How To Improve Your Relationship with Your In-Laws

By  |  6 Comments

if you are married, part of that packaged deal comes with a whole other family because managing your own family isn’t crazy enough, right?!

chances are your in-laws differ from your own family. for instance, my family is fairly independent when it comes to family gatherings so we like a little space and it’s okay if some people want to do one activity while others do something else. we also tend to have a dry and sarcastic humor that runs throughout us. my husband’s family likes to be together for all activities and shows affection through lots of random hugs. their decibel level also tends to be much higher (i suppose that comes with poker playing). obviously, this was an adjustment for both of us with our new families.

i shared some of my experiences with my own in-laws in the last post and in the comments, audrey talked about her similar family dynamics but how hard that was to adjust to and then react to in the beginning. i couldn’t agree more! i was taken aback by all the physical interactions with my in-laws at first but that is how they show their love. i know my husband was also shocked when he first started spending time with my family and saw that we weren’t constantly hugging or super into playing card games!

How to improve your relationship with your in-laws

it’s just different. we all come from different family with various traditions, customs and even values.

whether you love your in-laws or cringe at the thought of them coming into town, they are here to stay so it’s important that you do strive to have a positive relationship with them.

before launching into this, it’s important for you and your spouse to establish that you are now creating your own family unit. this does not take away from the love and respect you have for the family that raised you but it’s important that you both understand you are each other’s first priority and need to be on the same team.

here are 10 ways for how to improve your relationship with your in-laws.

1) get to know them and then accept them

make it a point to get to know your in-laws. ask them about their childhood, ask them about their experiences and figure out their favorite candy so you can randomly show up with it! these are important people in your life now so it’s important that you get to know them beyond the ‘in-law’ role. once you get to know them, now it’s time to accept them for who they are. you may not agree with all of their thoughts or beliefs (which is probably the case with your own family) and that is perfectly fine. this one is especially important in how to improve your relationship with your in-laws!

2) respect them and their role

your parent in-laws are the people that helped to form the person you are madly in love with and that deserves a whole lot of respect. this of course is a two-way street that does take time but it’s important that you take time to realize the important role they have played in your spouse’s life and now yours.

3) know that this is new for them too

no one has been in the role of a mother-in-law or daughter-in-law before you either get married or your child gets married. it’s a new role for everyone and it will take some time to figure out what this means and what you want it to look like.

4) give them time alone

since we don’t live near either of our families, i try to make it a point that when we visit his family, i give them some time alone. i spent 30 minutes packing up our suitcase on our last day with them so my husband could sit out on the balcony and enjoy time alone with his parents. when they visit us, i will gladly sit in the back of the car so that one of his parents can ride up front with him since i get to sit next to him all the time! he does the same for me when i’m with my family.

5) include them

it may be an adjustment for them after you get married because they could have been used to hearing from their son every day and now the relationship is changing. make it a point to include them in exciting news that happens to you as well because they want to feel involved and excited for you! shoot them a text of your cute dog or pretty scenery because it shows you are thinking of them.

6) don’t compete

i’ve heard from many people that mother-in-laws and wives often struggle to compete for the son/husband’s attention. yuck. don’t do that. don’t try to compete with your mother-in-law because being his wife and being his mother are two very different things. she raised him to be the man he is today and they have a special bond (same with father-in-law). he holds your hand, tongue kisses you and loves you very differently than he does his mother (thank goodness). don’t compete because that’s not healthy.

7) set boundaries if need be

if you feel as though your in-laws are meddling too much in your relationship, set boundaries and adjust along the way. it started wearing on me when both of our families were asking when we were going to have kids and i needed to set boundaries for letting them know it was effecting me. no one meant harm from it, they are just excited to have grandbabies but at the same time, it wasn’t fun for me. i had to speak up and set boundaries that we would be the ones to bring it up to our families.

