I always say that marrying someone also means marrying their friends and family. Well, the worst-case scenario in that situation would be ending up with toxic IN-LAWS.
I’m sure Jennifer Lopez still has PTSD from making the movie Monster-In-Law, which perfectly depicts how toxic (and funny) relationships with in-laws can be.
Don’t get me wrong. Not all in-laws are toxic, and if you’re lucky enough, you’ll manage to establish a healthy relationship with them. If you’re not, then distancing yourself from in-laws is probably the right thing to do.
Now, the question is: When should you distance yourself from in-laws? I think a better question would be: What are the most painless ways to do so?
I won’t lie to you. Distancing yourself from in-laws can be really challenging, but if it’s done right, it can work out perfectly.
Keep in mind that distancing doesn’t mean cutting off all contact with them. It means setting boundaries and forming a healthier relationship with them.
Below, you’ll find a list of legit reasons you should distance yourself from in-laws and the best ways to do so.
When Should You Consider Distancing Yourself From In-Laws?
If your in-laws are interfering with your marriage more than they should and doing everything in their power to sabotage your happiness, then distancing yourself is definitely a must.
There are also other equally important reasons you shouldn’t tolerate their toxic behavior. So, let’s see:
1. Turning you and your partner against each other is their favorite hobby
I bet things are seldom worse than your parents or your partner’s parents (or other family members) turning you and your partner against each other. It’s when they can’t help themselves but constantly try to find ways to destroy your marriage.
Frontiers in Sociology confirm the seriousness of my thesis in one of their research articles on in-law relationships:
“In-laws and their ‘meddling’ rank high among the sources of conflict in contemporary marriages, often higher than such potential flash points as financial issues or mismatched values.”
Needless to say that this behavior is 100% toxic, and not a single couple should tolerate it. If that’s what’s happening to you at the moment, then you know it’s time to distance yourself from them.
Your in-laws should be supportive of your marriage, and they should be on the same team as you. If they aren’t, then they’re deliberately destroying your marriage.
2. Constant interfering with your decisions as a couple
Are your in-laws constantly interfering with your family life or your decisions as a couple in particular? For example, if you’re thinking of buying a new car, does your in-law or in-laws tell you that you shouldn’t?
Do they constantly impose their own opinions on your decisions and give you unsolicited advice? If yes, then they’re officially interfering with your marriage, which they shouldn’t be doing.
If you ask them for advice, then that’s one thing, but if they’re persistent in interfering with your decisions, you’re not obligated to accept this behavior. (Things get worse if your in-laws suffer from daddy issues or mommy issues in women/men.)
After all, you’re no longer in high school, and you’re capable of making your own decisions as a couple. If they don’t respect that, then distancing yourself from them is a smart choice.
3. Putting you down (especially in front of others)
Do your in-laws frequently use family gatherings as an opportunity to put you down in front of other family members? Or do they not wait for special occasions to do so but do it almost every day in various circumstances?
Some in-laws go so far as to embarrass you on social media with their rude comments.
This toxic behavior can have serious consequences on your mental health. Because of that, you should seriously think about implementing distancing.
4. Talking behind your back
Some adults never mature or grown-up, so talking behind your back becomes their main hobby. When these people are part of your life, your own family becomes a burden instead of a safe haven.
You should never think that gossiping is a normal thing to do. It’s not, and you shouldn’t expect it from your in-laws or other family members.
If they have something to say to you, it’s best for them to say it face-to-face. Healthy communication is one of the most important things in a marriage and your relationship with your in-laws. If that’s been compromised, then you have every right to retreat and set boundaries.
5. Unwilling to respect your boundaries and privacy
Some in-laws are really determined when it comes to disrespecting your boundaries and privacy. They come to visit whenever they want (uninvited), they don’t accept no for an answer, and your boundaries mean nothing to them.
If you’re dealing with these kinds of in-laws, I offer you my sincerest condolences and a potential solution: distancing.
If that doesn’t work, then you can always go no contact permanently or until they realize the consequences of their actions. In some cases, distancing is not a solution but cutting ties is necessary.
6. Talking about you as if you aren’t there
Is there anything more annoying and disrespectful than others talking about you as if you aren’t there? Let me rephrase the question: Do you know what’s worse than talking behind your back?
It’s talking about you as if you aren’t there. I’ve experienced this a few times and can confirm how depersonalizing this behavior can be.
If your in-laws treat you like an outsider by talking about you in front of you, you have every right to feel hurt by it. It shows that they don’t have an ounce of respect and appreciation for you. In these and similar cases, distancing is the way to go.
Is It OK To Distance Yourself From In-Laws?
Yes, it’s perfectly okay to distance yourself from-in laws if your relationship with them is not healthy and it’s negatively affecting your marriage and well-being.
Keep in mind that distancing is not the same thing as cutting off all contact with your in-laws. Distancing means setting boundaries, limiting contact, and implementing other things so that you can establish a decent relationship with them.
We’re talking about a healthy distance and not a toxic one where both sides hold grudges. Healthy distancing can do wonders for your marriage and overall relationship with your in-laws.
However, if you have a good relationship with your in-laws, then there’s no need to distance yourself from them.
6 Best Ways To Distance Yourself From In-Laws
Being a daughter-in-law or son-in-law in a toxic family environment can be extremely painful. For that reason, distancing might be the right thing to do, so here are some helpful tips on how to do it the right way:
1. Set certain boundaries
I remember when my best friend had to deal with a toxic mother-in-law. One day, she told me that she had created a list of boundaries for her mother-in-law and other in-laws who were interfering in their marriage.
