Resolving Differences With Your In-laws

Reviewed Mar 21, 2017

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Summary

  • Accept your in-laws.
  • Give them a place in your life.
  • Master the fundamentals of conflict resolution.

Many people fear confronting their mother-in-law and/or father in-law over issues—whether big or small—because they worry that doing so will jeopardize the relationship. Learning how to manage and resolve conflict, however, can help improve your relationship with your in-laws as well as avert family turmoil down the road.

Setting the stage for a healthy in-law relationship

All in-law relationships experience conflict from time to time. You can minimize such occasions by taking these steps:

  • Accept your in-law for who she is. Respect her uniqueness and try to focus on her positive qualities. Remember, although you cannot change your in-law, you can change your attitude and how you value her.
  • Empower your in-law by giving him a place in your life. Offer him an opportunity to contribute to family decisions regarding holidays and special events. Show that you appreciate and respect his feelings and opinions—even though you may disagree.

Conflict resolution 101

Mastering the fundamentals of conflict resolution is essential when dealing with in-law issues, especially given the complex dynamic and long-term nature of family relationships. Whether the issue is just between you and an in-law or something that you and your spouse need to address together, follow these steps:

  • Control your emotions and pinpoint the problem. Feelings of hurt, rejection, or unfair treatment may cloud your ability to see the real problem. Calm down before you try to identify the reasons behind your feelings. Perhaps a string of events, rather than a single episode is the cause—is there a common theme?
  • Put yourself in your in-law’s shoes. How might she be feeling? Are there underlying issues—is she lonely, does she feel left out? Did you say or do something that could have been misunderstood or misinterpreted?
  • Work on communicating. Find a time when you will not be interrupted or rushed. Make sure your in-law has your full attention and understands your meaning. Don’t blame: use “I” statements, not “you” statements. For example, “I’m such a scheduler that impromptu visits are unnerving,” rather than “You were so inconsiderate to come by unexpectedly.” Be aware of your body movement, voice inflection, facial expressions and other nonverbal cues. Stay focused on the matter at hand.
  • Avoid forming alliances. Don’t involve or ask other family members to take sides, including your spouse.
  • Be a good listener. Don’t interrupt or make assumptions. Avoid being critical or defensive. Listen to what is behind the words—like feelings and ideas.
  • Be apologetic. Be willing to apologize and offer forgiveness.
  • Solve the problem. One-time misunderstandings may not require you to work out a solution. But, finding a compromise that satisfies both you and your in-law is ideal. Be flexible and willing to try a new way of doing things.

Impossible in-laws

Some people have personal issues that make them unwilling or unable to resolve conflict with their son-in-law or daughter-in-law. If you have followed the steps above without success, steering clear of your in-laws may be your only recourse. Talking with your spouse or a close friend can help you cope with your frustration and stress. 

By Christine P. Martin
Source: Handling Verbal Confrontation: Take the Fear Out of Facing Others by Robert V. Gerald, PhD. Oughten House Foundation, 1999; How In-Laws Relate: It's All Relative by Leah Shifrin Averick. Sue Sellers Inc., 1989; Resolving Conflict With Others and Within Yourself by Gini Graham Scott, PhD. New Harbinger Publications, 1990; Resolving Conflicts: How to Turn Conflict Into Co-operation by Wendy Grant. Element, 1997; The In-law Survival Manual: A Guide to Cultivating Healthy In-law Relationships by Gloria Call Horsley. John Wiley & Sons, 1997; The Art of Talking So That People Will Listen: Getting Through to Family, Friends and Business Associates by Paul W. Swets. Simon & Schuster, 1983.

Summary

  • Accept your in-laws.
  • Give them a place in your life.
  • Master the fundamentals of conflict resolution.

Many people fear confronting their mother-in-law and/or father in-law over issues—whether big or small—because they worry that doing so will jeopardize the relationship. Learning how to manage and resolve conflict, however, can help improve your relationship with your in-laws as well as avert family turmoil down the road.

Setting the stage for a healthy in-law relationship

All in-law relationships experience conflict from time to time. You can minimize such occasions by taking these steps:

  • Accept your in-law for who she is. Respect her uniqueness and try to focus on her positive qualities. Remember, although you cannot change your in-law, you can change your attitude and how you value her.
  • Empower your in-law by giving him a place in your life. Offer him an opportunity to contribute to family decisions regarding holidays and special events. Show that you appreciate and respect his feelings and opinions—even though you may disagree.

Conflict resolution 101

Mastering the fundamentals of conflict resolution is essential when dealing with in-law issues, especially given the complex dynamic and long-term nature of family relationships. Whether the issue is just between you and an in-law or something that you and your spouse need to address together, follow these steps:

  • Control your emotions and pinpoint the problem. Feelings of hurt, rejection, or unfair treatment may cloud your ability to see the real problem. Calm down before you try to identify the reasons behind your feelings. Perhaps a string of events, rather than a single episode is the cause—is there a common theme?
  • Put yourself in your in-law’s shoes. How might she be feeling? Are there underlying issues—is she lonely, does she feel left out? Did you say or do something that could have been misunderstood or misinterpreted?
  • Work on communicating. Find a time when you will not be interrupted or rushed. Make sure your in-law has your full attention and understands your meaning. Don’t blame: use “I” statements, not “you” statements. For example, “I’m such a scheduler that impromptu visits are unnerving,” rather than “You were so inconsiderate to come by unexpectedly.” Be aware of your body movement, voice inflection, facial expressions and other nonverbal cues. Stay focused on the matter at hand.
  • Avoid forming alliances. Don’t involve or ask other family members to take sides, including your spouse.
  • Be a good listener. Don’t interrupt or make assumptions. Avoid being critical or defensive. Listen to what is behind the words—like feelings and ideas.
  • Be apologetic. Be willing to apologize and offer forgiveness.
  • Solve the problem. One-time misunderstandings may not require you to work out a solution. But, finding a compromise that satisfies both you and your in-law is ideal. Be flexible and willing to try a new way of doing things.

