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How to Deal With Your Overbearing In-laws

Updated on April 11, 2014
Anger issues
Anger issues

Let's talk for a few minutes about

you and your in-laws. I know that this is a sensitive area, but I think it is time we dealt with this in a civil and adult manner. And just maybe, those with overbearing and high-strung in-laws will gain confidence in building a peaceful, loving relationship with them.

Don't be fooled

this will not be easy, or accomplished overnight. It's like the old saying that anything worth having is worth working for.

A hateful, threatening in-law
A hateful, threatening in-law

Examples of overbearing in-laws

An uncle who is never happy
An uncle who is never happy
A know- it- all grandpa who must see your computer screen
A know- it- all grandpa who must see your computer screen
A self- centered sister- in- law
A self- centered sister- in- law
A combative second sister- in- law
A combative second sister- in- law
A pack of annoying nieces and nephews
A pack of annoying nieces and nephews

In the early-going
of your relationship with your sweet wife, you seemingly were in good with your mother and father-in-law, and your wife's two siblings, a teenage brother and adolescent sister. It wasn't a "bed of roses," but you figured that you are marrying your wife not her family.

That thinking might have been mature, but it doesn't serve you that well right now.


Well, the simple fact is that your sweet wife has easily talked you into having a sit-down meeting and dinner with all of her loving in-laws so they can get to know you and be more comfortable around you.

Truth is, easier said than done.

Needless to say, your sit-down
get-acquainted dinner to meet your in-laws was in simple terms, a train wreck. None of your sweet wife's family like you in the least. Someone always had something smart-alecky to say about how you dressed, talked, and even ate your stuffed crab.

But you sat and took it like a man. I will give you that.

And somewhere between your in-laws mispronouncing your name on-purpose to laugh at you and spilling the green beans (on your new shirt) on purpose to keep laughing at you, you made a vow. You said in your heart that if this were to do over, you would come into this gathering armed to the teeth and ready for each encounter.

Okay. We can do that. I have the power

I am the creator of this story. So back we travel back through time to the evening where you are to go with your sweet wife to meet her family and let them look you over and get to know you better.

First off, let's start at the beginning of this sit-down, get-acquainted meeting.

The Do Not's

  1. Do not be the first to offer your hand to shake or your neck to be hugged. You are worth something, so act like it.
  2. Establish a perimeter with your in-laws and defend it.
  3. Grin a lot or smile a lot. Be of moderate-mind. No one likes anyone who goes "whole hog" all of the time.
  4. When these overbearing, self-important in-laws say something ignorant and do not get their facts straight, let them. Do not start off correcting those who will not be corrected and people who "think" they are always right will NOT allow themselves to be corrected.
  5. If these people ask you to talk a little about yourself, do it. Talk a little about yourself. You might say, "well, there's really not that much to say," and keep your mouth shut. It does not serve you to give them every bit of information about you and besides is it really any of their business?
  6. Listen to these in-laws more than talk. Make them out to be more important and there will be no feuding or friction.

The Do's

  1. Brag on your in-laws all you can. The more time you are stroking their ego's the less time they have to find fault with you.
  2. When the opportunity arises, let your in-laws interrupt you as much as possible. Deceive them into believing that you are a "panty-waist," and cannot defend yourself. And just when they think they have you "on the ropes," start landing "wisdom bombs," on them right and left until they are stunned and speechless.
  3. Stare intensely into their eyes as this dinner progresses. Staring at another person makes them edgy and nervous and stutter when they speak. You see. You do not have to say one word to win this victory.
  4. When the in-laws share something, no matter how trivial you think it is, "act" like this is the greatest news you have ever heard. Now if you have some background in community theatre, this will help, but if you do not, just fake it.
  5. Use this term, "Gee, I never knew that," as mush as possible. It is much better to be thought of as unlearned than learned and hated by those around you.
  6. Brag a lot on whomever prepared the meal. If it was your mother-in-law, father-in-law or second-cousin, "pretend" you have never had a meal as good as this. NOTE: it is always good to have a cook on your side.

BE HONEST: Do you get along with your in-laws?

