a tool for your in-laws. What are their love languages? Do they really appreciate gifts? Would they better appreciate an offer to help them with house and yard work once in a while? Giving to them, in a way they will appreciate most, can help them feel more positively toward you and may lead to a greater sense of connection.
    This page contains at least one affiliate link for the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, which means GoodTherapy.org receives financial compensation if you make a purchase using an Amazon link.
  • Not all events have to include all the members of the family. If it remains difficult—for whatever reason—for you to enjoy or even handle seeing certain members of the family, try instead to create (or allow) opportunities for them to see your partner or their grandchildren. Grandparents might be thrilled to spend time with your kids for a few hours or even a few days. You don’t have to attend every single get-together.
  • Don’t force your partner or children to cut off their relationships. You may dislike your partner’s parents. You may have drastically different approaches to parenting. But allowing your children to spend time with their grandparents may really benefit them (and their grandparents). Preventing your children from building this relationship can be a huge loss (unless you have reason to believe they are in danger). And if your partner wishes to spend more time with their parents (with or without you) and you prevent them from doing so, conflict and resentment may be the result.
  • Set boundaries. Doing this early on in your relationship is likely to make the adjustment easier for everyone involved. Assuring your partner’s parents they are an important part of the family may help them agree more easily to the boundaries you set without feeling as if you have cut them off. If they tend to overstay their welcome, try being specific: “Are you available from 1 to 3 on Sunday?” or, “Would you like to come for a visit for two nights next weekend?” If they express the desire to stay longer than you would like, simply say something like, “It would be better for us to just do two days this time.”
  • Realize that your partner’s long-standing familial relationships and communication dynamics precede your relationship and are not likely to change. You may feel irritated by your partner’s interactions. Suddenly the confident and self-assured person you know cannot stand up to their mother! This may be infuriating, but try your best not to harp on it or try to change them. Your partner’s relationship and patterns of interaction with their parents (and siblings) are unlikely to change much. (However, if some aspect of this interaction or any family issue appears to be harmful or distressing to your partner, you may wish to discuss this, perhaps with a counselor.)
  • Communicate clearly. If you primarily communicate with your partner’s family through your partner but find things often become muddled, try speaking directly to them instead. This not only shows them respect but can help prevent miscommunication and misunderstandings—and will keep your partner from being caught in the middle.

Dealing with your partner’s parents may be one of the more challenging parts of your relationship, but it may be worth the effort to make your interactions with them as pleasant as possible, if for no other reason than to respect your partner’s bond with them.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Mieke Rivka Sidorsky, LCSW-C

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Aimee

    June 16th, 2016 at 8:54 AM

    haha live with it daily! You just have to make the commitment to the marriage or relationship and remember that you are with your partner and not the parents. They may be part of his life but they do not have to be an ever present part of yours

  • estelle

    June 16th, 2016 at 4:13 PM

    Why it seems that for most of us we simply grin and bear it and live our lives.

  • dawn

    June 17th, 2016 at 10:32 AM

    These people will be your family now too so regardless of whether they are your favorites or not, you have to find a way to get along with them just for the sake of your partner. I mean, they may not be who he would have chosen either but how far do you think that the two of you will go together of you cannot develop a friendship at the very least with his parents> You may not ever be best friends and he understands that but no one wants to hear someone esle bad mouthing their family members all the time.

  • Rudolf

    June 17th, 2016 at 12:57 PM

    It could be awkward but I don’t see anything wrong with opting out of having a relationship with them. You can love your partner and not have anything i n common with the parents. I don’t see anything wrong when you feel like there is something negative in your life to just choose to keep it out of your life. And if you do not have any children together then there is really no need to keep up a farce that you honestly don’t feel.

  • Marie

    December 4th, 2016 at 9:40 PM

    It’s horrible with Hispanic families! It’s gotten to the point to where they do stuff behind our back and disrespect our wishes & doesn’t seem to bother them at all. My kids are old enough know what’s going on and they are starting to see what they do and it’s to the point to where I told my husband I married you not your family and if they keep doing this to our family we’re moving far away just to get some peace.

  • Jackie

    September 11th, 2017 at 6:16 PM

    Reply to Rudolf* Finally! Someone is willing to take a risk and not actually say the “politically correct” thing. Why on earth would anyone force themselves to spend time with anyone who they don’t enjoy being around?
    It’s a completely unappealing and unfair expectation perpetrated on people in the name of “family.” The way
    I see it, if my fiance would like to spend time with his family, have at it. It doesn’t mean I need or want to. I did not sign up to marry his family, I intend to marry him and spend my life with him. I’m not a big fan of several of his family as we have little in common. I have enough to juggle with an ex and shared custody. I’m not about to add a third family into the mix that I don’t really have anything in common with and don’t enjoy being around. I’m good with my own life.

  • sam

    June 18th, 2016 at 8:58 AM

    Oh come on, you act like an adult and you get over it

  • Katie

    September 7th, 2017 at 2:54 PM

    Something tells me that you have never been in a situation where this has truly happened to you? Have you ever been bullied by your in laws? I sure have and I think it all depends on the degree of what is going on. I do not welcome anyone in my life who has bad intentions or wants to bully me.

  • Anonymous

    May 5th, 2020 at 11:37 AM

    Sam – part of acting like an adult means living your values and making your own decisions. A person doesn’t have to just “get over it” in order to be an adult. Really? That’s your advice? So a person’s family can treat a spouse any way they want and act any way they want and the spouse should just “get over it?” Wow. That’s appalling advice. No the spouse with the vile family should ‘get over it’ and realize that a spouse putting their foot down and deciding not to attend events with your family is setting healthy boundaries for themselves. I applaud anyone who loves and respects themselves enough to stand up and say, no more.

