In laws relationship

How to Live Peacefully With Your In-Laws


Tough conversations provide opportunities for pain and conflict, but also for growth and healing, “Dear Therapist” writes.

By Rebecca J. Rosen

Bianca Bagnarelli

Editor’s Note: With Lori Gottlieb on book leave, Rebecca J. Rosen, the editor of “Dear Therapist,” is filling in as The Atlantic’s “Dear Therapist” archivist, pointing readers to some of Lori’s most beloved columns.

A marriage is the union not merely of two spouses but of two families—each with its own beliefs and ways of being in the world. The resulting relationships can be some of life’s richest, but, for a lot of people, they can also be some of the most confounding. The Atlantic’s “Dear Therapist” columnist, Lori Gottlieb, receives many, many letters about in-laws and the various challenges they can present.

The troubles go in all directions. Parents struggle with their sons- and daughters-in-law; those sons and daughters struggle with their parents-in-law—and also with their brothers- and sisters-in-law. As Lori writes in one column, “You say this is an issue with your husband and your son-in-law, but as you describe it, the issue involves the entire family. Each of you, in your own ways and to various degrees, seems to feel resentful.”

Relationships between two people are complicated enough on their own. But in-law relationships happen through someone else. These are relationships that, by their very nature, tie multiple people together. Any conflict will touch all of them, and they’ll all bring their own feelings to it.

Lori’s task in advising her readers about in-law relationships is to guide them through this complexity. She writes about how to deal with many different participants in a family system and how to have tough conversations with each of them—not only the in-law causing whatever conflagration is at hand but also one’s own spouse, and sometimes other adults involved too. Each conversation requires effort to hear and be heard; each provides opportunities for pain and conflict, but also for growth and healing. And that growth and healing can go a long way: Because these relationships involve so many people, any improvement won’t touch solely one person and their in-laws but the whole combined family—for generations to come.


Dear Therapist: I Had a Great Relationship With My In-Laws. Then Everything Changed.

They are judging me for not being a good mom, for not having a job, and for not losing my pregnancy weight fast enough.


Dear Therapist: I Can’t Stand My Sister-in-Law

Everything about her rubs me the wrong way.


Dear Therapist: My Sister-in-Law Said the Most Painful Thing to Me, and I Can’t Let It Go

She told me she would never want a child like my daughter.


Dear Therapist: My Daughter’s Family Asks So Much of Us Without Giving Anything in Return

Any time I want to talk with my daughter about an issue between us, she tells me she doesn’t have time and it’s not a priority for her.


Dear Therapist: My Family Takes Offense at Everything My Husband Does

I can’t help but think he’s the cause of the growing rift with my relatives.


Dear Therapist: My Mother-In-Law Didn’t Mean to Ruin My Wedding, but I’m Still Angry With Her

After a weekend of not speaking to me, she collapsed and cut my wedding night short, and I don’t know how to deal with the resentment I still feel.


Dear Therapist: I Don’t Approve of My Daughter-in-Law’s Parenting

I think my grandson needs some help, but I’m not sure how much advice I’m allowed to give as a grandparent.

Dear Therapist is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. By submitting a letter, you are agreeing to let The Atlantic use it—in part or in full—and we may edit it for length and/or clarity.

Tips for Handling the In Law Relationship - SMART Couples - University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

"What’s the difference between in-laws and outlaws?” runs an old joke that you might have heard. The answer, of course, is “Outlaws are wanted.”

Ouch—but as most of us will attest, there’s a kernel of truth there. The in-law relationship can be difficult, or at least challenging. Often, no one is really sure what the “rules” of this relationship are. As a result, people may feel intruded on, get their feelings hurt, or not know how to act around each other.

One basic idea that most married couples might agree on, though, is that good boundaries are key to a good in-law relationship. In fact, this may be even more important for women than for men, and in ways you might not expect. One interesting study found that men who said they were close to their in-laws were 20% less likely to divorce, while women who said they were close to their in-laws were actually 20% more likely to get divorced.

While this might seem like it makes no sense, the authors think that when women become close to in-laws, boundaries may get confused. They might feel more vulnerable to criticism or misguided advice from in-laws, who also may be unintentionally encroaching on the relationship. Men, on the other hand, may be less susceptible to all this.  In fact, in general, women may be more likely to be affected by in-law stress than men.

The way we respond to issues with in-laws often has a lot to do with “past history.” For instance, a woman might be protective of her mother due to their close relationship after an early divorce, or a husband might be nervous around his father-in-law because his own dad was often critical. Cultures and backgrounds may also play a role in how in-law interactions occur. Couples need to be open with each other about all of this so that they understand why things happen the way they do. This will help avoid emotional overreactions or getting stuck in a negative rut.

