How to Avoid In-laws Problems

December 16, 2010, 8:38 pm

The following article is exclusive to Hitched Magazine:

How To Avoid Marital Fights About In-laws This Holiday Season:
Four Tips for Husbands

by Jenna D. Barry

Do you often feel caught in a miserable game of tug-o-war between pleasing your wife and your parents? Your behavior plays a key role in how well your spouse gets along with your mom and dad. When a man marries, he is supposed to transfer his loyalty from his folks to his bride. Loving parents gracefully step aside and encourage their son to make his wife a priority over them. Unfortunately, many parents try to make their son feel guilty whenever he tries to be a loyal husband. You can strengthen your marriage this holiday season by applying these tips:

1. Ask your wife how you can be a loyal husband during the next visit with your family. She may be anticipating problem scenarios and be thrilled to know you want to lessen her anxiety. You can say something like, “Honey, I want to help make your visits with my family as enjoyable as possible. Tell me how I can be a supportive husband.”

2. If your spouse brings up incidents from past holiday arguments, apologize if necessary and learn what you can do in the future to strengthen your marriage. Resist the urge to defend your parents’ behavior and your own behavior. Realize your partner may have legitimate concerns rather than accusing her of being paranoid or overly sensitive. Here’s something you could say: “I’m sorry you felt that I betrayed you in the past. I’m going to try harder from now on to make sure everyone knows you are my first priority. I hope you’ll be patient with me because I probably won’t get it perfect overnight.”

3. Stand united when dealing with your parents. If you and your wife agree in advance about how to respond if your folks behave in a controlling manner, then make sure you follow through. Focus on being a great husband instead of a parent pleaser. Here are some things you could say:

“Mom, I’m not willing to listen to you gossip about my wife. I expect you to talk to her directly if you have a problem with her.”
“Dad, I’m sorry you disagree, but this isn’t your decision. My wife and I are in charge of the decisions about raising our kids.”
“Mom, I’m not willing to discuss [our finances / sex life] with you. That’s a private matter between my wife and me.”

4. Learn to let your parents (and siblings) be upset with you. Just because they may think you or your wife are rude or disrespectful doesn’t mean you actually are. Their opinions aren’t fact. Draw reasonable boundaries as needed in a respectful manner. Eventually they will learn to accept your new behavior as normal. Here are some ways you can respond if your parents have a negative reaction to your assertive behavior:

“This isn’t up for negotiation, let’s discuss something else instead.”
“I’m sorry you don’t approve, but we’ve made our decision.”
“Tell me what you’re thinking instead of [rolling your eyes / shaking your head in disgust / giving me the silent treatment].
“Your guilt trips aren’t going to work on me anymore.”
“It isn’t okay for you to treat my wife this way. I hope you’ll decide to change your behavior; otherwise we will limit our contact with you.”

You have the ability to bring out the best or the worst in your wife. The next time there is a conflict between her and your parents, take a look at your own behavior and make sure your loyalty is where it should be.

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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