  • Parker

    June 20th, 2016 at 5:37 AM

    Could you at least try talking things out with them? It might not be the perfect solution and for some it may work and then again it might not. But then you at least know that you tried and your family knows that you tried to make peace with them. What they then choose to do with that is something that they will then have to learn to live with, you have done what you believe is the right thing to do.

  • jermaine

    June 21st, 2016 at 5:46 PM

    we try to divide up the time pretty evenly so we are spending a ton of time with one set of parents but not the other. equal opportunity.

  • Silas

    June 22nd, 2016 at 12:44 PM

    My in laws have actually grown on me a little bit over the years. I am sure that I was not their first choice but I think that as they have come to see how much I do love their daughter and she loves me than we have all slowly been able to reach a compromise sort of relationship. They will never be the folks that I would choose to vacation with and I think that they feel the same, but you know, there is that common thread in that we all love their daughter, my wife, so that is the glue that finally sealed us all together in that common bond.

  • james

    June 23rd, 2016 at 5:44 PM

    Well there’s always the cross country move. That can work in a pinch.

  • Brea

    June 24th, 2016 at 12:58 PM

    I have seriously known people who have let the in laws dictate how their whole relationship was going to or not going to evolve and those little things like that can very much take a toll on any relationship. To let someone on the outside dictate to you and your significant other what you relationship should look like is wrong and pretty much says that there are people more important than you are in their lives. I just happen to think that a relationship should be about the two people in it and those on the outside should not have any control over it.

  • jill

    June 26th, 2016 at 12:07 PM

    I seriously know people who have split up over this very issue. I don’t get it. I am close to my family too but I had to make my husband my top priority when we married. Why is that so hard to understand? he becomes your family first before any other, and if you are not willing to make him and your own little family come first then it’s true that you might not make it.

  • helen

    July 4th, 2016 at 2:58 AM

    Are there any articles relating to morther in laws? My marriage is in crisis as my husband has left and moved back home with his parents. His parents who I have always respected, cared for & loved – are supporting this separation , they seeningly never liked me & think my husband is deserving of better.
    i was diagnosised with a life long illness a year ago , my husbands mother, feels he “didnt” marry an illness and needs to leave. I never knew this. We have two boys 10 , 5 and essentially my husband has declared ” his life is for living” but gone back to his home of origin, bedroom where he was born and is just stonewalling me & his responsibilities. Life was hard with for him, with my evolving illness following a major spinal surgery and 4 months ago my mother was diagnosised with end of life cancer and im are juggling pallative care. But hes just bailed.
    In trying to encourage reconcilation counselling – everything goes through his mam. He cannot make a decision now checking everything with her. Hes 50 , she 75.
    its like 3 people in our marriage.
    i would love to read some articles, if any on carl jungs complex mother , and just really how to manage this time for my boys and just survive with the pain of whats happened. At a time of losing my own mother best friend in coming weeks.
    thank you helen

  • Shar

    December 28th, 2016 at 1:14 PM

    Hi Helen, I understand how frustrated and sad you must feel. I have an issue with my other half’s father; he publicly berates me when he is not busy ignoring me. I have been nothing but kind, helpful, and supportive; I was not raised to treat people this way and I think he may have an extraordinary ego because he makes a lot of money and people are friendly to him because he’s always flashing money around. I lost my temper earlier today with my other half and I told him that my dad never had to buy anybody and people loved him. And I think it’s a good idea for me to look for a new home someplace far away. It’s a shame because I’m really fond of his mother; I never got along with my own mother so his mom has been very special in my life, but I feel so depressed whenever I have an interaction with his father, I mean to say that I wanted to walk out of an airplane mid flight right in front of him to let him know how terribly I felt because he hasn’t been kind to me after how hard and diligently I have worked to do nice things for them and be supportive . I hope things get better for you that you and your children have a way to grow strong social support network during your illnesses and afterward because I think that’s so important to getting well and staying healthy . I’m so lonely and I miss my dad. I made the mistake of thinking that this Christmas will be different and that I would be able to get along with my other half’s father but that didn’t work out so that’s why I am thinking of leaving. We don’t live with them or near them but they vacation close to us and he has so much influence on my other half because he doesn’t work/has a trust fund. It makes me sad and I tell him that I wish you would just find a job so that we could leave because I don’t want to be beholden to his dad for anything, but I know he won’t.

  • anue nue

    December 19th, 2017 at 3:33 PM

    Nice article containing very valuable balanced and healthy relationship principles that can be applied to any relationship. We need more articles like this from the psychology profession circulating out here in cyberspace, and less of those dominating the landscape that focus on dissecting, labeling, measuring, diagnosing and cutting-off relationships.

  • Beckah

    February 15th, 2018 at 11:03 AM

    What if every time you see your significant others family you get sick because of how they live and you have a one year old son who gets sick because his grandmother on dads side never showers

  • Louise

    April 25th, 2018 at 2:06 AM

    I don’t get on with my boyfriend’s dad and I don’t spend much time with them as a family as I just don’t feel welcome or a part of their set up, which is a shame but over the years we have come to the conclusion that we just won’t see them often, and that’s fine. But every time my boyfriend tells me he is going to see them by himself, it just causes friction between us. It really frustrates me that I react in such a way and need to find a way to keep a lid on my feelings, but I am struggling to find a way of doing so. The last thing I want to do is make life difficult for my boyfriend, but somehow I usually do when his dad’s family come into the equation. Does anyone have any advice?

