5 Crucial Boundaries You Need to Set With Your In-Laws, Therapists Say
Having these in place can better your relationship with your partner and their parents.
When you get married, the hardest relationship you'll have to learn to navigate might not be the one between you and your spouse. It could, in fact, be between you and your partner's parents. In-laws come in all shapes and sizes—from the brutally overbearing to the nearly non-existent. But whether you get along or not, it's essential to have some boundaries in place. Talking to therapists, we gathered insight on where it's appropriate and even necessary to draw the line. Read on to discover five boundaries you should have with your in-laws.
Let them know what is and isn't OK when they're visiting.
You and your spouse are allowed to have your own personal space without having to make sacrifices. Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, a New York City-based neuropsychologist and director of Comprehend the Mind, says that it is crucial for your in-laws to respect this in order for your relationship to remain healthy.
With that in mind, you have to let them know what you view to be OK when it comes to visits, because many people have different perspectives.
"Discuss and agree upon boundaries regarding visits, overnight stays, and personal privacy," Hafeez advises. "Clarify what areas of your home are off-limits or establish guidelines for how much notice you require before guests arrive."
Be clear about your limitations with constant communication.
You don't just need to spell out your preferences for in-person events, however. Jennifer Kelman, LCSW, a family therapist working with JustAnswer, tells Best Life that it's also important to put a limit on phone calls from your in-laws. This should include being clear about when and how often these calls are acceptable.
"Without this boundary, your spouse's parents may call several times a day and at inappropriate hours just to 'check in,'" she warns. "You can have your spouse let them know that while they love them, a daily call or constant texts is taking time away from your connection with your spouse."
This is a boundary many people have a hard time verbalizing because they're worried about how their in-laws will take it, Kelman explains.
"But then they feel annoyed when the third call of the day comes in right around dinner time," she says. "For the health of your relationship with your spouse, this boundary needs to be set if the calls are frequent and at inappropriate times."
Avoid allowing them be involved in issues between you and your spouse.
You partner's parents have no business being a part of your disagreements—especially because they're likely to be biased toward their own child's side. If you find that they're trying to involve themselves in issues between you two, you can't let it slide, according to Kelman.
"Once this boundary is broken there is no turning back, and you will be on the receiving end of advice on how to negotiate difficulties when they arise," she warns. "This boundary is crucial, and crucial to set early on as it will be hard to reel it back in once that dynamic is set."
This doesn't have to be done harshly, however.
"You can simply say in a loving way, 'I know you are coming from a place of love, but it is important we work through things without input from others. I love you for wanting to be helpful, but we want to keep our relationship between us,'" Kelman recommends.
Don't let them push past your physical preferences.
You should also be able to set clear expectations when it comes to your own physical preferences, according to Kaytee Gillis, LCSW, a licensed psychotherapist who works with survivors of family and relationship trauma.
"These are boundaries regarding your body and how you want to be touched. For instance, this could involve whether or not you are comfortable hugging," Gillis explains.
This can even extend to physical preferences in regards to your children or pets, like whether or not you're OK with letting other people hold or hug them, she adds.
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Be firm about your financial boundaries.
Finding your financial footing as a married couple may take some time, but be careful about letting your in-laws step in.
"Money matters can often cause tension," Hafeez says. "Discuss topics such as loans, financial support, or involvement in major financial decisions. Be transparent about your expectations and limitations, and establish boundaries that align with your financial goals and values."
This also includes establishing a boundary around what financial based-gifts you will accept, Kelman adds.
"In-laws will give money, trips, homes, but these gifts may come with strings attached," she explains. For instance if they buy a home for you and your spouse, they might try making you feel as if you're obligated to spend every holiday with them because of it.
"While it may be easy in the short-term to accept the gifts, be wary of the conditions that may come with it," Kelman cautions.