8) be yourself

sounds a little cliché doesn’t it? this will absolutely influence your relationship with your in-laws. i wasn’t always great at this in the beginning because i really wanted them to like me so i tried to be on my best behavior. i was never someone different, i just didn’t always speak up when i had an opinion or thought that might differ. it took some time before that i realized my husband married me because he likes the real me so chances are his parents would too (and if they didn’t, well, they weren’t the one married to me). turns out, they like the real me even more, sassy-feminist and all!

9) pick your battles

i don’t know if ‘battles’ is the right word but while it’s important to be yourself and stand up for what you believe it, sometimes it’s better to let some things slide. decide when it’s right for you to correct or stand up for something and when it’s better to take a deep breath and shove chocolate in your mouth.

10) give it time

as with all relationship, they take time. i’ve found that since we don’t live near our families, the beginning of our relationship was hard because it relied on more phone calls to build our relationship. we didn’t and don’t have the luxury of sunday night dinners or tuesday donut dates (that’s what we would have if everyone lived near us) so it’s taken time and intention to increase the bond we have with each other.

what i can tell you from my own personal experience is that when you invest in figuring out how to improve your relationship with your in-laws it can only enhance the relationship you have with your spouse. my husband says his heart is so happy when he hears that i talked to his parents (even though i hate the phone) and i feel grateful for when he does the same with my family.

i realize that i got lucky with my in-laws being good people who also want to have a happy and healthy relationship with me but we do also work at it. we have all at one time apologized for unintentionally hurting feelings or meddling but when it comes down to it, we are all grateful for the relationships we continue to build as a larger family!

what are ways that you’ve found that has helped to improve the relationship with your in-laws?

How to improve your relationship with your in-laws


  1. Audrey

    July 10, 2015 at 6:43 am

    Aww, thanks for the little nod, Chelsea! These tips are awesome!

    I think that #6 was a big one for me because I love so differently than my m.i.l. I thought that her hugs and random cakes and text messages were sent in competition (to win back her baby boy), but really it’s just how she shows love! (Learning my in-laws’ love languages might be helpful here!) I also like the boundary setting tip. I feel like we’ve finally got this one handled, but I KNOW this will need revisited when there are grandkids in the mix. (UGH, I’ll have to revisit these tips when it comes time for that! Ha!)

    I LOVE your point about being a (new) team with your significant other. I actually only had this realization recently and it’s made such a difference! My parents (and his!) are so wonderful, but knowing that my partnership with my husband is #1 (and knowing he feels the same way) is so wonderful.
    Audrey recently posted…10 Things to Remember in Your Twenties

    • chelsea

      July 13, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      absolutely! thanks for sharing your thoughts so freely because they are good! oh a fabulous point about learning your in-laws love language! that is so valuable to think about 🙂

      very much agree too because my parents and his are amazing people but we are a team now first and foremost, which can be hard to come to terms with at times but it’s really helped us. thanks again for your brilliant thoughts!

  2. Elyse

    July 10, 2015 at 8:25 am

    I’ve bookmarked this post to keep coming back too!

    Number 8 is essential, but I struggle with it SO much because of my past with them as an awkward stupid teenager. I’m working on it though!
    Elyse recently posted…Communication

    • chelsea

      July 13, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      oh good i’m so glad it was helpful, elyse! i feel you on needing to be yourself because that can be tricky. add in the layer of them knowing you when you were so young would make it hard too but glad you are working on it!

  3. Brittany

    July 10, 2015 at 10:30 am

    I really needed this post so thank you! I work with/for my in-laws and sometimes it runs me ragged physically and emotionally. Such a delicate balance.
    Brittany recently posted…Five on Friday

    • chelsea

      July 13, 2015 at 4:37 pm

      oh i cannot even imagine the layering of complexity in working with your in-laws brittany! that would definitely change your relationships dynamics and i would probably be run ragged on all accounts too. hopefully you are able to find that balance more and more as the time goes on!