  • loubelle

    April 26th, 2018 at 12:39 AM

    i was with my ex for 5 years and his mother more than the father was vile to me from day 1. i was polite, treated them respectfully, cared and looked after their son more than any ex, i came to realise that they were a family of co dependancies and control. i got out of there after 5 years. My ex had no backbone to protect me against their vileness and allowed it too long. He was a 35 year old little boy (and i feel he liked the role of mummys little boy so he could gain) truly toxic dynamics. after 4 years of being ignored and spoken over and sneered at i refused to spend time with his parents although said if you want to go see them then go. however he used that to remain their little boy, he was enabling them to carry on the cruelness to me and they also had their little boy back to control whilst i wasnt around. they wanted me out the picture and they got that. forever. i gave them presents at special times and they said theyd give them away, i mean how spiteful and nasty? awful people. did your OH say he wouldnt as in both of you agree not to see them that often and how often does he go and for how long? he does need to grow some and tell them that they accept you because you are his choice and if they dont then they do not see him as much? if he didnt and doesnt he is enabling his dads behaviour as his dad gets what he wants. i mean what if you said to your OH mum that youd see her but not his dad? lol im sure she would say she couldnt do that, so wheres your boyfriends loyalty to you? this isnt about him not seeing his family but about your boyfriend putting them straight and saying im with her, treat her respectfully else i dont come see you. now thats loyalty! his future isnt theirs. my ex couldnt do that and we are now finished. your boyfriend should approach his parents, listen to their grievances about you but still stick to his guns, if they have no genuine reasons to dislike you then they are the ones with the problem. get him to sort it and grow some balls with his dad. beleive when i say i loved my ex alot but not to have a lifetime of bad treatment from his parents. i deserve happiness too. (i have now realised it wasnt the parents as such that ended it but his inability to detach from them and his inability to man up, be polite but tell them its his choice. mine had no backbone because as i said he benefitted from situation with his parents.

