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How to Protect Your Wife from Your Parents
Husbands listen up! Your wife needs you to back them up around your parents, here's how.

When visiting during the holidays, be sure to have your ground rules established.

Do you often feel caught in a miserable game of tug-o-war between pleasing your wife and your parents? Your behavior plays a key role in how well your spouse gets along with your mom and dad. When a man marries, he is supposed to transfer his loyalty from his folks to his bride. Loving parents gracefully step aside and encourage their son to make his wife a priority over them. Unfortunately, many parents try to make their son feel guilty whenever he tries to be a loyal husband. You can strengthen your marriage this holiday season by applying these tips:

1. Ask your wife how you can be a loyal husband during the next visit with your family. She may be anticipating problem scenarios and be thrilled to know you want to lessen her anxiety. You can say something like, "Honey, I want to help make your visits with my family as enjoyable as possible. Tell me how I can be a supportive husband."

2. If your spouse brings up incidents from past holiday arguments, apologize if necessary and learn what you can do in the future to strengthen your marriage. Resist the urge to defend your parents' behavior and your own behavior. Realize your spouse may have legitimate concerns rather than accusing her of being paranoid or overly sensitive. Here's something you could say, "I'm sorry you felt that I betrayed you in the past. I'm going to try harder from now on to make sure everyone knows you are my first priority. I hope you'll be patient with me because I probably won't get it perfect overnight."

3. Stand united when dealing with your parents. If you and your wife agree in advance about how to respond if your folks behave in a controlling manner, then make sure you follow through. Focus on being a great husband instead of a parent pleaser. Here are some things you could say:

* "Mom, I'm not willing to listen to you gossip about my wife. I expect you to talk to her directly if you have a problem with her."
* "Dad, I'm sorry you disagree, but this isn't your decision. My wife and I are in charge of the decisions about raising our kids."
* "Mom, I'm not willing to discuss [our finances / sex life] with you. That's a private matter between my wife and me."

4. Learn to let your parents (and siblings) be upset with you. Just because they may think you or your wife are rude or disrespectful doesn't mean you actually are. Their opinions aren't fact. Draw reasonable boundaries as needed in a respectful manner. Eventually they will learn to accept your new behavior as normal. Here are some ways you can respond if your parents have a negative reaction to your assertive behavior:

* "This isn't up for negotiation, let's discuss something else instead."
* "I'm sorry you don't approve, but we've made our decision."
* "Tell me what you're thinking instead of [rolling your eyes / shaking your head in disgust / giving me the silent treatment].
*"Your guilt trips aren't going to work on me anymore."
* "It isn't okay for you to treat my wife this way. I hope you'll decide to change your behavior, otherwise we will limit our contact with you."

You have the ability to bring out the best or the worst in your wife. The next time there is a conflict between her and your parents, take a look at your own behavior and make sure your loyalty is where it should be.

Jenna D. Barry is the author of "A Wifeís Guide to In-laws: How to Gain Your Husbandís Loyalty Without Killing His Parents." Please visit her website at www.WifeGuide.org to join her support group or find a list of recommended counselors.

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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