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.
Your well-being is most important in your life and should always be your first priority because you can’t support other people in your life to the best of your ability if you are not in the best possible place mentally, emotionally, and physically.
I also think it’s appropriate if you would like to have your significant other sit down with their parents and discuss things that may have made you uncomfortable because, depending on the relationship with that child and their parents, they may feel more so like it was coming from a place of love rather than anger.
What if your boundaries are not being respected?
Just because you have these conversations doesn’t mean that your in-laws will choose to respect your decisions. That can be a big struggle and really hurtful, but it’s something that happens more than you think Something super important when setting boundaries is definitely consistency. It’s hard for others to understand what may or may not be okay if something is alright with you one time, but then not okay with you another time.
If you decide that you want to set boundaries, it's necessary to be very consistent with those boundaries. Don’t feel like these are set in stone forever, because obviously as we grow and change our needs change. It’s okay to reset expectations as long as it’s not happening multiple times a year. That can be confusing for everybody and cause a lot of unneeded stress and anxiety on both ends.
If you set boundaries that your in-laws refuse to follow, just remember that you do not owe them anything. If your in-laws do something to make you and your spouse uncomfortable, you are not required to allow them to stay in your life.
If you have said some thing is a dealbreaker, then it’s okay to cut ties if necessary. Your wellbeing, your relationship, and your children will always be your first priorities.
A lot of people who do not respect boundaries and take your emotional needs seriously may feel a sense of guilt and begin blaming you, but understand that you are doing nothing wrong and that blame and judgment may come from a place of low self-esteem and guilt.
Cutting somebody off is not as something that is out of the question, even though it may sound severe. If something makes you so uncomfortable that you decide you can no longer keep a relationship with your in-laws it’s important that both you and your spouse have a clear understanding of that and have come to some sort of agreement about your comfort level is and what that will look like.
If that’s a decision you make, especially if kids are in the picture, know that it’s not one you should go back-and-forth on. Again you aren’t necessarily locked in forever, but going no-contact to full contact multiple times is really confusing and doing more harm than good.
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Boundaries are necessary
All in all, you need to do what is best for you and your emotional health always. You should always advocate for yourself and set healthy boundaries that make you comfortable.
Examples of healthy boundaries
Some examples of healthy boundaries you can sit with your in-laws are:
how to approach situations regarding parenting,
expectations when babysitting,
things that are not appropriate to discuss with you,
whether or not dropping by unannounced is allowed
I hope this post gave you some confidence to begin setting healthy boundaries with your in-laws. Know that no relationship is absolutely perfect, and life without even a little bit of conflict is not always genuine.
You are amazing, you are doing all you can to live the best version of your life, and it's okay to be selfish when it comes to your well being. Feel free to share this post with your partner or friends if you feel this is something they need to see. I'd also love to hear what boundaries are necessities in your household.
As always, you can find me on instagram @this.unfilteredlife, Facebook at facebook.com/thisunfilteredlife, and Pinterest @thisunfilteredlife. Keep in touch!
Talk to you soon,