  • Me

    May 1st, 2018 at 10:13 AM

    Sadly, I have to say that there are situations in which all the advice in the world about trying to get on with the in-laws is a complete waste of time. These are the situations where a person has followed the common-sense steps suggested (e.g. in the article above) and yet no improvement in the situation is in sight. I know there are people here saying things like “you can’t just cut people off”, “you’ve got to get along” and “don’t force people to cut off relationships” – but the REALITY is that in some family situations, matters are so toxic that this is for the best.
    I noted that in the comments above there is somebody asking about what to do with a troublesome mother-in-law relationship. I can TOTALLY identify with that comment – mother-in-law issues can be hell! Some mothers-in-law I believe just go out of their way to make life hell for their daughter-in-law. I suspect this is due to the neediness and narcissism of the mother-in-law concerned, and also due probably to the fact that her son is struggling to separate his life from that of mammy dearest. Not all mother and son relationships are unhealthy, but some are, and in these the mother-in-law (i.e. mother of the son) becomes clingy and desperate if her son marries. She will compete with his wife for attention, because in her eyes she is the only woman in her son’s life, and she expects either that he will not marry, or if he does wed, then she expects his wife to be subordinate to her, and to her son (i.e. that his wife should be a “doormat”!). A mother-in-law like this will believe nobody is good enough for her son, and will see herself as the perfect role model. She will act as though she is some sort of “Domestic Goddess” who cooks, cleans, keeps house, washes… in fact, who does everything better than any other woman in her son’s life. SHE expects to come first, and demands to be treated like a matriarch (which is probably how she sees herself).
    I have such a mother-in-law and can seemingly do nothing right in her eyes. She is nosy (wanting to know all my personal business, which if I do not tell her, she asks my husband about). Any gossip she can get about me, and my relationship with her son, she will try to get hold of from friends, other family members, acquaintances, colleagues. She is intrusive. She used regularly to just turn up unannounced, and if we said we were busy she treated this like a personal insult. She would expect us to drop everything, even if we had plans, just to entertain her. So, we asked if she could maybe phone before she came round, to see if we were free. Did she phone? Did she heck as like! She just kept on turning up unannounced. So, we firmly told her the rule – to phone. Still no joy! Then we said how about we set a day, or evening, per week that she can meet with us. So we can plan a get-together (this worked fine for MY mother, who always phoned anyhow before visiting, even though she had a set day to visit). I figured if MY mother could agree, then so could my husband’s… NO WAY. NOT HER! She then started moaning and nagging that we “never wanted to spend time with her”, and blamed ME for this. All that did was make me want to spend LESS time with her, because I knew now that she was blaming me for a situation that was NOT my fault. She had been offered ways to see us, but refused. She did not seem to care one iota about the inconvenience caused by her unannounced visits.
    Then I heard that she had gone to my mother behind my back to ask why I hadn’t settled down and had kids yet. I was incensed by this, because it was so rude to go have this conversation with my mother, but not with me. When it all came out, I realised my mother-in-law had been branding me a “selfish career woman” because I had qualifications and a job. This reminded me of her former behaviour towards me, where she had felt threatened by the fact that I was better qualified and educated than her son. She would make openly hostile comments about me being “stuck up” and about how “selfish” career women were, and how I would “regret it” when I was older and had no kids. The truly insulting part of this is that I later discovered I had FERTILITY problems, and was therefore very keen to concentrate on my career and education. When my in-laws got to know about my fertility issues, were they supportive and caring? No chance! I was told my problems were, and I quote, “trivial”! My in-laws also continued with their unpleasant comments about career women. Now I am doing postgraduate study, and they literally cannot bear this! They clearly blame me for the fact my husband and I have no children. They won’t even talk about my life, my qualifications, my career or my achievements. I have the sense that they would rather I HAD NO LIFE other than what they think I should be living. I feel that I would only ever be able to get on with them provided I gave up on my studies and any other similar ambitions or goals that I might have.
    The thing with a person like this is that you can try whatever you want to attempt to have a good relationship, but it makes no difference. A person like this is SO two-faced and devious that even when they appear to be acting pleasant to your face, it is likely that behind your back they will be telling anyone and everyone they meet just what a piece of s*** you are! Their ability to manipulate and twist the truth, to warp words and to gossip is phenomenal. As is their inability to see that they are doing anything at all wrong or offensive. A person like this will try to paint you as blacker than black, and paint themselves as whiter than white, even when they are clearly acting in a despicable manner. For example, they may make an offensive comment to you that is really cutting and rude and hurtful, but if you point out that you are upset, they will BLAME YOU FOR BEING OFFENDED. They will say something like “can’t YOU take a joke?”, or “oh, it wasn’t meant that way, YOU always get the wrong end of the stick!”, or else blame you for being upset by saying something like “oh, well, if YOU are going to be so sensitive, no wonder I’m angry, YOU make me say things like this to you!”. It’s guaranteed that NOTHING they do is EVER wrong, bad, offensive or irritating (in their eyes) – the person on the RECEIVING END of their vicious comments is ALWAYS the one at fault!
    And they SPY on you (like I said above). They want to know EVERYTHING you are doing, EVERYONE you meet, EVERYTHING you say. I suspect this is because they MAY be aware, somehow, that they are doing something wrong, but they are so desperate to hide it that they have to basically STALK the person they are gossiping about and horrible to in order to find out whether that person has said anything that suggests they are likely to take action against them. My feeling is that my mother-in-law (and other in-laws) fully KNOW just how rude, offensive, discriminatory, competitive, nosy, interfering and generally downright horrid they have been to me, but they DO NOT want anyone else to find out. Because THAT would mean that their “perfect” fake image got tarnished.
    Just some of the things my mother-in-law (and in-laws) have done/said to me:
    1. My mother-in-law calls African people (an offensive term) and married a man who does the same.
    2. She also calls Asian people (an offensive term).
    3. She told me that Buddhists will “burn in hell because they haven’t seen the light of Christ”.
    4. My in-laws called my marriage to my husband “not a proper wedding” because it was a civil service and not in church.
    5. My mother-in-law called me a “selfish career woman”, and implied that I hate kids (she also spread this gossip round friends and family) because I have no children (despite knowing I have fertility problems).
    6. My in-laws poke their noses into my personal business such as who I associate with; how much things like my car/holidays/clothes etc. cost; what job I do and how much I earn; what qualifications I have plus grades; when I am going to have children (I say when, because they just assume I will)… They are SO intrusive it beggars belief.
    7. My mother-in-law gossips behind my back about me – an example is her going behind my back to my mother to ask why I hadn’t had kids yet.
    8. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law make snarky, underhanded remarks about my appearance and clothing. My mother-in-law has said to my face such things as “I think it shows desperation when women over a certain age wear things like short skirts”, she also stated “all anyone should need is a bit of lippy”. Both females are incapable of ever complimenting me, or saying I look nice. Indeed, when I do make an effort to look nice – especially if my husband notices and compliments me – they openly sulk and scowl.
    8. My mother-in-law makes constant excessive demands of our time and energy – Such as can we walk her dog for her? (I can’t understand why somebody would get a dog if they can’t be bothered to walk it. I notice that this demand comes usually when it is windy or raining. NO surprises there!). Can we put her trash out for her? Can we, or my husband, go round and do her garden for her? Can we come help her with her shopping? Can we do her hoovering for her? She is ALWAYS manufacturing excuses for why she needs this, like she’s poorly and “needs us to come over” then when we get there we’ll discover that she just wants us to call the doctor for her! Anyone else would have called the doctor themselves! Or she “feels a little off” so she needs US to go do the shopping for her, or walk the dog for her, or something else. Or “her legs ache” so she needs somebody to carry her handbag upstairs for her, or help her put the rubbish bins out, or water her plants… but then five minutes later you’ll see her strolling to the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea! I have often noted that when she thinks nobody is watching, she can walk perfectly well, but if she has an audience, she will be rubbing her back, or wheezing! Oh, and she rarely says please or thank you! She just says “can you” or “will you get”. Like she just EXPECTS you to do it!
    9. Turning up unannounced just as hubby and I are about to go out and then sulking if we do not stay in just to entertain her.
    10. Sulking and pouting and having a really grumpy look on her face if she realises that hubby and I are going out together and she has no invite.
    11. Constantly belittling my achievements, by trying to talk only about herself, her family and her son. I have noted that she also does this to her other daughters-in-law. For example, she will fail to introduce me at family gatherings to other people, but WILL introduce herself and my husband. Or, she will talk endlessly about HER past and just expect me to listen and be understanding, but if I talk about something in the past she will either ignore it, or else say “oh, don’t keep talking about the past” and then try to change the subject. If I talk about my career, qualifications, hobbies, indeed ANYTHING about MY life she will either deliberately pretend no to hear, ignore it, try to change the subject, and sometimes even will make rude and undermining comments (e.g the nasty comments about “career women”). I even heard her say to one of her acquaintances “why should she (meaning me) get on whilst my son gets left behind and loses out?”!! I sense that she CANNOT BEAR the idea that anyone (including me) could achieve anything better than her and her spoiled sons!
    12. She talks about her sons and herself as though they are perfect, and deliberately glosses over all flaws (e.g. we are NEVER supposed to discuss the fact that my husband failed his qualifications, had an alcohol dependency problem, and now suffers mental illness), but SHE CAN pick fault with MY appearance, with the fact that I am a “stuck up” career woman, criticise me for being an atheist, sneer at the fact that my mother suffers depression, and endlessly trawl over any past or present mistake or misdemeanour I am supposed to have made (even if it is untrue). Oh, and she will encourage other people to do this to me also, but NEVER to her sons. Oh, no! They are to be treated at all times like precious little darlings!
    These are just a tiny sample of the things that have gone on. Does anyone think that they would wish to put up with this? And yet people write that you should not detach from others! Sometimes, cutting some people out of your life is the BEST and most common-sense move you could ever make. Why? Because some people are so poisonous, so unhealthy and damaged on the inside, that they are literally draining and suffocating to be around. You could bend over backwards and tie yourself in knots for such a person and it would NEVER be enough.

