Does your body cringe when your future in-laws appear on your caller ID? Do you avoid contact with the future in-laws as much as possible because you can’t stand the drama? And when you spend time with them, you can’t wait to leave? Does this sound familiar? If so, you aren’t alone.

Thousands of couples face this issue on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Marriage isn’t just between you and your fiancé; you’re also marrying the entire family. The wedding date is getting closer and you are ready to tie the knot and commit your entire life with your partner.

But what happens when your partner comes with baggage: the dramatic in-laws?

It’s very common for couples to complain and get frustrated with their partner’s parents. Here are a few tips on how to survive your marriage (and life) with the future drama in-laws: 

Get Your Partner’s Help

If you’re struggling with an issue involving your future in-laws, get your partner’s help to address the issue. Get your fiancé’s support and share your struggles. Ask for help. Your partner survived a life with his or her parents — find out how. You may discover the issue you face is common with the parents and has nothing to do with you personally. This issue with the future in-laws is a great opportunity for you and your partner to become a team. Take this as a challenge and learn how to handle the drama together. I dare you!

Address the Issue Directly

People can’t fix a problem if they don’t know something is broken. Give the in-laws a chance to correct the issue and work through it with you by addressing it head-on. Share with them how their behavior is impacting you and set a boundary. You can either address it in person, over the telephone or in a letter. Express to them in a loving and non-confrontational way how the issue is impacting you.

Fake it ‘til You Make It

If your future in-laws tend to be defensive, critical and not open to looking at their issues, you’ve probably learned that addressing problems puts you at a dead-end with no resolution. If the time spent with the future in-laws is minimal, sometimes avoiding the issue can be the best medicine. Put on a smile, take a deep breath and fake your way through the drama. The rule for some in-law relationships is, "The fewer waves in the water, the better." 

Find the Happy Medium

Having conflict with the in-laws can often drive a wedge between a couple. If you two can’t seem to find a way to completely correct the issue, find a middle ground. Don’t jump to saying "no" or disregarding your partner’s ideas right away. Instead, sit down with a pen and paper and brainstorm options to manage the issue. Write as many options as possible and figure out what tools may work for you two. Use this issue as a practice to learn how to problem solve as a team. Find the happy medium for both of you — it’s possible. This will simply require you to get creative.


Whether you’re spending a weekend with the family or meet weekly for lunch, it may be wise to take a time-out to decompress. Parents will be parents, and it will be your job to unwind and calm down. Take a mini-break by merely stepping outside for a breather, skipping the next family dinner or taking a longer bathroom break. Use this time to calm your nerves and remember the importance of your marriage.

Release the Steam

You might find yourself getting more and more agitated as you keep your feelings to yourself. The more you put it on the backburner, the more the feelings boil and create a pressure-cooker response. Don’t wait until you explode. Find a way to let out your frustrations in a healthy and productive manner by simply writing about your irritations, talking to a close friend or going for a run. 

Take Small Steps

Small steps lead to big change. If the goal is to create a space where everyone is getting along, but right now you can hardly stand hearing their name, take baby steps. Small steps may be answering the phone and talking to the future in-laws for a few minutes, or sending them a card with a few photos of you and your partner. Go at a pace that makes you feel comfortable, yet also shows that you are willing to take steps for your marriage. 

Jennine E. Estes is a marriage and family therapist in San Diego. Learn more about Jennine at Estes Therapy or visit her Relationship Column at Relationships in the Raw.


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