Guide to (Scary) In-Law Types A guide to knowing the six types of scary in-laws that can strain or ruin your marriage. BY JENNA D. BARRY
Don't let your in-laws scare you. Identify their type and deal with them accordingly.
“ These in-laws are too arrogant and self-centered to concern themselves with whether or not their behavior hurts you.”
I have fond childhood memories of Halloween and was never particularly scared as some kids are. However, now that Iím an adult, what really scares me is the high divorce rate in America. Having difficult in-laws is one of the top reasons for marital unhappiness.
In-laws are often stereotyped unfairly. Many, if not most, married couples have wonderful in-laws who treat them with kindness and respect. However, as indicated by countless posts from wives in my support group, it is not uncommon for in-laws to have such destructive behavior that it poses a real threat to marriages.
While in-laws donít always fit into neat little categories, here are some descriptions to help you and your spouse learn more about them:
Type 1 In-laws: These in-laws have absolutely no idea their behavior hurts you and they would be sad to learn that it did. While you are seething with anger, they may be totally oblivious to the fact that they are a source of tension in your marriage. It may be obvious to you that they trample over your needs as a couple, but they may not realize it. Chances are if you respectfully let them know how you want them to behave, they will be humble and willing to change.
Type 2 In-laws: These in-laws can sense that their behavior upsets you, but they donít know what to do about it. They are willing to change but again donít know how. They will keep behaving in their old familiar pattern until someone (you and/or your spouse) teaches them a new behavior pattern in a respectful way.
Type 3 In-laws: These in-laws are aware that they are hurting you. They know how to change and are trying to change, but they need a little more time. Theyíre still in the process of replacing old, unhealthy behaviors with new healthy ones. If your in-laws fit into this category, chances are they will improve their behavior if you are persistent in (1) respectfully communicating your needs and (2) offering them praise whenever they make an effort to respect those needs.
Type 4 In-laws: These in-laws are aware that their behavior is hurting your marriage. They know how to change, but they donít want to change. Their relationship with their son or daughter is more important to them than the success of your marriage. If you respectfully confront them, they will likely overreact and use the situation as a way to draw pity from their offspring in order to turn them against you. If you hold your ground as they sulk, pout, whine, cry and blame, they will probably change their behavior, although theyíll complain about having to do so.
Type 5 In-laws: These in-laws say they want a better relationship with you, but then ignore every suggestion you give on how to change their behavior. They refuse to respect your boundaries and then complain to their child that they canít understand why you donít like them. It can be extremely difficult to maintain control of a verbal confrontation with them because they have subtle, manipulative ways of controlling conversations. Instead of apologizing for overlooking your needs, they will focus on how you are hurting them by having needs that conflict with theirs. Or they may offer an insincere apology while at the same time denying any wrongdoing by saying you misunderstood them or they were just kidding. Their goal is to maintain their saintly image while making you look like the bad guy.
Type 6 In-laws: These in-laws are too arrogant and self-centered to concern themselves with whether or not their behavior hurts you. They think that because they have done so much for you, you owe it to them to do anything they want you to do. Chances are, even if you and your husband communicate your needs a million times in a respectful manner, they will no sooner change their behavior than pull watermelons out of their nostrils. If you confront them about their destructive behavior, they will say you are overreacting and being too sensitive, rude, selfish, and/or disrespectful.
The more knowledgeable you become about in-laws, the more equipped you will be to prevent them from becoming an obstacle in your marriage.