See results
A hateful father- in- law
A hateful father- in- law

Things to Look For

  • Physical challenges - if the more-muscular of your in-laws, your sister-in-laws or brother-in-laws want to challenge you to an arm-wrestling match, accept it, but allow them to win. Oh, do not be obvious. Try to win. Make grimaces, but give-in and allow your in-law to win. Shake their hand and act humble.
  • If your in-law's have a need to make fun of you, laugh as they slur you and insult your education and other attributes. A good sport is a winning sport.
  • Do not make this meeting an open-competition. The in-law's jobs are better than yours. Their cars, homes, hats. It doesn't matter. If you try to compete, you will threaten them and who knows what they are capable of.
  • Act clumsy. I mean if they see you stumbling around, falling on the floor, they will be so relaxed that they will not find a reason to have a fist-fight with you.
  • If there is one pork chop left on the paper plate, do not reach for it. Let the in-law have it. You will have plenty of time to get your future sweet wife to cook pork chops for you.
  • Have a set time to leave arranged ahead of time with your sweet future wife. Believe this or not. Your in-laws are as crazy about staying in this grueling event as you are.

Things to Bring to The Get-Together

  • A bouquet of pretty flowers--which are always a great ice-breaker.
  • A fine wine if your in-laws are into drinking. If you think they will think you are uppity and high-class by bringing wine, bring a case of beer.
  • A nice spiral-cut ham. Food says, "I like you."
  • Several hundred-dollar gift cards to give away to show them you are a generous guy.

Be Sure That You

  • Take a long shower before you attend this festive-event.
  • Wear some clean and pressed trousers and a clean shirt.
  • Inspect yourself in the bathroom mirror before you leave. Make sure that you do not have bath tissue hanging precariously from the waist of your pants.
  • Wear plenty of AXE cologne.

"What's that I hear? Great! It's the Wedding March."

My hubs finally worked.


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    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear Catgypsy,

      You are so right. This, I never thought, would apply to more than meeting in-laws.

      I guess it can be named "tactical diplomacy."

      Say hi to your little one's.



    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, SheilaMyers,

      I agree with you. Be you at all times, for there are plenty of "friends" and family members who love to creep around and change what they do not like about you.

      Stick to your beliefs, my friend.

      And hopefully "Mr. Right," will understand and love you all of the time.

      Thank you for your nice comment.


    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Vandymegl,

      I admire you for your spunk in asking for space in your marriage. That did take guts. You got my vote for being a brave girl.

      But like you said, independence gained meant living with a tag and Black Sheep is not a pretty tag.

      I think you are a great girl.



    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Habee,

      So you got a free pass, so to speak, on meeting the in-laws. I didn't. But I was blessed with a wonderful father-in-law and mother-in-law who understood that my wife and I needed to learn things on our own and with no interference from them, my parents.

      We did learn. We did fail a lot. But when it came to good advice, we could always go to our parents.

      Thanks again.


    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Thank you for the kind remark. I appreciate you so much. I wish for you a safe and sane day.


    • catgypsy profile image


      4 years ago from the South

      Very good advice Kenneth. And it would apply to other situations as well Nice Hub :)

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I guess if Mr Right ever comes along and he has over-bearing family members, they just aren't going to like me. My number one rule is to be who I am at all times. Rule number two is to never break rule number one for any reason. If people don't like me the way I am, that's their loss not mine.

    • vandynegl profile image


      4 years ago from Ohio Valley

      This is funny and really true. Sad, but true. I married my husbands family well before I even married him. At first, it was nice to have a large family around, but then later, good grief! Enough was enough. As I got older, I began voicing my need for space and privacy. We finally moved away (only about 30 minutes from his family), but it allows us our independence. However, we have always been the Black Sheep of the family, and honestly, I really don't think some of my in-laws like me that much! Oh well!

      Good writing!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      4 years ago from Georgia

      Hubby's parents were already deceased when I met him, so I don't have to deal with in-laws. I did in my former marriage, however, and it was a mixed bag. lol

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Funny Kenneth, but good advice and very true.


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