  • James

    June 13th, 2019 at 3:23 AM

    Reading your post was like a breath of fresh air. I feel smothered by them. Pretty much everything you wrote is how I’ve felt over the years. It feels like they do it on purpose. Like they have nothing better to live for. I’m at the end of my rope. I have one more week of them here and they’re already at 2 strikes after 3 days. I’m just trying to hide from them because if they hit 3 strikes I’m going to blow and they’ll be talking about it for the next ten Fing years!

  • Patty

    July 11th, 2018 at 2:10 PM

    Complaints about a spouse’s family relationship.
    Out of all of these negative comments, I can only discern great weaknesses in your own characters. If you constantly complain about your partner’s familial relationships, and the dastardly hardships you are confronted with because of a virtual disconnect with other people – it is you who has failed in calculating the personality and character of your mate before making a life-long commitment to share your lives together.
    You were willing to accept your better half for better or worse. Did you not recognize any flaws in the makeup of your intended? Was he or she weak, unable to fully commit, unsure, a tender foot, lacking stability and resolve. If this is the partner you chose without proper “due diligence” before making a marital commitment, then you will undoubtedly suffer the consequences of poor judgement.
    Has it occurred to you that it may well be you who has the inability to cope with disturbing circumstances, and that you are wholly or partially to blame for familial discrepancies?
    All in all, it takes a strong back bone to stand erect, and be able to back out of irritating family squabbles with resilience and grace establishing a firm decision to stand your ground. If this in any way creates a division between you, and your partner feels intimidated and decides to break with you because you have shown a greater strength of character of which he cannot abide, consider it done and “good riddance.” You have won your freedom and independence, and released the albatross that smothered you. #

  • loubelle

    July 12th, 2018 at 12:57 AM

    patty i disagree with some of what you say. you say ‘out of all these negative comments’, i have read alot on here that is quite positive , whereas people have tried so hard to fit in and be polite to their OH family, only to be disrespected continually sometimes for years and decades. OC in SOME instances SOME people will not want to get on with their OH family, but with majority of what ive read says different, it is pure frustration and continually being mistreated, embarassed etc by their OH parents that from a place to keep own sanity and self respect it is best to withdraw from the situation with OH parents until they start to accept you or stay away if that does not happen. We must always remember too that although the parents can be the biggest wall between you and your partner, usually that is because it is allowed, from your partner, they are his parents it is up to him to address it, if he doesnt then that tells you alot, i dont mean massive argument but ‘ i love you, i love her,i chose her, i am happy, my partner is not your decision, if you havent anything nice to say, say nothing and respect my decisions as i do yours’, if he cannot do that, he is a coward, a little boy still. Your partner should have your back always ( if youre right oc), he should protect you as much as you him, if that does not happen, it is time to move on. it is very easy to judge the person who is on the outside and blame them, but coming into a family with their own dynmics (and issues/baggage) is difficult and sadly some families are truly awful to their childrens partner for even years. Yes try to get involved with his family, treat them with respectt, but if that is not returned and you have been completely reasonable and respectful. Stay away from them, or even better, if your partner is not supporting you infront of them, it is time to go from this family including your partner. It is not always through lack of trying on the ‘outsiders’ point of view, but rather one of self preservation after no amount of ‘trying’ will rectify this situation. find someone who will have your back and who will not allow anyone to disrespect you. no amount of trying from an outsider will change the situation nor the minds of a dysfunctional family. Do not judge or assume unless you have been in someones shoes.

  • Anonymous

    May 5th, 2020 at 10:56 AM

    I can hardly believe what I’m reading. To imply that any bad behavior on the part of the spouse is the other spouse’s fault for failing to do “due diligence.” That is absurd. You sound like one of those people who enable narcissistic behavior. You expect everyone else to shoulder the blame for someone else’s actions. Guess what? People marry with the best intentions but sometimes people act in ways that we didn’t expect or become intolerable. By your same logic, the spouse with an adulterer is to blame because he or she didn’t sufficiently know this person well enough to “know” that this person would or would not be unfaithful. You are highly flawed in your thinking. No reasonable person would blame someone else for a person’s actions.

