How To Handle Toxic In-Laws

The holidays are here and while many of us look forward to spending time with our families, some of us are less than thrilled when faced with the thought of spending time with the in-laws. Whether it’s Christmas, Thanksgiving, a wedding, a relative’s birthday, or something else altogether – there are always reasons “everyone gets together” to celebrate. And “everyone” includes the in-laws -even the ones who do their best to make you feel unwelcome.  

If you don’t get along with your significant other’s family, it can put a strain on the relationship and on future family gatherings.  Fortunately, you can lessen the stress of dealing with toxic in-laws by using some of the tips below.

Set Boundaries

You should never ask your S.O. to choose between you or his/her family, but it’s completely okay to speak with your partner about what you’re comfortable with when it comes to family gatherings. Are you comfortable staying for dinner but not for drinks afterwards? Are you okay with your in-laws visiting for the holidays, but uncomfortable with them staying overnight? Make sure you clearly communicate this to your partner so you can work together to find common ground.  

Avoid Talking About Big Decisions

Toxic in-laws will frequently try to insert themselves into personal decisions you and your S.O. are making.  Keep those conversations private and avoid talking about them at family gatherings. The less you talk about it with other people, the less interference you’ll have to manage.

In the event that any big decisions do come up in conversation, don’t ignore your in-law’s input. Once they share, simply say “thank you for your advice, I will definitely consider it” and change the subject. Even if it’s the worst advice you’ve ever heard, being courteous is the classy way to avoid any sort of confrontation.

Choose Your Battles

Having to take the high road doesn’t feel great in the short term, but it makes you look so much better in the long run.  Be patient and resist the urge to respond to every criticism and snide comment. You don’t want to be seen as antagonistic (even though you’re not the instigator) and give anyone a reason to not engage with you.

Focus on 1-on-1 Conversations

It can be difficult to be acknowledged in larger conversations. Whether you have in-laws that intentionally ice you out or ones that don’t acknowledge you, it can feel like you’re shoehorning your way into a conversation in an effort to fit in.  Take small steps by getting to know somebody in a one-on-one situation instead.  You’ll have the chance to learn more about the other person and vice versa.

Have Reasonable Expectations

Family-centric movies and TV shows usually have a happy ending where everyone accepts each other.  Unfortunately, in real life family gatherings don’t have movie-worthy endings, so keep your expectations low by setting small milestones.  Goals like focusing on pleasant small talk or getting to know a new relative are small but can have a big impact in the long run.

Accept Yourself!

Nobody is perfect, not even the people who try to remind you of that. If somebody pinpoints one of your flaws, own that flaw as a part of what makes you, you.  Taking the time to remind yourself of your strengths, weaknesses, and general awesomeness will help provide you with the confidence boost you need to brush off any putdowns sent your way.




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Alexandra Wilson

Alex Wilson is a freelance writer interested in fashion, lifestyle, and all forms of pop culture. Her writing has been featured in various digital and print publications, including USA Today and Long Island Pulse. When not writing, Alex can be found testing new recipes, exploring new neighborhoods, and window shopping. She hopes to someday travel to all seven continents (yes, even Antarctica).

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