Impossible in-laws

Some people have personal issues that make them unwilling or unable to resolve conflict with their son-in-law or daughter-in-law. If you have followed the steps above without success, steering clear of your in-laws may be your only recourse. Talking with your spouse or a close friend can help you cope with your frustration and stress. 

By Christine P. Martin
Source: Handling Verbal Confrontation: Take the Fear Out of Facing Others by Robert V. Gerald, PhD. Oughten House Foundation, 1999; How In-Laws Relate: It's All Relative by Leah Shifrin Averick. Sue Sellers Inc., 1989; Resolving Conflict With Others and Within Yourself by Gini Graham Scott, PhD. New Harbinger Publications, 1990; Resolving Conflicts: How to Turn Conflict Into Co-operation by Wendy Grant. Element, 1997; The In-law Survival Manual: A Guide to Cultivating Healthy In-law Relationships by Gloria Call Horsley. John Wiley & Sons, 1997; The Art of Talking So That People Will Listen: Getting Through to Family, Friends and Business Associates by Paul W. Swets. Simon & Schuster, 1983.

Summary

  • Accept your in-laws.
  • Give them a place in your life.
  • Master the fundamentals of conflict resolution.

Many people fear confronting their mother-in-law and/or father in-law over issues—whether big or small—because they worry that doing so will jeopardize the relationship. Learning how to manage and resolve conflict, however, can help improve your relationship with your in-laws as well as avert family turmoil down the road.

Setting the stage for a healthy in-law relationship

All in-law relationships experience conflict from time to time. You can minimize such occasions by taking these steps:

  • Accept your in-law for who she is. Respect her uniqueness and try to focus on her positive qualities. Remember, although you cannot change your in-law, you can change your attitude and how you value her.
  • Empower your in-law by giving him a place in your life. Offer him an opportunity to contribute to family decisions regarding holidays and special events. Show that you appreciate and respect his feelings and opinions—even though you may disagree.

Conflict resolution 101

Mastering the fundamentals of conflict resolution is essential when dealing with in-law issues, especially given the complex dynamic and long-term nature of family relationships. Whether the issue is just between you and an in-law or something that you and your spouse need to address together, follow these steps:

  • Control your emotions and pinpoint the problem. Feelings of hurt, rejection, or unfair treatment may cloud your ability to see the real problem. Calm down before you try to identify the reasons behind your feelings. Perhaps a string of events, rather than a single episode is the cause—is there a common theme?
  • Put yourself in your in-law’s shoes. How might she be feeling? Are there underlying issues—is she lonely, does she feel left out? Did you say or do something that could have been misunderstood or misinterpreted?
  • Work on communicating. Find a time when you will not be interrupted or rushed. Make sure your in-law has your full attention and understands your meaning. Don’t blame: use “I” statements, not “you” statements. For example, “I’m such a scheduler that impromptu visits are unnerving,” rather than “You were so inconsiderate to come by unexpectedly.” Be aware of your body movement, voice inflection, facial expressions and other nonverbal cues. Stay focused on the matter at hand.
  • Avoid forming alliances. Don’t involve or ask other family members to take sides, including your spouse.
  • Be a good listener. Don’t interrupt or make assumptions. Avoid being critical or defensive. Listen to what is behind the words—like feelings and ideas.
  • Be apologetic. Be willing to apologize and offer forgiveness.
  • Solve the problem. One-time misunderstandings may not require you to work out a solution. But, finding a compromise that satisfies both you and your in-law is ideal. Be flexible and willing to try a new way of doing things.

Impossible in-laws

Some people have personal issues that make them unwilling or unable to resolve conflict with their son-in-law or daughter-in-law. If you have followed the steps above without success, steering clear of your in-laws may be your only recourse. Talking with your spouse or a close friend can help you cope with your frustration and stress. 

By Christine P. Martin
Source: Handling Verbal Confrontation: Take the Fear Out of Facing Others by Robert V. Gerald, PhD. Oughten House Foundation, 1999; How In-Laws Relate: It's All Relative by Leah Shifrin Averick. Sue Sellers Inc., 1989; Resolving Conflict With Others and Within Yourself by Gini Graham Scott, PhD. New Harbinger Publications, 1990; Resolving Conflicts: How to Turn Conflict Into Co-operation by Wendy Grant. Element, 1997; The In-law Survival Manual: A Guide to Cultivating Healthy In-law Relationships by Gloria Call Horsley. John Wiley & Sons, 1997; The Art of Talking So That People Will Listen: Getting Through to Family, Friends and Business Associates by Paul W. Swets. Simon & Schuster, 1983.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as behavioral health care or management advice. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have questions related to workplace issues, please consider contacting your human resources department. ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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