In-Laws & The Life We Share

I don’t want to give away too many tidbits about our reader survey, but when we asked our Jelly Bean Journals community what they are struggling with in motherhood, a number of respondents mentioned in-laws. It got me thinking, regardless of whether we have a wonderful, horrible, or somewhere in between relationship with our in-laws, we are connected for life and will have many joys and challenges to navigate together. I have a few ideas on how these relationships can be approached. So, here are my thoughts for ALL people who have the words “in-law” behind their title.


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Whatever type of in-law you may be, this post is for you. If you are a son-in-law, sister-in-law, father-in law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, mother-in-law, or any other type of “in-law” I hope this post helps you to consider an alternate perspective and forge empathy and understanding in your relationships:

1. Your family member chose their spouse or partner.

As family members, we uniquely and deeply affect the people we love. You more than likely had an influence on the type of person your family member has become and, therefore, also the type of partner this person would choose to “settle down with.” So, in the end, you actually did help pick the person that has joined your family. Even if you can’t stand your sibling’s choice in partner or you are an adult child constantly rolling your eyes about your parent’s new spouse, please keep in mind that they were chosen by someone you love. Hopefully, they were selected for good reason, but at the end of the day, your family member only goes home to their partner. They don’t sleep with you at night, they haven’t built a life with you, and they haven’t dreamed their future with you. As hard as it would be to sway you from your life partner choice, they probably aren’t going to change their choice anytime soon, either. This is where we come to respecting the choices made by our family members and supporting them (unless they are in grave danger) because your negative influence will probably turn your family member against you before their chosen partner. And on the other hand, your support will communicate the love and respect you have for your family member and show that you are willing to establish a relationship with their partner.


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2. Your family may do things differently than another family.

We take some practices and traditions from our own families and youth. We also establish ideas and methods together with our partner when we are creating a new family. Every new parent wants to be the best they can, every new grandparent wants to be involved as much as possible, and all other in-laws, in most cases, want to be a part of their extended or immediate family. Families are made up of people and people are human. As humans, we have this innate and uncanny ability to act individually and do things differently. Different doesn’t always mean bad or wrong and judging or intervening is hurtful and sometimes catastrophic. There are many ways to parent, show love, worship, prepare a meal or celebrate a holiday. The next time you start to think about shooting your opinion from your lips, consider the reason it needs to be said and try to ponder the long-term consequences. Will it be worth it? Why do you feel that way? What do you have to lose or gain? The way your children monitor their child’s diet or the way your father-in-law chooses to serve Thanksgiving dinner may be different than your own, but everything probably works just fine and everyone is probably still alive. Who knows, you may even learn something by dropping your judgments and observing a situation.

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3. Your in-laws most likely are or will be an influential family member.

The way you choose to navigate your relationship with your in-laws is incredibly important. As decision makers in their own immediate families, your in-laws have a say in how often your family gathers or if their family will participate. They get to pick the direction of their own lives and that of their own children. The respect you forge can be a game changer in the access you have to the people you love the most. It’s important to remember that you have already had your turn (or will) to earn an education, develop a career, navigate marriage, raise children, create a home, and many other things. So, if it’s your in-law’s turn, let them have it.

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4. Your in-laws will probably be around for a long time.

“For better or worse, in sickness and health…” is how many in-law relationships become official. You were more than likely there when your family member promised these things to the person they picked. Additionally, when children are born or adopted, it’s pretty difficult to “undo” who their parents are and the bonds that are created. This plays out to be a long term relationship for all involved, not just the two people promising everything to one another. I once received some strong marriage advice to let my spouse work through issues with his family while I do the same. If you are taking on an issue or need help with your side of the family, try having the conversation yourself. This is helpful because family members will inevitably side with their own relatives and will always love that person no matter what. When you approach an issue on your own but represent it as a united front, a positive outcome can sometimes be more easily achieved because families stick together and the other person (who may be blamed) is taken out of the equation. This allows for conversation about the actual issue rather than derailing to a scapegoat. In the end, your in-laws are probably here to stay and the relationship you have with them probably is, too. Accepting this may be the first step to establishing a healthy relationship.

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These four thoughts could be applied to many relationships, not just with in-laws. For causes big and small it can be extremely difficult to mesh families together. We all want the best for our loved ones and it’s important to remember that they also want the same for themselves. A little internal reflection about these four ideas may help more than you expect, open up some lines of communication, and establish mutual respect. And at the very least, we should respect the choices of those we love and the people they have chosen.

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4 thoughts on “In-Laws & The Life We Share

  1. Inlaws’s can be very special and a pain in the butt. Talking from experience they come with a whole lot of experience but they can also be very interfearing. It is very difficult to find that line as to not hurt their feelings. I have been divorced for over 20yrs. from the father of my children, that said I am still very close to my ex’s mother she is still the grandmother of my kids and they need to know who she is and who their family is. It is not always easy to be friends with the inlaw’s but I can tell you it makes life a lot easier to have everyone get along for your own sanity and for the health and wellbeing of the kids. I look at it as being the bigger person and just don’t let the little things get to you.

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