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Advice on How to Live with Your In-Laws

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Family having meal in countryside
Monty Rakusen/Cultura RM/Riser/Getty Images
People end up living with their in-laws for a variety of reasons. Either one of you is having financial difficulties and living together helps you save money or someone is sick and requires special care or your culture requires that you live together. Whatever the reason in-laws live together, it is never an easy life. You’ll probably get on each other’s nerves. There will be times when either or both of you wants more privacy or independence. And resentment will likely build.

But there are some benefits to living together. You can save money and help each other. When you’re working late, perhaps your mother-in-law will cook dinner. Maybe your father-in-law will fix the dishwasher or pick up the kids from school. Things certainly are easier if the in-laws are able-bodied and can pitch in. The biggest positive is that you all get to know each other well and can really become a family.

Still, living with the in-laws will only work if you put in effort and prepare properly. Here are some ways you can make living with the in-laws easier for everyone:

Set boundaries: Before moving in together, talk to your spouse about what life is going to be like living with the in-laws. Come up with some ground rules for everyone. For example, we’ll take turns taking out the garbage and making meals to avoid having one person feel like all the household responsibilities land on his or her shoulders. Another rule might be that you and your spouse must have at least one night a week to yourselves. The important thing is to create some guidelines that will help you get along and feel comfortable regardless of who is living with you.

Find privacy: One thing married couples, especially newlyweds need, is privacy. It’s the only way to have intimacy and to get to know each other better and to build your own family. Although it will be more difficult to have privacy when living with the in-laws, there are things you can do. Even if you have a small home or apartment, you should designate certain areas that are either off limits to you or to your in-laws. You and your spouse should have your own room if possible. All the better if you and your in-laws can have your own apartments with little kitchens within the same complex or building. Then, you don’t have to see each other all the time, and it is like having your independence but still relying on one another or fulfilling obligations.

Stay out of family arguments: Now that your spouse is living with his or her original family, he or she might revert to being a kid again. He or she might feel a bit trapped or resentful about the situation and it could lead to arguments with his or her parents. If your husband or wife starts fighting with the primary family, stay out of it. Go into another room and try to breathe. Let them ride it out together. Sometimes, the arguments happen just until everyone gets used to living together and finds his or her own rhythm.

Pick your battles: Besides staying out of arguments your spouse is having with his or her original family, you should avoid getting into arguments with your in-laws yourself. Sometimes, they will say or do things that will bother or annoy you. Speak up when you have no other choice. For instance, if your mother-in-law keeps walking into your bedroom unannounced, you have to tell her that she must knock first. If your brother-in-law eats in his underwear every morning, you can feel free to ask him to get dressed before coming down to breakfast. On the other hand, if your mother-in-law makes one fleeting comment about your family’s behavior at the wedding, then let it go. It’s consistent behavior or comments that you have to address.

Ask for help when you need it: Living with the in-laws can bring on all sorts of stress and emotions for everyone. If the situation becomes overwhelming and everyone is fighting all the time or just plain sick of one another, see a family therapist or counselor. An objective party might be able to help you work things out and make the living situation less stressful. There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. If the living situation is hurting your marriage, you might also consider seeing a marriage counselor or finding a way to live a more separate life from your in-laws. Your marriage should remain the number one priority.

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