If your partner is having in-law problems, it is up to you as the son or daughter of the intrusive or disrespectful in-laws to set the boundaries to protect your partner. If your partner feels disrespected or mistreated by your family, it is best to deal with it as soon as possible.

It does not matter if it is obvious rudeness or passive aggressive behavior, it is important to address early on. If your attitude is, that's just the way Mom, Dad or Aunt Tilda is and you expect your partner to just smile and put up with mistreatment, you are setting them up for a lot of unnecessary hurt. It is almost inevitable that resentment will build, probably on both side and the end result will not be the harmonious relationship for which you had been hoping.

It is your job as the family member to set the boundaries with your family—to in a sense become an adult in your families eyes. The message that you need to give is simple, “This is my husband (or wife) and you will be respectful to him (or her) or we will not be here.”

If you are the in-law it is vital that you be respectful and probably quite patient. If you choose to not take offence, even if offence is intended and maintain a curious rather than judgmental attitude you will have a better chance of being accepted into the family.

Setting healthy boundaries with in-laws is a two pronged approach. First, the son or daughter must make sure their family knows and understands that disrespect and mistreatment will not be tolerated, ignored or brushed aside. Second, you as a couple must choose to set an example of respectful behavior toward the in-laws. Reacting inappropriately to inappropriate behavior does not improve the situation. You have probably heard that two wrongs do not make a right.

At times setting boundaries with family members can be extremely difficult, especially if respect is not already part of the family culture. In some families, certain members are not treated with respect, making it doubly difficult to protect the partner of that person. These instances require setting healthy boundaries, not only for your partner, but for yourself. Setting healthy boundaries with your parents means that you will need to find ways to tolerate them being upset with you, learn to take a deep breath and not to take on the guilt for upsetting them. If for example, either parent starts to criticize you or insist that you must do things their way, simply excuse yourself by smiling and saying something like, “It seems like this might be a bad time, I will come back later.” Then leave quickly, not allowing time for guilt tripping or berating.

If you are consistent and persistent you can set healthy boundaries with your parents for yourself and your partner. In most cases families will come around to respecting the boundaries you set. They typically want to have you in their life and will in time most likely choose to behave more respectfully in order to spend time with you. Yes they will apply a lot of change back pressure, especially at first, as they will prefer you to behave the way you did before. But if you are firm, the chances of having more harmonious relationships between you and your parents, between your parents and your spouse and between yourself and your spouse will increase greatly.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.P.C., C.P.C.
Professional Counselor & Life Coach
Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course
Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples
Offers a free Nurturing Marriage Ezine