One important part of establishing boundaries relates to creating and respecting your own couple and family “space.” Young married couples and those with local family, especially, may tend to defer to in-law habits and preferences when it comes to holidays and get-togethers. But it’s important for all couples to start their own rituals and traditions, too.

Most of us are familiar with the idea of a child who teases her “annoying little brother” nonstop, but who would not hesitate to defend him loyally from a bully at the bus stop. The same principle typically holds when it comes to making negative comments about one’s own parents vs. hearing them from your spouse. It may be very tempting to vent about your father-in-law’s driving or your mother-in-law’s negative attitude, especially if your partner makes similar remarks from time to time. However, it’s likely to be a much better choice to share your frustration with a friend, if at all.

If a true problem exists that needs to be dealt with, remember to share and receive concerns with your spouse in a positive, nondefensive way, without criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling. The 9 Important Communication Skills for Every Relationship can help here.

At some point, most of us are likely to hear advice or opinions from an in-law that just don’t work for us. Rather than reacting emotionally, it’s a good idea to practice a neutral response that can be “pulled out” on these occasions. For instance, you could try “That’s an interesting idea” or “I’ll think about it.” If the in-law persists, try a polite “conversation ender” such as “That’s a good idea, but we’re going to do it this way,” “Thanks, but this seems to be working right now,” or something similar.

Most of the time, we want to support family ties by spending a reasonable amount of time with in-laws. However, some couples may find that in-laws are destructive to the marital bond, or even try to bring down the marriage. If this happens, it can be very difficult for everyone. Think carefully about priorities. Families of origin are very important, but divorce is not likely to be an outcome you are looking for. Remind your in-laws openly and with your actions of your love for each other and of how much you value the marriage. In some cases, it may be necessary to reduce time spent with unsupportive in-laws.

While the in-law relationship can often be challenging, it also has the potential to offer great rewards. It can be helpful to remember that all of you are bound together by love, and also to laugh at and sometimes be amazed by the mysterious forces that bring families together.

If you’re in a relationship but need help with communicating about tricky topics like this one, why not consider taking a relationship education class? The SMART Couples project is offering ELEVATE, a FREE, research-backed relationship enhancement class for couples, in 5 Florida counties. Sign up today!


Farouky, J. (2008). Mother-in-Law problems: They're worse for women. Retrieved from,8599,1863282,00.html

Fulwiler, M. (2014). 6 arguments all married couples have. Retrieved from

Harris, V. W. (2010). Marriage tips and traps: 10 secrets for nurturing your marital friendship. Plymouth, MI: Hayden McNeil.

Leigh, S. J., & Clark, J. A. (n.d.) Creating a strong and satisfying marriage. Retrieved from

Neyfakh, L. (2013). The weird science of in-laws. Retrieved from

Orbuch, T.L., Bauermeister, J. A., Brown, E., & McKinley, B-D. (2013). Early family ties and marital stability over 16 years: The context of race and gender. Family Relations, 62, 255-268.  

Thrive Family Services. (n.d.) How healthy couples deal with in-laws.  Retrieved from

Return to Topic: Marriage Basics

Actual marital relations. Cohabitation proposed to be equated with marriage – Moscow 24, 01/24/2018

January 24, 2018, 00:00 and wife, even if their marriage is not officially registered. For this purpose, the concept of "actual marital relations" will appear in the Family Code.

Photo: depositphotos/eddiephotograph

"Actual marital relationship - not duly registered union of a man and a woman living together and leading a common household. Signs of de facto marital relationship are: cohabitation for five years; cohabitation for two years and the presence of a common child (common children ),” the bill says.

The status of actual marital relations entails the onset of the rights and obligations of the spouses, provided for by family and civil law. In particular, in order to enter into such a relationship, persons must be of age, not married or close relatives.

"The signs of a de facto marital relationship are: cohabitation for five years; cohabitation for two years and having a common child(ren)".

“Our compatriots do not consider a stamp in the passport a necessary condition for creating a full-fledged family,” the authors of the bill explain. “However, from the point of view of the law, the so-called cohabitation is not recognized and does not give rise to any legal consequences, which puts the members of such a union in a very vulnerable position” . Therefore, he proposes to extend to the property acquired during the period of cohabitation, "the legal regime of property of the spouses": everything that is acquired by them during the period of cohabitation will be recognized as joint property.

"Completely redundant initiative"

The explanatory note to the document contains a reference to countries where such laws exist - Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, France and Germany. However, in Russia the reaction to such initiatives was rather restrained.

