How to deal with in-laws that you don't like

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How to deal with in-laws that you don't like

One of the big problems I see in the families that I work with is in in-law relationship, either it is the mother-in-law or the father-in-law, or maybe it's the mother-in-law, father-in-law that can't stand the son-in-law or daughter-in-law. And when people get married, it's really like bringing two separate cultures together, even if they're the same social class, ethnicity, language. When you bring together two families, you're really like bringing together two different tribes. Sometimes it works extremely well and sometimes it goes terribly. So it's very important that if you have a complaint, let's say, if you're the mother-in-law or daughter-in-law, that you had a complaint about who your kid married, first of all, that you don't voice it because that's one of the surest, fastest ways to alienate your child from you. In general, as one mother said to me, keep your mouth shut and your purse open. That's your general rule of having a good relationship with a son-in-law or daughter-in-law. Secondly, if you have offended them, if you did say critical things to your child about them, it is important that you make amends to them and to your child. Why? Because they are the gatekeeper to your relationship with your child. If your son-in-law or daughter-in-law doesn't like you, the probability of you seeing your grandkids or even your son or daughter goes way, way down. It’s just the way that it works. So, you really want to be very mindful of that gatekeeper role that your son-in-law or daughter-in-law is in. Let's say you’re the son-in-law or daughter-in-law and you hate how your husband's or wife's parents are. I mean you can complain to your spouse about that. I recommend that if you are going to do it, that you doing it in a loving way so that you don't put your spouse in the middle. They may feel a sense of relief if you're voicing complaints, they've always had but couldn't voice. They may also feel completely disloyal to their parent to hear how much you hate them, so you may have to manage those feelings in a different way.

View Joshua Coleman, PhD's video on How to deal with in-laws that you don't like...


Expert Bio

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Joshua Coleman, PhD

Author & Psychologist

Dr. Coleman is a psychologist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area and Co-Chair of the Council on Contemporary Families, a non-partisan organization composed of leading sociologists, historians, psychologists and demographers dedicated to providing the press and public with the latest research and best-practice findings about American families. He has lectured at Harvard University and The University of California at Berkeley and blogs on parent-adult child relationships for the U.C. Berkeley publication, Greater Good Magazine, the Huffington Post and Psychology Today.

Dr. Coleman is frequently contacted by the media for opinions and commentary about changes in the American family. He has been a frequent guest on the Today Show, NPR, and The BBC, and has also been featured on Sesame Street, 20/20, Good Morning America, PBS, AARP,  America Online Coaches,  and numerous news programs for FOX, ABC, CNN, and NBC television. His advice appears often in The New York Times, The Times of London, Fortune, Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, Slate, Psychology Today, U.S. World and News Report, Parenting Magazine, The Baltimore Sun and many others.

He has served on the clinical faculties of The University of California at San Francisco, The Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology, and the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group. He is the author of numerous articles and chapters and has written four books:  When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don't Get Along (HarperCollins) The Marriage Makeover: Finding Happiness in Imperfect Harmony (St. Martin's Press); The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to Do More Parenting and Housework (St. Martin's Press); and Married with Twins: Life, Love and the Pursuit of Marital Harmony. His books have been translated into Chinese, Croatian, and Korean, and are also available in the U.K., Canada, and Australia. He is formerly a contributing editor to Twins Magazine.

 Dr. Coleman is a sought-after public speaker on topics related to the family. He is also co-editor, along with historian Stephanie Coontz of the yearly online volume, Unconventional Wisdom: News You Can Use, a compendium of noteworthy research on the contemporary family, gender, sexuality, poverty, and work-family issues.  He runs a popular webinar series for estranged parents and a free newsletter for parents, The Coleman Report.

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