  • CML

    July 30th, 2018 at 4:26 PM

    I feel like all I do anymore is work on relationships with not only my parents, but also my partners parents. Both of our parents divorced and remarried multiple times. There are currently, 7 grandparents to our little one and also an additional step parent that is no longer married. Our biological mother’s are controlling and smothering and manipulative. Our father’s are both married to women who don’t really consider us family and want their own children/grandchildren to be the priority. Our father’s of course, play into this as to not anger their wives. It seems like once we get over a situation with one parent, another one does something outlandish and we are back to the drama. We try to set boundaries with our moms, but are usually punished and mistreated. We try to get our dads to be more involved, but they spend most of their visits fielding phone calls and texts from their wives. I don’t know why anyone would marry someone with kids if they didn’t want to put up with step-kids. Anyway, I don’t know where I am going with this. Just whining I guess. Most days I want to just pack up and move some place far away, but running from your problems doesn’t help. We do everything we can to make sure our son has access to all of them and we allow them to talk down to us, disrespect us, insert themselves in our lives and decisions. Our moms decide where we will live, what cars we drive, who will watch our son. Our dad’s hurt our feelings on a regular basis and make us feel unwanted and like a total burden. At this point we feel so trapped and overwhelmed by the whole thing. How long do you allow yourself to be treated like this before you tell them to buzz off? How do you have discussions with people that don’t respect you and could care less if you are happy or not? People that only care about their happiness and see you as only as an obstacle to get to their grandkid? It just seems stupid to even celebrate holidays at this point. And what about our son? Is it healthy for him to see us treated this way…just so he can grow up to be the same disliked doormats we are? Family sucks.

  • loubelle

    August 1st, 2018 at 3:20 AM

    @CML, thats one big dysfunctional famiy you and your husband have there,no wonder you feel you are stuck. You are not stuck, you say you’try’ to set boundaries, therefore you havent set boundaries ;-) because they walk all over them and mistreat you,listen, whenpeopleare used to you acting like a doormat, as soon as you start to lay down rules they will react and pretty negatively,because they arent getting away with what they used to get away with. RESET THOSE BOUNDARIES! and strongly! do not bend, let them be rude and object to the new boundaries, but be clear that any comment or mistreatment and you will all walk away, if this continues you must move from these families. You have your own family now,you your husband and child, you make the rules for your family, no one else!. your husband HAS to support you and visa versa in this situation,families will find a chink in your relationship armour and pray on that.Be strong as a couple,do not accept BS from anyone.If they werent family you would not have anything to do with them, do not allow them to mistreat youall because they are ‘family’,if they were ‘family’ theyd treat you better too. if laying boundaries do not work, you HAVE to move away,for the sake of your child, people like this will poison childrens minds and social skills,protect your child from these people. Its not an healthy situation for your child to be in,see or experience, it also teaches him that it is acceptable to treat people badly and get away with and that it is normal behaviour. 1) bang those boundaries in to family ,write a list eg: no turning up unannounced, give notice or do not come. 2) keep the families apart when seeing them. 3) do not allow anyone to talk badly about you,your life etc,as soon as they do, ask them to repeat what they said, and why it is any of their business? you appreciate them not to talk that way about you etc if it carries on you will leave. 4) any bad behaviour in front of your son take him away from the situation and tell them you will not stay and subject your son to negativity, he is a child. 5) when dads get on phone to OH’s ask them politely that whilst you understand they have other relationships,surely for an hour whilst over seeing their grandchild they can hold off on the phone stuff, its disrespectful. If not,tell them phones are banned from the house for the first hour. If they object tell them thats the deal,everyone deserves ‘time’ if someone visits, else why visit?. etc etc i can go on.
    If none of that works and they are all in cahoots and making life difficult, tell them you are all moving away because you have YOUR family now and what you do is you, your husbands decision, no comments,no hissies, no nasty opinions needed, they shape up or you ship out. protect you lads emotional wellbeing so he grows a good kid. he wont round these lot if boundaries are not put in place,and adhered to,no matter how hard, they will try to break you down, do not allow it, be strong.

  • James

    June 13th, 2019 at 3:16 AM

    > How long do you allow yourself to be treated like this before you tell them to buzz off? How do you have discussions with people that don’t respect you and could care less

    That’s exactly where I’m at. They also scapegoat me. If I ever showed that I’m upset with them, they would laugh even harder. I’m at point where someone is going to end up homeless, and it’s not going to be me. They’re playing with fire.

  • loubelle

    August 1st, 2018 at 3:32 AM

    @CML btw you are not ‘running ‘ away from your problems’! because they arent your problems they are theirs! do not own their issues. There is nothing wrong with getting away and moving away that is not running away, that is self preservation and your family (you, husband and son)deserve happiness.

  • Vicky

    December 16th, 2018 at 5:27 PM

    My fiancé & I live together & I love him but I have nothing in common with his family. It’s a backwoods family that doesn’t use good grammar that gets under my skin! I am not perfect with my grammar but it is far better than his families. His grown daughter doesn’t work and doesn’t care for me. We have nothing in common! Do I marry this man anyway even though I am nothing like his family? The daughter doesn’t come around unless she is benefiting from the visit. What do I do? I know when you marry someone, you marry their family & that scares me!

  • Loubelle

    December 17th, 2018 at 3:44 AM

    Are they nice people though..No matter their level of schooling? What has happened bar the grammar whereas you say you dont like them. Lou

  • Vicky

    December 18th, 2018 at 8:27 PM

    Yes, they are nice people, they live in the 1960’s era, confederate flag supporters, very simple country people. Displaying it on clothing isn’t out of the question for them & that is not me at all.

