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Problems with the In-Laws

TOUCH Family Life

Problems with the In-Laws

Conflicts with in-laws are a common issue. They arise out of differences in personalities, perspectives and expectations that both you and your in-laws have, as well as different life stages and experiences.

Having conflicts is not necessarily bad but the inability to manage them is. TOUCH Family Life sheds light on in-law relationships and what couples can do to manage

There are five common reasons for conflict between in-laws:

  1. Children

    Preferences in parenting and upbringing styles in relation to developmental needs, disciplinary methods, as well as what works and what does not may be viewed differently by both you and your in-laws.

  2. Differences in perspectives

    Your views on certain issues may differ vastly from that of your in-laws due to the different life stages and the different experiences that both of you have gone through. For example, you and your spouse may feel that absolute candour and voicing out your disagreements on a regular basis helps with open communication and is a way to strengthen your marriage. However, your in-laws may disagree and encourage both of you to give in to each other to avoid any arguments which may harm your marriage in the long run.

  3. Level of connectedness of family of origin

    People from families that are more connected and close-kit tend to value family routines which allow them to spend time and do things together. For example, your in-laws may enjoy speaking to you and your spouse over the phone every other day and insist on family dinners every weekend to spend time together as a family. On the other hand, people from families which aren’t as close-knit may observe more flexibility when it comes to family gatherings or spending time together.  Depending on your personal preference, you may find such practices and demands excessive. The difference in what is valued and emphasised in different families may give rise to conflicts.

  4. Family traditions and practices

    For some people, celebrating special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and milestones in life, is a way to build relationship significance. Others may be less enthusiastic about these events and just view them as tasks or duties that need to be fulfilled. The unmatched significance given to such events by in-laws and the couple may potentially turn into a point of contention.   

  5. Inability to adapt and to manage conflicts
    Everyone is different. We have different expectations, personal preferences, and approaches to certain issues. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

According to relationship expert Dr John Gottman, couples often fight about 69% of unsolvable issues such as the five listed above.

To manage the relationship, you could seek to understand your in-laws and try your best to accommodate. However, you are certainly not alone in this. Your spouse can also play a huge part in managing in-law issues!

How can I support my spouse during in-law conflicts?

You are your spouse’s best pillar of support. Suppose your spouse and your parent are having a disagreement. You will need to step in and speak with each of them separately to understand the situation. You can support your spouse by being understanding and present for him/her when he/she needs to talk. Additionally, you can choose to let your spouse know that you are on the same team as him/her.

There are skills you can learn to manage solvable and unsolvable issues. Be aware of and learn to manage the negative and repeated patterns before the relationship deteriorates.  Focus on building strength and trust in relationship – these are the positive aspects of your relationship.

In all relationships, it is useful to keep reminding ourselves that someone’s behaviour does not always equate to their intention. It is also useful to practise empathy and be respectful when communicating with your in-laws. In-laws are also parents and they would want to see their child’s marriage succeed.


Is your marriage getting affected by conflicts with your in-laws? TOUCH Family is here to help. Contact us at 6709 8400 or [email protected] to find out about our counselling services.

Interested in equipping yourself with useful handles to strengthen your family? Check out our family life education talks and workshops here!

TOUCH Family aims to build strong and fulfilling families, and promote the well-being of individuals and families in need. It impacts over 12,500 families and individuals each year through family-based services and programmes, and strives to provide a holistic integrated service to serve the needs of every person and family at every stage of their lives.