How to deal with in-law problems in marriage

How to deal with in-law problems in marriage

Parents tend to think their son or daughter deserves a better spouse than the one they have chosen. The way the couple respond to the problem can set the tone for relationships with parents and each other for years to come. In her book, How to Live with a Man, (Elwin Street Limited, 2005), Jennifer Worick explains how to handle difficult in-law situations.

Building Good Relationships with In-laws

Parents generally adore their children and may feel they could have chosen a more suitable marriage partner. The spouse concerned should make every effort to build a good relationship with their in-laws and to do so with genuine interest. Points to consider include the following:

  • Use your best manner when around your in-laws. Don’t tell dirty jokes, burp, fart, get drunk or generally engage in objectionable behavior.
  • Take your in-laws lead in physical and verbal intimacy. If they hug you in greeting, reciprocate. If they invite you to use their first name, do so.
  • Show interest in their home and be friendly to their pets. Compliment them on their decor and finish any food served up to you.
  • Respect the fact that they raised your spouse and know him or her very well. Ask to see baby and childhood photos and listen to stories about your spouse’s younger years.
  • Invite in-laws around to your house and be hospitable. Try and overlook any negative comments about your housekeeping or handyman skills – any necessary correction needs to come from their own child.
  • Don’t be too proud to listen to unsolicited advice from mothers-in-law. Discuss their suggestions with them and if there is merit in what they say and you are comfortable with it, implement some changes.

How Spouses can Avoid Creating In-law Problems

There is always a temptation for an adult child to turn to parents if their marriage is going through hard times. This is unhelpful and can cause long term problems in marriage. Here are some areas to watch out for:

  • Spouses must be careful not to side with parents against a husband or wife. Marriage partners are a priority and if a parent oversteps the boundaries, their child must gently correct them.
  • Spouses should not take marriage problems to parents behind each other’s backs. This can cause resentment and give in-laws a biased view of a son or daughter-in-law.

It is possible to build good relationships with in-laws. This can be done by respecting their home and beliefs and the fact that they raised your spouse. Don’t believe badly in front of in-laws and show interest in them as people. With an investment of time and effort, in-laws can become allies and friends who have much love and wisdom to offer.

Getting to the Root of Jealousy

What’s hidden beneath a person’s jealousy? “What’s underneath jealousy is fear of one kind or another,” write Susie and Otto Collins in the article “What is Jealousy” on the All About Jealousy website. In other words, jealousy stems from irrational fears and thoughts which can lead to negative interactions that destroy relationships. The jealous person’s irrational thinking is far from reality and can become all consuming in which the person continues to feel insecure.

Irrational Thoughts of a Jealous Person

These irrational thoughts can be either real (ie. a significant other was caught cheating) or imagined. These fears become forms of fantasies of duplicity – “fear of abandonment, fear of loss of love, fear of being dishonored in the relationship, fear of being shamed in the community, unresolved issues from past relationships, lack issues, poor self esteem, cover or mask for things from the past that you haven’t healed yet, vindictive or a desire for revenge that is misguided or misdirected toward someone else,” write Susie and Otto Collins. These delusions of possible unfaithfulness stem from the jealous person’s own insecurities than about the faithfulness of his or her partner.

Jealousy Caused by Insecurity

What about insecurity? Time and time again, it has been indicated that jealousy is caused by a person’s lack of security, a lack of confidence with themselves. The jealous person begins to have thoughts and feelings of self-doubt – “Am I good enough?” “Am I attractive enough?” “Does he love me?”

Although insecurity occurs in all of us and thus is a natural emotion, it is distorted when security is underdeveloped during childhood. For example, a toddler was not told he or she was loved. A girl was often left at home alone. A teenager was often teased at school. Their sense of security becomes questioned and their sense of insecurity develops. This sense of insecurity from a child to an adult grows in abundance and can present itself in a relationship as jealousy.

Causes of Jealousy

A cause of jealousy is the need to be either possessive or vengeful. Jealousy acts as a one-sided intolerant accuser. “Jealousy does not even attempt to understand. Its one desire is to punish, and to punish as severely as possible,” according to the article “Jealousy: Causes and a Possible Cure” by Emma Goldman of Emma Goldman Papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division of the New York Public Library. The goal is to hurt the loved one regardless of how that person feels. Any wrongs that the accuser visualizes must be met by revenge or punishment. For example in the case of an abusive relationship, the abuser continually batters his or her victim due to an underlying rage and the need to punish. All of this stems from one of many culprits – jealousy.

Jealousy also stems from a lack of trust. When there is a tremendous sense of doubt, jealousy is not too far behind. “It may also be related to disappointing experiences we have had with others that have no connection with our present relationship.” (Unknown Author, 1) As one would expect, there exists a layer of jealous emotions rooted inside all of us but when it crosses over into a pathological form, jealousy can detrimentally affect the health of a relationship. (Maloney, 1) This can lead to the jealous person overanalyzing every situation, questioning every move and further development of irrational thinking.

So to understand jealousy, one must dig at its root – see what irrational fear lurks underneath. Once this is identified, it can be managed and eventually conquered.