Dr. Brandon Santan Licensed Professional Counselor Lighthouse Counseling Center
The Healthy Role In-laws Play in Your Life:
In-laws can be a beneficial addition to any family unit. There is ample evidence that in-laws offer a strong source of support, can influence the quality of the romantic relationship, and greatly benefit the lives of their grandchildren with their presence. So maintaining a respectful and friendly relationship is advantageous for everyone.
Unfortunately, that isn’t always easy. Dr. Santan confirms, “The most common concerns I hear are typically related to in-laws who are overinvolved and/or a spouse who has difficulty individuating from his or her family of origin.” So how can boundaries help maintain this beneficial relationship?
The Importance of Establishing Boundaries:
These boundaries – around privacy, finances, parenting choices, or something else – are to serve as a protection to your newly established family unit, never a punishment to your in-laws. Dr. Santan advises to be proactive and to remember that setting boundaries won’t be just a onetime occurrence.
“In-laws that are overinvolved can actually harm the relationship, because the relationship needs to be able to function as a separate unit,” Dr. Santan explains. “When you recognize the need to protect something within the relationship (goals, money, self, time, relationships, etc.), it’s time to consider establishing a boundary.”
“Ultimately, each spouse should take the lead with his or her own parents, but a collaborative approach works best when establishing boundaries,” Dr. Santan explains.
He also emphasizes that keeping communication open and kind between spouses is vital. “Most people are attached to their family of origin, so an attack on our parents feels like an attack on us. We often take it personally.” When voicing concerns about in-laws, it’s helpful to start with positives and ask questions rather than making accusations. “One should work to reassure their spouse that he or she is the priority,” he says.