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Issues with setting in-law boundaries

nellie158
Community Member
Hi all,
This will be the first time I have posted on a forum. I am currently struggling with holding my ground when it comes to creating boundaries for my in-laws. We have had a few disagreements over the last few weeks due to my partner and I feeling like his family are over-stepping. There have been times in the past where we have tried to set boundaries, but I end up folding and making concessions so that I don't have to deal with negative reactions from my partner's family members. I have been told by my psychologist that I am a "people pleaser" so find these situations very uncomfortable. However, recently both my partner and I stood firm on something that was important to both of us. My partner ended up in separate arguments with his mum and sibling (the last thing I wanted) because they wouldn't respect it. The latter got very emotional about it and their response was that he was acting unlike himself and that he shouldn't bottle up his feelings and he should talk to them next time (this response make me feel very responsible for his behaviour despite him saying it was how he actually felt). I found it very frustrating because we had both tried to calmly make how we felt about this particular issue clear. His family seem fine with him now, but his parents seem icier towards me since.
I just wanted advice on ways to approach issues like this so that they won't end in conflict. Both my partner and I really enjoy spending time with our respective families, so I don't want this to change.
11 Replies 11

Juliet_84
Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi nellie158,

I want to welcome you to the forums, and say that I’m sure there are a lot of people who can identify with your current situation (myself included!). It can definitely be a tricky thing to navigate when your in-laws consistently overstep the boundaries. I think you have done a really good job so far, and it’s really helpful that your partner sounds as though he is on board and feels the same way. It can be particularly tricky if a partner is used to allowing this type of behavior and doesn’t see anything wrong with it. I think that you just need to keep doing what you are doing, setting clear but firm boundaries, sticking to them and not getting dragged into their emotional blackmail afterwards, which is just an attempt to make you back down. It will be tough for the first little while but they will get used to it. Let them be icy with you if that’s how they want to be, remember that you’re annoyed at them as well! There may be someone in the family who is easier to discuss things with, if so you may consider sitting down with them and clearing the air and explaining what you want from the relationship

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion
Hi, welcome

It's easy to forget we married/defacto our partner and not his family, although some in-laws struggle with some jealousy/protective issues.

My advice is to be firm but fair in your stance but above all- calm.

Google this

Beyondblue topic wit, the only answer to torment

Beyondblue topic in-laws the best approach

As well, there is no harm in drifting a little.

TonyWK

smallwolf
Community Champion
Community Champion

hi and welcome to beyond blue... from another people pleaser. Which by the way, there is nothing wrong with. there are both pros and cons here. It is something I have spoken with my psych about. I have also had chats about boundaries and asserting myself (or rocking the boat to see what happens). In my case, this has been related to work.

As Juliet_84 said, they are probably not used to seeing this side of you and wondering where did this come from?

When I had to practice the above, I was very nervous the first time. Once I got through it, it was OK... in that I could do it and the world would not end. Sometimes there is the occasional bit of guilt that I did that wrong when I don't get the response I was looking for. When you say icy, in my situation, they hate me now.

Putting aside the icy response, how might you have felt if you did not assert yourself?

In my circles it becomes a lost opportunity where I might berate myself for not standing up. Aside from the suggestions from Juliet_84 it can get easier the more you try it.

Tim

Mental_Peace
Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi nellie158,

Welcome to the forums. I am a newbie here myself but I must say that I have gone through such situations several times and truly appreciate that they are sensitive, tricky and consume a lot of one’s mental space. Well done on identifying the issue and trying to solve it.

Easier said than done..but this is what helped me.

Over the years, I have tried to be more interactive and open with my in-laws. Very difficult for an introvert like me. Sometimes it has helped, sometimes it hasn’t but am learning each day and adamant that things will change for the better.

I have come to realise that usually no one is nasty just for the sake of it. There’s a story behind people’s different perspectives and why they act the way they do..and this is what I seek to identify..eg in this case, why do you think they are overstepping the boundaries? Keep making the change you would want to see, although slowly, taking baby steps..so eventually it becomes part of the new normal. Be consistent with your approach.’Sustain the change and allow them to get adjusted to the new norm.

When your partner is ready to listen, do share your thoughts in a calm way.

Hopefully things improve for you quickly.

Best wishes

geoff
Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Nellie, and a warm welcome to the forums.

It's good being a 'people pleaser' but it also means that you can get hurt emotionally because the urge to please your in-laws can be damaging to yourself when you only want what you've decided on but they disagree with, it's your house and remember times change, not only between generations but how you were brought up.

Pleasers develop the behaviour pattern of constantly trying to please others in order to avoid the displeasure of others and I'm sure this includes many of us who bring parents ( in laws) friends/family over to our place.

Rules between you and your partner are made, no different than they are at your in laws place, where you can do or participate in doing this or not allowed to do that, this is how it should be when they visit your place.

They might not accept it at first, but at their place, you have to, they will learn to become accustomed to your rules.

Best wishes.

Geoff.

nellie158
Community Member

Hi all,

Thank you very much for your insight and advice, I really appreciate it.

I've been working on making sure that I don't feel guilty for setting boundaries with my partner's family. We have had gatherings since the initial issue which, despite lingering unhappiness from them that I have tried to ignore, we haven't had any issues. I guess over time they will have to get used to what my partner and I are comfortable with and just accept it.

Thanks again!

smallwolf
Community Champion
Community Champion

hi and thanks for the update. You have to be authentic to yourselves. To do the opposite of that... how would you feel. (rhetorical question.) All the best to you.

Tim

nellie158
Community Member

Hi,

Everything has been OK so far, we have created a little distance from my partner's family post Christmas to let every diffuse. The meddling behaviour seems to creep in though...we were at a family dinner recently with my partner's family. Last year my partner's sister and husband had a baby, our niece, who has been a fantastic addition to the family. The problem is though is that both his mum and sister have been pressuring for my partner to see her more over the last few months. He probably usually sees her on average around once a week or so, but it varies sometimes he'll see them a few times a week and then nothing for a couple of weeks. It has started to frustrate me because my partner is very busy at work at the moment, and for the last few months often has worked Saturdays to meet the company's workload. He seems to brush off the comments. I bite my tongue and leave him to deal with it, given they are his family, but sometimes I feel like someone needs to tell them to back off. He says that it doesn't bother him, but sometimes it seems these comments get to him and make him feel guilty - something I feel he doesn't need or deserve. I do have two nephews by my sister (5 and 9) and have never experienced this kind of behaviour before.

Is it fair of me to say something the next time it comes up? Or should I just stay out of it? He never gets annoyed when I say what I think, but I don't want to be the generator of any bad blood with his family.

Thanks!

Hi again,

I do think, as it is a topic that doesnt do any real direct harm, that you should allow your partner to handle this situation. His sister and mother likely just want him to be an active uncle, not a distant one.

If you become entwined into the regulation of his visiting then you'll be seen as jealous or interfering. Perhaps consider going with him and paying attention mainly to the baby.

TonyWK