The list was really extensive, and as I was reading it, I realized how toxic her in-laws must be. If you’re going through the same, it’s important to set boundaries with them.
Inform them about the things that are not acceptable and set ground rules when it comes to your children (if you have any) and visits.
Tell them that you won’t tolerate talking behind your back or other toxic behaviors. Setting healthy boundaries is a must.
2. Separate from your in-laws
If you live under the same roof as your toxic in-laws, then it’s time to separate yourself from them. I understand that this is easier said than done, and there are many factors to consider.
Perhaps you have nowhere to go because of your financial situation. Or you need to stay with your in-laws to help them through sickness.
Whatever the reason, try to find the best solution that will allow you to finally separate yourself from your in-laws. Living in your own household will certainly reduce their impact on your marriage. Trust me, it’s two different worlds.
3. Talk to your partner about it
As always, topics regarding your in-laws should be discussed with your partner. If you aren’t sure how to start this sensitive topic, try something like:
“Dear husband/wife, I know you love your parents, but I’m having a hard time dealing with their constant criticism and interference in our marriage.”
Be a united front with your partner because that’s the most effective way to deal with these issues. Brainstorm together about the problems with your in-laws and potential solutions.
Make sure that you both agree that distancing or going no contact is a good idea.
4. Create a schedule and stick to it
Distancing yourself from your in-laws means creating a schedule of family events such as family dinners, picnics, etc. You can restrict seeing them casually and only see them at big family get-togethers.
Once you create a schedule, stick to it. Also, your in-laws should respect your decisions as a couple because you wouldn’t be doing this in the first place if they had respected you before.
5. Detach from their behavior
This is probably one of the most important things when it comes to detaching yourself from in-laws. Instead of only detaching yourself from them physically, you need to detach mentally as well.
This means that you need to let go of their hatred and negative energy. Don’t let their toxic behavior influence your self-esteem and well-being. Don’t even bother calling them bad people or criticizing them face-to-face.
Detach yourself from their behavior and try not to take it personally. Remember that their behavior has nothing to do with you but the internal struggles they’re dealing with.
6. Apply the no contact rule (if needed)
When my best friend had to deal with her narcissistic mother-in-law, father-in-law, and sister-in-law, she was really devastated.
She tried every single method, including setting boundaries (e.g., reducing spending time with them), but nothing worked.
Because of that, she realized that applying the no contact rule was her best bet.
Her significant other was hesitant to do so at first, but then he realized that it was the only solution. They didn’t regret their decision because, after a while, their in-laws changed for the better.
If you’re in the same situation, don’t hesitate to cut all contact. After some time, you can reconnect with them again to see if anything has changed. If not, then continue with the no contact rule.
4 Things To Keep In Mind When Distancing Yourself From In-Laws
So, you decided to distance yourself from your in-laws, but you’re not 100% sure about it. There’s still that little voice inside your head telling you: “Maybe you shouldn’t do this.” The following tips will help you make the right choice:
1. Make sure you get to know your in-laws first
Before distancing yourself from in-laws, make sure you get to know them first. You know what they say: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Instead, make sure to spend a certain amount of time with your in-laws before deciding to separate or distance yourself from them.
Maybe they aren’t toxic people by default, but they’re just going through a tough period. However, if they’ve mistreated you for some time, there is no excuse for that behavior.
CLICHE ALERT: Always listen to your gut feeling (and consult your partner).
If your partner agrees with you, then you know you’re not imagining things, and distancing is probably the right thing to do.
2. Understand and respect your in-laws’ differences
Keep in mind that every family has different family dynamics. What’s normal in your family may not be normal in your spouse’s family.
Because of that, it’s important to understand and respect your differences. Still, this doesn’t mean you should tolerate their terrible behavior toward you and your partner.
Learn the difference between differences that can be respected and crappy behavior that shouldn’t be tolerated. Sometimes there’s a thin line between the two.
3. You have a family with your spouse
Remember that you and your spouse are your own family. (That’s probably one of the greatest pieces of marriage advice out there.) This means you shouldn’t let other in-laws be active participants in your everyday decision-making.
You need to protect your marriage from any unwanted interference by others. This is something many couples forget, especially if they had overprotective parents who turn out to be “overprotective in-laws.”
In a way, they’ve gotten used to their parents deciding things in their life, so now, they don’t know how to detach from this behavior. They need to keep in mind that constantly interfering with other people (be it negative or not) is not normal.
4. If all else fails, consult a mental health professional
If you’ve tried distancing yourself from your in-laws or going no contact with them, but it all failed, then maybe it’s time to seek professional help.
There are many family relationship and married life therapists who can give you plenty of helpful advice and ways to deal with the situation you’re in.
You and your spouse deserve a happy union, so you shouldn’t stop at the first obstacle and let your in-laws continue destroying your happiness and marriage.
If all else fails, consult a mental health professional, and I’m sure that everything will be fine.
Distancing yourself from in-laws is a sensitive topic in itself because some in-laws can be so challenging that even distancing won’t help.
However, you have nothing to lose by trying the distancing method because I personally know many couples who found this method helpful.
Sometimes, going no contact is also inevitable. I wish you the best of luck and that you enjoy a happy marriage, as you should!