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In-Laws Say Daughter-in-Law Is Not Family
A reader puts her foot down when the in-laws say she's not family. Dr. K. steps in with advice.


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One daughter-in-law finds herself on the outside looking in.


Even if it is his family thatís problematic, you canít change them, but you can change how you act.”
For three years I have been in a battle with my in-laws. They always tell me that, and I quote, "I am not a family member." Because of this, I need advice as to what to do? My husband is pushing me over the edge because he wants them in my house. I don't want them around me at all and I have told him, "I have a family and I don't need his." It seems like there will never be hope to get along with them. I would like to try, but I don't even know where to start. Please help!

Many people now realize that good relationships take effort. In fact, it takes a lot of tending to one another and mindful relating to make a marriage be satisfying. It would be nice to think that if you do this, all else falls into place; however, the reality is that often you donít just marry your spouse. In most cases, you also marry their family! And that certainly becomes complicated. What varies is the extent to which in-laws are involved.

It must feel awful to be told that you are "not a family member." You also write that you have told your husband, "I have a family and I donít need this." Any time emotions are involved, itís hard to tell "which is the chicken and which is the egg." In other words, who provoked whom by what actions, words, or messages?

What Iím really impressed with is your desire to make a change. Even if it is his family thatís problematic, you canít change them, but you can change how you act. Can your husband give you any insight as to why his family is upset with you? If he can, then you can try to respond to those points and act accordingly.

Even if he isnít able to shed any light on the circumstances, you might want to speak directly to one of his family members. Start with the one who you feel is most approachable. When you do so, shoulder the responsibility. You can say something like, "Iíve noticed thereís some tension between us and Iím wondering if Iíve inadvertently upset you. If there is, Iíd like to correct it."

Finally, I generally believe that blood talks to blood. It may be advantageous if your husband speaks to his family to try to smooth out the problems. Heíll need to hear their side so that they feel validated but take yours, as you are his wife.

For some people, standing up for oneís spouse to oneís family of origin creates difficulty; it raises some unresolved childhood issues. Should this be the case, try to understand that itís not so much about his caring about you, but his own internal concerns. Youíll need to validate his hesitation while letting him know how it sends you the message that youíre unimportant. It may even require that you get some outside help to deal with this situation.

Again, I commend you for wanting to address this matter and do something about it. Itís a great attitude that is certainly an excellent first step!

Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is the author of "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice: Transform Your Life" and co-author of "Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make it Last." You can sign up for her free monthly newsletter with relationship tips at www.ChoiceRelationships.com




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