• Erica Suckow

How to Set Healthy Boundaries with Your In-Laws: Tips for Standing your Ground

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Setting boundaries One of the hardest things when getting married and gaining a new family is learning how to set healthy boundaries with them.


For some families, your in-laws become a second family and the comfort level is great. But for others it can be a difficult transition in which you sometimes find yourself walking on eggshells trying desperately not to hurt anybody’s feelings.


I have found myself in that difficult balance before and I have personally grown to realize that it is important to me to stand up for myself. I have crashed and burned in the area of setting healthy boundaries with my in-laws, but I've also done the work to repair those broken pieces of our relationships.



After living through some sticky situations and hearing friends talk about sticky situations they've been in with their in-laws or significant other's families, I've realized that the common denominator is that if healthy boundaries were set, most of these situations would not have happened.


It’s extremely important to set boundaries in all areas of your life.


I had to learn to set boundaries between my personal life and my work life, boundaries between friends, boundaries with my own family and it just makes things flow a lot easier. We know what’s expected of us.


When you are working to set boundaries with in-laws, though, it can feel personal and they may feel like they’re being attacked. I think the sooner you do so, though, will help all parties understand that it’s for everyone’s well-being and happiness and it will eliminate more problems ahead of time.


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How to go about setting healthy boundaries

The first step in setting healthy boundaries is understanding what you are comfortable with.


For example, you might be okay if your in-law drops in unannounced. But some people need a heads up, they need to be mentally prepared and they want to feel like they know what’s going on in their own home and want to feel some sort of sense of control.


This starts with understanding your self and what you’re comfortable with.


And these things can change over time. For me, it took a little bit of trial and error.


I wanted to be really open and have this great relationship with my in-laws, but came to understand that it was important for me to have some sort of expectation relating to when it was appropriate to come over to our home.


This looked different at the beginning of my husband and I's relationship from what it looks like now. And that is okay, we just had to be sure to communicate as our expectations changed.





Handling boundaries regarding your parenting

In my opinion, one of the most important boundaries that needs to be set is what can be said about your parenting style if you are a parent.


I love getting advice from those who are already parents, but sometimes that advice comes with underlying judgment that can make you feel really unsure of yourself.


There are so many people in the world that have something to say about how you may raise your children, but it’s so important that you follow your instincts and do what you believe is best. Some comments that are made can make it feel like others don’t approve of how you have chosen to raise your children.


For me, it has been easy to have a couple of responses just ready to go in my head that I use when I get unsolicited comments.


One of them is: "I really appreciate your advice, but for right now I am going to continue doing what works best for us."


Another one is: "Yes, I will definitely have to think about trying that, thank you so much for your input."


If the comment seems really snarky, you may say something along the lines of: "I know that it’s in your best interest to look out for your grandchild, but this is what your child and I have decided works best for us and it means a lot to me that you support how we’ve chosen to raise our kids."


Most people are well-intentioned when they say these little offhand comments, but having a response ready to go will help set boundaries around what you feel is appropriate to be said and what isn’t without engaging in any sort of argument.



Communicating your boundaries with your in-laws Open communication is so important in every single aspect of your life. I will always preach that you need to be honest with other people about your feelings and your expectations for them.


The same goes for your in-laws.


I think that this can look a couple of ways. It may look like you and your significant other sitting down and discussing together what you feel is appropriate from both sides of your family. You have to remember that what you expect with another side of the family should not feel like an attack when your significant other expects that from your side and also.


You may choose to sit down with your significant others and their parents and discuss these expectations and boundaries as soon as you decide what they are.


You may wait until a certain situation arises and there’s something that you want to address. This is even something that can be done over a phone call after reflecting on something that has happened. There’s no right or wrong way to do it.


I think it’s appropriate for you to address your in-laws about what makes you feel comfortable. You always have the right to stand up for what you need emotionally, regardless of if it might make someone else uncomfortable.