Oksana Pushkina, deputy chairman of the State Duma committee on family, women and children, said her new bill was "a little scary." “I think it’s right not to interfere legislatively in this area, because if adults want to get married, they will do it. And if they don’t want to, for any reason, then the legislator should not oblige them,” Pushkina said in a comment to the portal "There is a legal marriage. It must be entered into voluntarily. And automatically considering it concluded is a completely unnecessary initiative."

Photo: depositphotos/tonodiaz

In her opinion, the adoption of such an amendment to the Family Code will lead to numerous litigations, where one of the spouses will prove that the cohabitation lasted five years, and the other four and a half. "Nonsense will work," stated the deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children.

"There is a legal marriage. You must enter into it voluntarily. And automatically consider it concluded - a completely unnecessary initiative."

The Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation commented on the new legislative initiative even more harshly. “This law is aimed solely at the division of property, the question should not be like this, the responsibility of the spouses should not be financially motivated,” member of the Public Association Elina Zhgutova is sure. “The responsibility of the father, who often leaves the family, is unlikely to increase if he is forced to share property” .

According to Zhgutova, the new amendments to the Family Code will only legitimize "the vicious practice of so-called cohabitation." According to the results of an anonymous poll conducted in the Telegram messenger, 27% of respondents voted in favor of equating cohabitation with marriage, and 73% voted against.

The explanatory note to the new bill notes that "according to the Ministry of Labor, in 2016 the minimum number of marriages in the Russian Federation over the past 20 years was officially registered. " The new law is likely to help correct those statistics by allowing officials to equate "common-law" marriages with official ones. But it will not affect the attitude of Russians to the institution of family and marriage.

According to VTsIOM polls, 81% of Russians do not consider an unregistered marriage to be something reprehensible, and 60% are sure that the main motive for marriage is the birth of children. 79% of Russians are convinced that it is better to live in marriage than alone. And 12% prefer not to get married, stating something like "family life is not for me, and I'm simply not able to see the same person every day."

Today, when marriage has ceased to be an economic and social necessity, many more marriages are performed exclusively for love. This is supported by the dynamics of marriages and divorces: according to Rosstat, in 2017 there were almost 47,000 more marriages than in 2016. At the same time, the number of divorces increased by only 3,000 in a year.

Photo: depositphotos/stokkete

As a result, 905.9 thousand marriages accounted for 505 thousand divorces last year. Most often, women file for divorce, among the most common causes of divorce are infidelity, drunkenness and assault. At the same time, as sociologists note, if in the 1960s after a divorce 30-40% of women remarried, today it is 70%.

Sologamy and hikikomori

The statistics of the number of official marriages in Russia is a faint shadow of the family crisis that is unfolding today in the developed countries of the world. We are not even talking about the spread of same-sex marriages.

By the way, when the US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage two years ago, the Israeli newspaper Maariv broke into a snide article about "when the whole world moves away from the tedious institution of marriage, the LGBT community is allowed to marry."

"My dear gays, before you joyfully plunge headlong into the pool called "marriage", know that even though only a third of marriages formally break up, it only means that everyone else suffers in silence, - wrote the author of the article Dror Rafael. “You get an equal opportunity to be unhappy, and equality is very important.”

But that's already yesterday. Today, sologamy, that is, marriage with oneself, is gaining popularity. The first such "marriage" was entered into in 1993 by American Linda Baker, and now this madness is already common in Europe. The movement's official website,, states that marriage to oneself promotes self-development and happiness, "an opportunity to make an announcement, formalize the situation, share self-love and sanctify it."

"Marriage with oneself promotes self-development and achievement of happiness, it is an opportunity to make an announcement, to formalize the situation, to share self-love and sanctify it."

Sociologists regard sologamy as "a natural result of the development of narcissism and individualism in modern culture based on social networks." “Marriage with oneself is a natural consequence of modern individualism, which goes much further than traditional individualism,” notes British sociologist John Horvath. “Traditional individualism somehow takes into account the limitations of traditions and customs. Postmodern individualism is based on the idea of ​​absolute human autonomy. People are told that they themselves are the only architects of their freedom and destiny, and the main goal of their life is an intoxicating race for the realization of their own interests.

The other side of the spread of these "new forms of family" is the unprecedented number of single people, which is becoming a huge social problem in developed countries. Last week, the UK even created the post of Minister for Loneliness. Tracey Crouch is appointed minister and will develop the country's first ever government strategy to combat loneliness.

On the other side of the globe, in Japan, the largest national newspaper, the Mainichi Shimbun, published a long article last week about hikikomori, people who deliberately isolate themselves from society. For the first time, the media started talking about them about ten years ago, then it was primarily about teenagers.

