by Cynthia M. Braden, MFT
Often couples are in a struggle with their parents or in-laws. It's amazing that no matter how old a person gets, the adolescent power struggle with parents may continue.
Sometimes the way to handle this situation is to try some different tactics than ones you may currently be using that are not working.
For example, couples come to my office fifteen years after their wedding, still fighting over what the mother-in-law said or did at the wedding and how the husband didn't defend the wife, and how they never got over it, and now in retrospect that was the beginning of the end, etc…
That's a bad start.
Learning how to manage in-laws and conflicting family expectations is an art in itself. A cohesive extended family can be a joy and important source of support as you go through life together.
Here is another familiar scene:
Characters: demanding mother-in-law, gets needs met by behavior of other people
Daughter: wants to please mother, wants mother and husband to love her
Son-in-law: wants to be the man of his house, co-partner with his wife
What do think is going to happen here? Depending on the flexibility of the people involved, all can be well and satisfying.
What happens if Mom-in-law helps a lot, makes suggestions and insinuations, gives money, babysits...
What if Mom-in-law wants daughter to do things that husband doesn't like? What if he's not even consulted?
What if mom-in-law doesn't like some aspect of husband's behavior or lifestyle? Now the couple gets in bigger and more frequent fights as never-resolved insults mount.
Priorities are askew. Triangles emerge. Expectations are not sustainable. Fighting increases. Talking diminishes. Sex dwindles.
Teaching Mom or Dad how you want to be treated as a couple, without offending, is something we can work on. Making in-laws your allies, or at least reducing conflict with them is well worth the effort.
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