In-laws Article: Toxic in-laws

August 18, 2009, 11:53 am

The following article is exclusive to Hitched Magazine:

5 Ways to Protect Your Marriage From Toxic In-laws

by Jenna D. Barry

Is it possible to have a great marriage even though you have difficult in-laws? Yes, in the same way that it’s possible to have a beautiful yard even if you have a few weeds. If you are considering divorce because you don’t like your in-laws, that’s like selling your house because there are some dandelions in the lawn. Here are five ways to have a strong marriage in the face of controlling, manipulative and/or intrusive in-laws.

1. Unite as a couple. The best way to protect your marriage from destructive in-laws is to unite as husband and wife. Rather than allowing in-law problems divide you and your spouse, seize every opportunity to behave in a way that strengthens your marriage. Refuse to listen to your parent’s gossip about your spouse, and don’t complain to your spouse about his or her parents. Communicate with your mate, make him a priority over your parents, reach loving compromises and present a united front to relatives.

2. Get out of the victim mode. You can choose to stay in the victim mode by complaining and gossiping or you can do what is in your power to improve your situation. Equip yourself to deal with in-law problems by reading books, seeing a counselor, and/or joining a support group.

3. Behave as an adult on an equal level to your in-laws. How do you react when your in-laws make derogatory comments about the way you eat, dress, raise your kids, etc? The extent to which they can push your buttons is the extent to which you are letting them have power over you. When your insecurity is replaced with confidence, you’ll realize that your in-laws’ opinions don’t outrank yours and you don’t need their approval. When you grasp the fact that you are an adult on an equal level to them, your behavior will change and that will likely trigger a change in their behavior. If you want to be treated as an adult, then you must behave as one.

4. Be assertive and draw boundaries. Rather than holding silent grudges against your in-laws, be honest with them in a respectful, yet firm manner. For example, if they invite themselves over more often than you’d like, say, “This Friday won’t work for us, but you’re welcome to come over next Saturday.” If they insist on showing up even after you’ve told them it’s an inconvenient time, ignore the doorbell. It’s not any more rude for you not to invite them in than it is for them to show up after you’ve asked them not to come. Likewise, if they telephone too early, too late or too often, let the answering machine pick up their calls. If they offer unwanted advice about how to raise your child, say, “I know you’re probably just trying to help, but this isn’t your decision.”

5. Refuse to be manipulated. If you are being manipulated by your in-laws, then you must stop letting them manipulate you. Toxic in-laws will have a negative reaction when you draw healthy boundaries with them. They may attempt to manipulate you with guilt until you sacrifice your own needs in order to please them. They may roll their eyes around, shake their heads, hang up on you, storm out of the house or make threats. Your father-in-law may accuse you of being disrespectful to your mother-in-law. Your mother-in-law may start crying. They may test you to see if you‘ll back down, much like a two-year old throwing a tantrum. It’s extremely important to stand your ground even if they choose to be offended by your healthy behavior. Learn to use effective phrases such as, “I’m sorry you’re upset, but this isn’t up for negotiation” or, “I’m not willing to discuss this with you anymore. Is there something else you’d like to talk about instead?”

Jenna D. Barry is the author of “A Wife’s Guide to In-laws: How to Gain Your Husband’s Loyalty Without Killing His Parents.” Find more at

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You can have a GREAT marriage, even if your in-laws aren't so great!

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You may be quick to blame your in-laws for your marriage problems, but in reality the biggest part of the problem isn't your in-laws, it's your husband's loyalty to them.  When a man marries, he is supposed to transfer his loyalty from his parents to his wife. His behavior plays a key role in how well you get along with his parents.  The goal of this book is to help you gain your husband's loyalty.

If you are in need of hope and encouragement, this book is for you!  Jenna Barry offers hilarious, heartfelt advice about how to have a terrific marriage in spite of difficult in-laws.  As a wife who has personally experienced the despair that comes from having an unsupportive partner, she suggests specific things to say and do to gain your husband's loyalty.  This book won't teach you how to become best friends with your in-laws, but it will teach you how to think and behave in a new way so they no longer have any power over you.  A Wife's Guide to In-laws has over 40 cartoons, two fun chapters written just for your hubby, and worksheets to help the two of you reach loving compromises about common problem issues.

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About Jenna

As a wife of 22 years, Jenna D. Barry (a pen name) has learned how to gain her husband's loyalty through communication, persistence, and a whole lot of love.  She has familiarized herself with the needs and frustrations of other wives by participating in on-line in-law support groups and by talking to marriage therapists, friends, family, and co-workers.


Jenna is the author of the book, A Wife's Guide to In-laws:  How to Gain Your Husband's Loyalty Without Killing His Parents. She has been a radio guest on The Mike Bullard Show and her articles have been published in newspapers, websites, and magazines worldwide.  She writes monthly articles for Hitched Magazine and has been quoted in The Washington Times,, The London Free Press,, etc. She leads a support group for daughters-in-law right here.



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