Photo: depositphotos/inesbazdar

In 2010, the first nationwide study was conducted, according to which the number of people "who do not go to school or work for more than six months" amounted to about 700 thousand people. Now their number has been reduced to about 540 thousand people. However, the number of Japanese who have been in a state of hikikomori for more than seven years has increased from 17 to 35%. It was found that this syndrome is becoming protracted, as well as that people of more and more older age categories are now subject to it.

In Japan, 45% of women and more than 25% of men between the ages of 16 and 24 said they were "not interested in sex and despise it".

Today, most hikikomori are among Japanese over 40 years old. Moreover, the average duration of self-isolation from society in this age group is more than 22 years. But this is not the only trouble: in parallel with the hikikomori problem, the Japanese are discussing a new social phenomenon - the "80-50 problem". The crux of the problem is that more and more parents aged 80-89years continue to financially support their 50-60-year-old sons and daughters.

Last year, Japanese society was shocked by the results of a sociological study, which the media called the "celibacy syndrome." A wide-ranging sociological survey found that 61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34 had never been in a romantic relationship.

45% of women and more than 25% of men aged 16 to 24 said they were "not interested in sexual contact and despise it". Based on these surveys, Japanese demographers have made a forecast according to which the population of the Land of the Rising Sun will decrease by a third by 2060.

Rubchenko Maxim

society family legislation

Convention on Consent to Marriage, Age of Marriage and Registration of Marriages - Conventions and Agreements - Declarations, Conventions, Agreements and Other Legal Materials

Opened for signature and ratification by General Assembly resolution 1763 A (XVII) dated 7 November 1962

The Contracting States

Desiring in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion,

meaning that article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides:

“1) Men and women who have reached the age of majority have the right, without any restriction on grounds of race, nationality or religion, to marry and found a family. They enjoy the same rights in relation to entering into marriage, during the state of marriage and upon its dissolution.

2) Marriage may only be entered into with the free and full consent of both parties to the marriage,

Also bearing in mind that the General Assembly of the United Nations, in resolution 843 (IX) of 17 December 1954, held that certain customs, obsolete laws and practices relating to marriage and the family were contrary to the principles set forth in the Charter of the Organization of the United Nations and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

Reaffirming that all States, including those bearing or assuming responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories pending their independence, should take all appropriate measures to abolish such practices obsolete laws and practices through, inter alia, full freedom to choose a spouse, the total abolition of child marriage and pre-puberty pre-marriage agreements for girls, the imposition, where necessary, of appropriate penalties and the establishment of a civil registry or other about a register in which all marriages would be registered,

hereby agree as follows:

Article 1

having the right to formalize the marriage, and in the presence of witnesses.

2. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 1 of this article, the presence of one of the parties is not required if the appropriate competent authority is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances and that this party, before any competent authority and in the manner prescribed by law, has declared consent and did not take it back.

Article 2

The States Parties to this Convention shall enact legislation establishing a minimum age for marriage. Marriage shall not be entered into with a person under the prescribed age, unless the competent authority, in the interests of the parties to the marriage, authorizes an exception to this rule for serious reasons.

Article 3

All marriages are registered by the competent authority in the appropriate official register.

Article 4

1. This Convention is open until 31 December 1963 for signature by all States Members of the United Nations or of any specialized agency and by any other States invited by the General Assembly of the United Nations to become parties to this Convention.

2. This Convention is subject to ratification. Instruments of ratification shall be deposited with the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Article 5

1. This Convention shall be open for accession to all States referred to in Article 4, paragraph 1.

2. Accession shall be effected by the deposit of an instrument of accession with the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Article 6

1. This Convention shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of the deposit of the eighth instrument of ratification or accession.

2. For each State which ratifies or accedes to this Convention after the eighth instrument of ratification or accession has been deposited, this Convention shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after the deposit by that State of its instrument of ratification or accession.

Article 7

1. Any Contracting State may denounce this Convention by written notification addressed to the Secretary General of the United Nations. The denunciation shall take effect one year from the date of receipt of this notification by the Secretary General.

2. This Convention shall cease to be in force on the date of entry into force of a denunciation which reduces the number of Parties to eight.

Article 8

Any dispute arising between any two or more Contracting States concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention not settled by negotiation shall, at the request of all parties to the dispute, be submitted to the International Court of Justice for decision, unless the parties agree otherwise.

Article 9

The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall notify all States Members of the United Nations and non-Members of the United Nations referred to in paragraph 1 of Article 4 of this Convention of the following:

a ) signing the Convention and receiving instruments of ratification in accordance with article 4;

b ) on receipt of certificates of accession in accordance with Article 5;

c ) on the date on which this Convention enters into force in accordance with Article 6;

d ) of notices of denunciation received under paragraph 1 of article 7;

e ) that the Convention ceases to be in force pursuant to article 7, paragraph 2.

Learn more