  • loubelle

    December 19th, 2018 at 11:24 AM

    if they are nice people i do not see the problem. We all have a different upbringing. You are marrying your partner. In my honest opinion it is slightly superficial to judge someone because of their grammar, it is pretty petty. i would have loved for my exes parents to be nice even if their grammar was ‘off’. Would you rather they had excellent grammar but were awful people and treated you badly?. You are quite lucky to have inlaws to be that are nice. i would marry him in a shot if i was you, because his family seem to be a good family (albeit they do not fit in with your ideal) and he appears nice. I would let the ‘grammar ‘ thing go, it really is irrelevant. Also anything they do (tshirts etc you are offended by etc) is not your problem, they are their own people and you are your own person. we can only change ourselves and no one else. As for your partners daughter, it is pretty normal for his kid/s to be a little huffy with a new partner, even years along the line. however, as long as you treat her right and with respect then thats all you can do, and you cant control the situation whereas she only comes when she needs something (welcome to being a parent lol) then i would let that go too. If it becomes excessive i would talk to your partner and ask him to lower the monetary help she receives but in a nice way not a complete cut off straight away, because his kid/s will blame you (its easier for them to do that)…let their dad sort that one out. If they ask you for money you have every right to say no and the reason why. When you are married then you and your husband will have to come to some agreement as moneys will be pooled then and you have the right to have a view. I would recommend before getting marrried to approach your partner, be nice addressing it, and ask about the level of help you are both willing to give to his daughter and where it ends. count your blessings his family are nice no matter their foibles.

  • Anonymous

    May 5th, 2020 at 11:16 AM

    I totally disagree that someone shouldn’t judge because of their partner’s parents bad grammar. Why the hell not? I am attracted to and love my partner. I realize he has parents but they are hicks. Them being hicks includes them having bad grammar. So I should stick my head in the sand and pretend that it doesn’t bother me simply because they are my partner’s parents? That’s ludicrous! I’m so tired of hearing people suggest that one should just “suck it up” and the spouse’s family can act any way they want and we spouses are supposed to look the other way and be miserable. Life is too short to do things I don’t want to do or to subject myself to things that are not healthy. That’s not sacrifice or compromise “in the name of love or respect” for your partner. That reflects a lack of self-love or self-worth and suggests that a person should tolerate behavior they find abhorrent from people they are NOT married to simply because these people are related to someone they married. What are we, living in the 1800’s? Pfft! What you suggest might have been the social norm in other generations but in this day and age, come on. There is no way on earth you are ever going to sell me on the notion that “anyone” should have to suck it up and deal with bad behavior on the part of their partner’s family simply because they are relatives. Somehow this became accepted an social norm a very long time ago. It’s outdated and people should really think for themselves and stop feeling obligated to follow this nonsense advice. Be an original thinker, stop worrying what others think of you, love your spouse, don’t do things that conflict with your values, don’t do things that make you miserable just to please your spouse. That’s a recipe for divorce. Call it selfish. Call it whatever you want. It’s not right for one spouse to make the other attend things with their family simply because it’s their family. If your partner doesn’t get along with your family or doesn’t want to be around them, why pressure them to be around your family? For what? Do you think that benefits either side? A spouse who does that is the one who’s selfish in my strong opinion. You pressure your spouse to attend things with your family knowing they are miserable? I bet your family finds it uncomfortable and they can’t enjoy their visit with you. And your spouse is uncomfortable and miserable too. For what? Does this make you happy to get them together knowing they are miserable? Rethink what you’re actually asking of your spouse. It’s your damn family. Not your spouse’s! You’re the one who grew up with them. Not your spouse! Your spouse doesn’t like them! Accept it or leave! But stop pressuring someone to do something they don’t want to do and then try to make the spouse feel like “they” did something wrong for establishing rightful boundaries. Their life, their choice. I think this is a very reasonable way to live and more in line with modern times.

  • Kk

    April 15th, 2019 at 8:10 PM

    They are nice but I dont like having them around …. its incomfortable and I want to be myself in my house… but they tend to visit too often once every month and stay like 1 week at least each time …. like they dont have anything to do at home… and still expecting to have a grandchild ? WTF … when you didnt let us alone time..

  • James

    June 13th, 2019 at 3:07 AM

    The reason why I’m replying to you is because there here now. I’ve gone online to get some support. And thank you for your comment, because I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. Yesterday, my wife’s sister and her husband went around my property cleaning; filling trash bags. I can go on, but I’m supposed to grow old with these people and I don’t even like them. Anyway… I have glass of wine now and they’re off doing whatever. But I’m not going to settle for this for the rest of my life. Things are going to change.

  • James

    June 13th, 2019 at 2:59 AM

    The author is under-complicating this. Yes, you don’t choose your in-laws. Most of the time they think you’re a few years short of divorce, and even if they are likable people they will not invest in you emotionally. Make NO mistake – your in-laws are NOT your friends.

  • Suzanne

    September 26th, 2019 at 9:24 AM

    What do you do when your husband’s parents have physically, emotionally, and psychologically abused all three of their children, hurt you and your family with words and actions repeatedly, have caused emotional issues with all three of their children to the point one became so depressed that she went into the hospital at age 35 weighing over 500 pounds and eventually passed away. The parents didn’t even have a funeral for her. But, at the end of the day, they are my husband’s parents. We have not spoken to them in about four years. My husband feels guilty because he knows that the day will come when they are no longer here and he never reconciled their relationship. Mind you, they MOVED OVER 500 MILES AWAY several years ago away from ALL FAMILY. Now, after the death of their daughter, they are asking for a relationship with our children. They have done nothing but hurt and lie to us. We have forgiven them in the past more than once, only for them to keep on hurting us. I do not feel comfortable being near them and do not want them near my children. I truly believe they are dangerous people. What would you do in this situation? What would you have your husband/wife do with parents that are so toxic?

