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Why Do In-Laws Sometimes Become A Source Of Tension?

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It’s a scenario that happens quite often: Two people fall in love, get married, and over time, an uneasy dynamic develops between the two sets of parents. Research has shown that families with difficult in-laws experience more conflict than those without them.

So why do some in-laws prove so challenging? From unresolved past issues and unmet expectations to clashes of personality, there can be many reasons for tension between family members who hadn’t met before marriage.

A closer look at these dynamics can help us better understand their causes, how they manifest themselves, and how we may be able to navigate them while maintaining healthy relationships within our extended family circles.

Definition of In-Laws and Their Role in The Family

In-laws play an important role in our family life, bridging the gap between two generations and providing a connection to another set of family values, customs, and traditions. For example, they may provide insight into different parenting styles or help bring grandparents and grandchildren together. In-laws can also be valuable sources of support during difficult times — from helping out with childcare to providing an empathetic ear when needed.

At the same time, in-laws can pose challenges that may have yet to be anticipated before marriage. There can be plenty of potential for conflict, from confusion over expectations and roles within the family to a lack of understanding between two different family cultures.

Common Reasons For In-Law Conflict

For some couples, in-law conflict is a source of tension that can be managed and worked through. For others, however, it can be an ongoing problem that leads to a breakdown in family relationships.

Some of the possible causes for tensions between in-laws include:

  • Unrealistic expectations from either family member may involve unrealistic expectations regarding roles, responsibilities, or beliefs about how a family should function.
  • Personality clashes between in-laws – This may be caused by differences in opinion, lifestyle, or values that can prove difficult to reconcile.
  • Established family patterns and traditions – these established patterns and traditions can be hard to change, and if one set of in-laws is reluctant to accept new traditions, this can create friction.
  • Lack of communication – misunderstandings within a family are often the result of a lack of effective communication between two sets of people who don’t know each other very well.

Managing In-Law Conflict

Although managing conflict with your in-laws is not always easy, there are steps that couples can take to help ease the tension. These include:

  • Taking time to get to know each other better – it’s important to remember that in-laws are people too, and by taking the time to understand their interests and values, we can build stronger bonds with them.
  • Setting boundaries – both sides of a couple should be clear about what they expect from each other. This clarity will help avoid misunderstandings and allow both in-laws to respect each other’s space.
  • Being honest – it can be tempting to try and please everyone, but being honest with your in-laws about why you disagree with them or how you feel can help build trust between the two sides of a family.
  • Taking time out – if tensions build, it’s important to take a step back and give each other some space rather than letting frustration get the better of you.

In-laws can be an invaluable source of support for couples — but they can also be a source of tension and conflict if not managed correctly. By understanding the causes of in-law conflict and taking steps to manage them, couples can ensure that their in-laws positively influence their family life.

Resolving In-Law Conflict: Tips For Couples

No matter the cause of the tension between you and your in-laws, there are ways for couples to work through it together. Here are some tips for resolving in-law conflict:

  • Have an open and honest discussion – communication is key to creating a strong relationship with your in-laws. Talk through any issues and ensure everyone’s opinions are heard.
  • Acknowledge each other’s feelings – try to understand why someone may feel the way they do, even if you don’t agree. This will help create a more understanding environment and make it easier to reach an agreement that everyone is happy with.
  • Respect each other’s differences – each family has traditions, values, and beliefs, so be open to learning about each other’s perspectives. Respect for one another improves relationships between couples and their in-laws.
  • Find common ground – look for positive points of agreement between your families and embrace them. This will help build trust and create a better understanding between you all.
  • Set realistic expectations – be clear about what you expect from each other, but don’t set too high expectations. Unrealistic expectations can strain any relationship, so keep things reasonable.

Although tensions between in-laws can be difficult to manage, couples don’t have to do it alone. Seeking professional help from a marriage counselor or therapist may be beneficial if the conflict is too much. With understanding and communication, couples can ensure their relationship with in-laws remains positive.

Communication Strategies for Building Bridges With In-Laws

When it comes to building bridges with in-laws, communication is key. Here are some tips on how couples can communicate more effectively with their in-laws:

  • Listen – give your in-laws time and space to express their thoughts and feelings without interruption or judgment. This will help them feel heard and respected.
  • Avoid blame – focus on understanding and finding solutions rather than getting into arguments or placing blame.
  • Be respectful – use polite language and don’t make assumptions about the other person’s opinion. This will help to keep conversations positive and productive.
  • Check-in regularly – don’t avoid talking to your in-laws if things become difficult — instead, stay in touch and keep up communication. This will help you stay connected as a family.
  • Show appreciation – Let your in-laws know their support and advice are appreciated, even if it doesn’t always align with yours.


How can couples better manage in-law conflict?

Couples can better manage in-law conflict by getting to know each other better, setting boundaries, being honest, and taking time away if tensions build.

What are some other communication strategies for building bridges with in-laws?

Some communication strategies for building bridges with in-laws include listening, avoiding blame, being respectful, checking in regularly, and showing appreciation.

What professional help is available for managing in-law conflict?

Professional help such as marriage counseling or therapy may be beneficial if the conflict between a couple and their in-laws is too much to handle. A professional can provide guidance and assistance in helping couples better manage their relationship with their in-laws.


Navigating tensions between a couple and their in-laws can be difficult, but creating strong relationships full of respect and understanding is possible. By getting to know each other better, setting boundaries, being honest, and showing appreciation, couples can build bridges with their in-laws and ensure their relationship remains positive. Couples can also seek professional help to better manage the conflict between them and their in-laws.

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