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What Does Your Relationship With Your In-Laws Mean for Your Marriage?


The saga of a UK woman who installed a gate on the side of her house to keep back an over-intrusive mother-in-law highlights the complicated role of relationships between spouses and each other’s parents.

The anonymous woman recently won the backing of the internet masses after describing the situation on the popular forum Mumsnet. The self-described introvert said she took the step after her mother-in-law continuously popped up uninvited and took to simply walking around back and into the home rather than using the front door.

“I’m a very private person and quite introverted, so I need time to prepare myself mentally for any extended visits or socializing,” the woman said in the post. “[My husband] has told his mum to call or text us before just showing up, and she scoffs and says ‘I don’t need to ask, I’m your mum!’ and it’s just not sinking in.”

Plenty of people here in the US can share the woman’s frustration and understand that in-law relationships can be quite complex. Still, research on how those relationships impact marriages paint a mixed picture.

The closer a husband feels to his in-laws, the less likely he is to get divorced, according to an ongoing study by Dr. Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and research professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. The closer a wife feels to her in-laws, the more likely she is to eventually split with her spouse, Orbuch found.

“Close in-law ties between a husband and his wife’s parents are reinforcing to women and connect him to her,” Orbuch told CNN. “When a husband gets close to his wife’s parents, this says to her: ‘Your family is important to me because I care about you. I want to feel closer to them because it makes me feel closer to you.’ And of course, that makes us as women feel really good.”

So, what is with the reversal for women with a relationship with in-laws?

“If women are close to their in-laws, especially early in marriage, this interferes with or prevents them from forming a unified and strong bond with their husband,” Orbuch said in the same interview. “Also, since women are constantly analyzing and trying to improve their relationships, they often take what their in-laws say as personal and can’t set clear boundaries.”

Hence, the problem for the anonymous poster with the new gate on the side of her house.

“I honestly can’t remember a time when she has asked me how I am or what’s going on in my life,” the woman wrote of her mother-in-law. “I feel like she just breezes into my home and starts rambling and I can’t even follow what she’s talking about half the time.”

Speak with a Grand Rapids Family Lawyer 

At Kraayeveld Law, we help people and families resolve a full slate of legal issues, from child custody, visitation, and support, to alimony and asset division after a divorce. A Grand Rapids family lawyer at our firm will help you fully understand your rights and options.

Call 616-285-0808 or contact us online to make an appointment to speak with a Grand Rapids family lawyer about your situation.