  • Vicky

    September 30th, 2019 at 7:25 PM

    If It was me, It would be a supervised visit only with the kids if you did allow them to see the children just for the protection of them mentally. It sounds like an awful situation for you and your family to go through.

  • Alexandra

    May 5th, 2020 at 1:42 AM

    My Husband is 48 , lived half his adult life with his parents. We married and moved to another Country. The Mother in law has been very jealous of me from day one. she wore my clothes, made remarks that we will share my husband 50/50 and now she has manipulated a situation where he has had to go overseas to visit them alone as she doesnt invite me, and he is now stuck there as she is playing sick to keep him there.
    I have sent her numerous rude texts and asked her to return my husband to me. She wont answer them. There are 5 brothers but he is the soft one and she fully controls him.
    I have filed for divorce as he has been away 8 months with her.

  • Vicky

    June 27th, 2020 at 8:32 PM

    Mommy dearest can’t seem to stay away from her only child my fiancé. She answers the phone for the business 3 days a week and on OUR days at the business she makes sure she is there too! So in other words, I have no time with my fiancé without her being around other than Saturday. I’ve continually mentioned it to him & he says what do I say to her?, not to come down here? That’s your mother, you decide how to handle it. I am so close to leaving this relationship of 10 yrs because his family & myself have nothing in common & the resistance of not wanting to hurt his Mamas feelings but it’s ok to hurt mine?!

  • Jeff

    September 1st, 2020 at 7:38 PM

    You can really tell this was written before Trump was elected. My partner and I are decent human beings and her parents have voted for Trump, disrespect her and her opinions, treat her like a doormat and worse. I think she should cut them off but I don’t want to upset her. It’s a difficult situation.

  • Lisa

    November 10th, 2021 at 12:56 PM

    So, I’ve only been married for a year now, and my husband’s family is certainly different from mine. Like they share everything and he always wants them to come over or to go over by their house. This includes his siblings as well. He even mentioned one time that one way we can improve our marriage is by spending time with family (parents and siblings) and I was like, the marriage is between him and I and it would do us better to spend time alone together; he couldn’t see it my way. Anyway, his family likes to share everything and I’m often met with the question from his mother as to whether or not we’ve had sex….sigh…for me, an introvert, sharing such information is way outside my comfort zone and with his mother at that? Smh…who wants to tell their parents or parents in law that they’ve had sex? I consider that private. And now he wants to invite all his family members over to our small house for the holiday. How do I share my discomfort with the notion of that without hurting his feelings?

  • AJ

    November 13th, 2021 at 7:32 PM

    im on a long term relationship with my bf and for years i really dont feel comfortable with his family, and im aware that they dont like me too, and they are doing whatever they want to separate us, now my boyfriend is planning to propose to me, and im having a second thought because of his family. they also backstab me and says awful things about me and they also includes my family.

  • Elizabeth

    November 17th, 2021 at 3:23 PM

    Have you checked out Reddit? They have a subReddit called JustNOMIL, JustNOFIL and JustNOFamily that may help you gain some insight into the behaviors of these sort of people. I am sorry you’re going through this. I just went through it and decided to marry him. Unless your spouse is assertive and can establish that you are the most important person in his life above all, I would think really hard about it. You can always have a long engagement and consider eloping if the family gets too bad. It seems like you’re aware that their behaviors will get worse as your relationship progresses.

    If I could do it again and had more time (I’m older), I would have announced our engagement as soon as it happened and waited for the behaviors to emerge so I could assess whether I could handle them. I would have planned the wedding after I had an idea of how the family reacted and behaved afterwards. That way, I would have known that eloping would have been the best choice.

    My advice is: Don’t allow the family to control any aspect of your relationship or the wedding, even if that means refusing help and paying for it yourself. I wouldn’t take any money from people I don’t trust because they’ll use it to get what they want. You want this day to be about what you and your fiance desire and nobody else. I think if you could make a wedding plan that had a way to include the family if they behave throughout the wedding planning process but didn’t revolve around them would be best. That way, you have the option to un-invite them at any point you deem necessary. Discuss this with your partner so they’re on board with the plan. You may have to explain that you don’t want anyone at the wedding that hasn’t been supportive of the relationship. Maybe if you have a small wedding you can save your money to have a great honeymoon or buy a house? Good luck!

  • Margaret

    July 29th, 2022 at 2:39 PM

    Great Post! Conflicts within the family are critical and often damaging. Contention puts heavy strain on stability, strength, peace, and unity in the home. There is certainly not time for contention in building a strong family..

  • KB

    April 22nd, 2024 at 12:13 AM

    There is a long-ish post above by “Me”, that word for word mirrors my bf’s Mom… Every single detail from her being hyper religious and shouting that on me, to the intrusions and un- announced visits. She is evil. I feel vindicated that I’m not the one that’s a complete lunatic. Every detail, what she calls black people how she feels about anyone who isn’t Christian – Sorry a disciple because they’re evangelist fundamentalist. It is absolute torture and hell. I told my bf he has to assert himself now after reading all of these posts. Thanks all.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.


* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.