Article: Clashing with difficult in-laws

August 17, 2010, 1:52 pm

This article is exclusive to Hitched Magazine.

Clashing with the In-laws:3 ways to keep your marriage strong with difficult in-laws.

It’s no secret that in-laws are the subject of many marital arguments. The rivalry between wives and their mothers-in-law is a major source of tension in many marriages. You may find it interesting that many new brides get along very well with their husband’s parents at first; it isn’t until later—sometimes years later—that friction develops.

Time-after-time, daughters-in-law in my support group say things like, “My husband’s parents welcomed me into their family immediately and treated me as their own daughter.” Likewise, my own in-laws showered me with gifts and included me in everything. It’s not uncommon for young women to be very fond of their husband’s family, and vice versa, in the beginning.

Difficulties may eventually arise when a daughter-in-law starts to show a healthy desire to become an independent adult. Whenever her needs and opinions conflict with her in-laws’ needs and opinions, then she may suddenly be labeled as a “rude, selfish, disrespectful daughter-in-law.”

For example, if a woman wants to participate in the tradition of spending Thanksgiving with her husband’s family, then everyone is happy. However, if she wants to spend that holiday with her own parents, then her mother-in-law may try to make her feel guilty for ruining the family tradition. The daughter-in-law may then become the subject of family gossip. Worse yet, she may actually start to believe she is a horrible person just because she doesn’t base every decision on whether or not her in-laws approve.

If your husband’s parents aren’t your best friends, then here are some tips to help you have a great marriage, even if your in-laws aren’t so great.

1. Love your husband more than you dislike his parents. Rather than gossip to your spouse about his awful parents (which will trigger his instinct to defend them), communicate directly with them in a tactful manner. Don’t give your in-laws the power to destroy your marriage; focus on being a great wife rather than a vindictive daughter-in-law. Behave in a way that draws your husband’s loyalty so you can unite as a couple to deal with difficult in-laws.

2. Surround yourself with encouraging women who can validate your feelings and help you maintain a healthy self-esteem. Many wives in my support group find tremendous comfort in connecting with other women who are struggling with the same problems.

3. Equip yourself to be assertive with your in-laws. If your husband has the desire and confidence to confront his parents about problem issues, then that’s fantastic. But if not, then it’s up to you to draw healthy boundaries with them rather than playing the silent victim while your marriage dissolves. Read helpful books about in-laws and/or see a marriage-friendly therapist.

A wife in my support group recently wrote, “I promised ‘for better or for worse,’ and I decided not to let my in-laws make it worse.”

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.” Please visit her website at to join her support group or find a list of recommended counselors.

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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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