My in-laws frustrate me a lot. How do I maintain a good relationship with them?

"The relationship with my husband is also strained with ongoing drama by my in-laws"

Haya Malik

Dear Haya,

I need your help! The issues happening in my life and my relationship with my in-laws have kept me frustrated for the last three years.

Ever since we got married, I have tried building a good relationship with my husband’s family. I’ve invested my time, energy and have genuinely cared for them. But despite my sincere efforts, I find myself stuck amid misunderstandings and tensions that seem to escalate with time.

The reason why this happens is that they expect good from me all the time, but aren’t ready to do the same, so conflicting expectations, communication breakdowns and the continous feeling of not being fully accepted have led to increased frustration, eventually affecting my mental health and relationships with my husband and in-laws.

As much as I cherish the relationship with my spouse, the strain caused due to the ongoing drama from my in-laws has become a source of emotional distress for both of us. I find myself torn between maintaining peace for the sake of the family and the realisation that the current situation is taking a toll on my emotional health. It's challenging to understand whether to continue navigating this situation or to step back for the sake of my peace of mind.

I am turning to you for advice on how to manage my relationship with both my husband and in-laws. How can one strike a balance between familial expectations and personal boundaries? I would appreciate any advice or tips you can offer.

— Frustrated by in-laws

My in-laws frustrate me a lot. How do I maintain a good relationship with them?

Dear reader,

I hear that you're experiencing a significant amount of frustration and distress due to the challenges in your relationship with your in-laws. It's commendable that you've invested time and energy in trying to build a positive connection with them. The conflicting expectations and communication breakdowns you're facing are indeed common sources of tension.

In approaching this situation, it is essential to consider the dynamics at play and work towards finding a balance between familial expectations and your personal boundaries.

Relationships are complex and require mutual effort, respect, value, communication and mutual expectation management.

Expecting something from someone and not being willing to do the same is bound to have an impact on you and your mental health.

Let’s explore this from a therapeutic lens.

It is important to accept and acknowledge your feelings and the impact they are having on your well-being. I hear you feeling conflicted in terms of cherishing the relationship with your spouse but the emotional strain becoming stressful. Both these experiences can co-exist at the same time. You can deeply cherish the bond with your husband and feel emotionally distressed.

Secondly, I would encourage you to begin by having open and honest communication with your spouse. Tell him how you feel and the impact it is having on you and the relationship. Effective communication can be a key factor in resolving misunderstandings and strengthening relationships.

I also hear you feeling conflicted about whether you should continue to navigate or step back.

What does “step back” mean for you? We would need to explore and gain clarity on that.

Thirdly, the query that concerns me the most is related to boundaries. Both, with yourself and others. Let’s deep dive into this.

What are boundaries? A boundary is a limit you set on what you will accept of another's behaviour, how you allow others to treat you and what to expect from you. Take time to understand and explore what you would like your boundaries to look like, and what boundaries are important to you and then communicate the same to your spouse and in-laws.

Often people get scared of creating boundaries because they presume it’s a way to push people away, instead, it's quite the opposite. It's teaching other people how to love you better and what you will and will not tolerate.

Maintaining boundaries will allow you to feel more in control of yourself and your identity, more in line with what you want and need and influence others’ behaviours. They will allow you to maintain positive mental health, be assertive, avoid burnout, raise your confidence, raise self-respect, take ownership of yourself and be clear about your wants and needs. (Sounds like a superpower, doesn’t it?!)

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to begin, I encourage you to work with a therapist to explore your wants and needs and explore strategies to assist you in your process in addition to focusing on self-care practices that will boost your wellbeing.

At the end of the day, no one besides ourselves is responsible for taking care of our emotional health.

Take a step back and do what you need to do to boost your well-being.

Last but not least, remember that seeking guidance is a courageous step, and it's okay to prioritise your well-being. Balancing familial expectations and personal boundaries is an ongoing process, and with support, you can work towards creating healthier dynamics within your relationships. After all the most important relationship we have is with ourselves which sets the tone for all other relationships in our lives.

— Haya

My in-laws frustrate me a lot. How do I maintain a good relationship with them?

Haya Malik is a psychotherapist, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner, corporate well-being strategist and trainer with expertise in creating organisational cultures focused on well-being and raising awareness around mental health.

Send her your questions to [email protected]

Note: The advice and opinions above are those of the author and specific to the query. We strongly recommend our readers to consult relevant experts or professionals for personalised advice and solutions. The author and do not assume any responsibility for the consequences of actions taken based on the information provided herein. All published pieces are subject to editing to enhance grammar and clarity.