Managing In-Law Expectations: 8 Tips for a Healthy Relationship

Being yourself around your in-laws from the beginning will avoid creating false expectations, and you’ll have to worry less. Talk to your spouse and get to know the in-laws before marrying into the family. But also form your opinion by spending time with them. Let go of preconceived notions about evil in-laws and enter the relationship with an open mind. Be kind, understand your responsibilities, and learn when to take a stand for yourself while letting go of smaller conflicts.

There’s a lot of negativity attached to the term in-laws where it’s often thought that every in-law would be evil and control your married life.

Be it advertised in movies and TV shows or hearing your married friends gossip about their in-laws, this preconceived notion of them being ‘evil’ is so ingrained in our mind that we start our relationship on a bad note.

Setting expectations with our new family and understanding their expectations doesn’t have to be this hard.

But then, what is the foundation of a good relationship with your in-laws?

How do you maintain a good relationship with your in-laws?

When you get married to your partner, you’ve already spent your time knowing and understanding them.

This, in part, also includes understanding their upbringing and their values. But understanding in-laws is a whole other thing and would require starting from scratch.

Each family has their own set of values and how they function separately and together as a family unit.

Each person might have a different role, which can be difficult to understand immediately when you marry.

Understanding your in-laws and their boundaries is an excellent way also to know what should be your expectations from them.

1. Get to know your in-laws before marriage

We always want to show our good side to our in-laws, so we often pretend to be someone perfect in front of them. While this might lead to a good impression, it also ends with false expectations.

A young married woman is sitting down with her mother-in-law trying to get to know her and create a healthy relationship with each other

It’s great to show your good side, but at the same time, you shouldn’t be afraid to show your lesser likable side.

We all have that side; showing it to our in-laws will only make them understand us better.

Understanding each other in this way can be of immense help before you get married to your partner. It’s one of the things that you should do before you set the date.

Spend as much time with your future family as possible to form healthy in-law relationships later. 

Go on dates with your in-laws to understand their nature and personality, so it helps both of you know what to expect from each other after you become part of their family.

2. Ask your spouse

Your partner knows their parents best, so asking their advice and taking tips from them would be the wisest thing to get to know your in-laws.

They have grown up in that household and probably know their parents inside out, including when they’re in a better mood, their likes and dislikes, etc.

A young married man is sharing pictures and other memories with his wife to better help her connect with his parents.

This is a sure way to get to know your in-laws and try to form a healthy relationship with them.

But you also shouldn’t entirely rely on your partner and also form your own opinion and have your own understanding.

At the end of the day, you’ve to develop your own opinion and find your own way of dealing with your in-laws.

3. Delete the preconceived notion of evil in-laws

This preconceived notion that every one of us forms in our head about our MIL needs to go before you start to get to know her.

Thanks to the media, we all are programmed to think the worse about our in-laws, so even when they show a little less likable side of them once we conclude that they are challenging to handle.

A mean mother-in-law is shown smiling as she sees her son and daughter-in-law having an argument because of her.

The truth is we’re far from perfect, and so are they. You can’t expect your in-laws to always be sweet and understanding if you can’t do the same for them.

So, delete any preconceived notions and come into your new relationships with an open mind.

When you let go of any biases, you try to see the person as they’re, and in this case, you understand your in-laws are human, just like you.

4. Be kind to your in-laws

Every new relationship needs time and trust to form deeper bonds.

While you took your sweet time in knowing your partner and forgiving them for their mistakes while loving their insecurities, the same kind of effort is needed to understand your in-laws.

Being kinder to them will help you form a lovely bond with your future in-laws.

This doesn’t mean that you have to be extremely pleasant and do everything they ask you to do or compromise in everything, but in general, being nice can help avoid lots of conflicts.

Make sure you’re still forming healthy boundaries with your in-laws.

5. Understanding your responsibilities

Many couples go into a marriage thinking it’s all about being with their partner forever, forgetting that marriage is an institution that brings newer responsibilities.

When the honeymoon phase ends, you realize you must tend to your new relationship and can’t live in your own bubble anymore.

Just like you care for your parents, you must provide the same care, love, and attention to your new extended family.

A young wife looks very happy after finding out that her husband got her mom a gift for her birthday.

It is sometimes challenging to accept that we have a new set of parents as adults. So understand that your partner’s parents will become equally important to you.

Events like your father-in-law’s retirement party are one of the many things you must attend or even plan just like you would have done for your father.

6. Pick your battles

It won’t always be a path filled with flowers towards building new relationships and doing so without any conflicts.

When we fight with our parents, reconciling is easier because we know them and vice-versa.

So if they know you need time to come around and you know they said things due to a bad mood, then you find a way to solve issues.

But it takes time to know new people, and as adults, our opinions become more solidified, so much so that we might sometimes become relatively inflexible about a situation.

While you’re trying to understand your in-laws, problems might arise that could result in conflicts.

How do you solve such issues when you don’t know how to act or what to say to make things better? You pick your battles when you see it’s necessary to do so.

You can’t always have your way with new people, so pick situations where you can compromise and where you can’t.

If a situation asks you to compromise with your utmost beliefs, values, and priorities, then you should make yourself heard and not compromise, but on smaller issues, it’s okay to let go if it maintains peace.

7. Be yourself

The most important thing is to be yourself when it comes to expectations. You don’t want to set false expectations by doing the most and behaving like you’re the perfect daughter-in-law.

It might work in a temporary situation, but when you portray yourself in this way for a longer time, your in-laws will develop higher and false expectations of you.

Being yourself is the only way you can avoid these kinds of misunderstandings. Meeting their expectations will become much less burdensome, and your in-laws won’t be disappointed later on.

8. Care for your in-laws

Another way to show appreciation towards your new family is to remain in touch with them.

Grandma is about to use her phone to video chat with her daughter and son-in-law

If your in-laws live far away and the only quality time is spent during the holidays, find other ways to remain in touch with them.

Whether by weekly phone calls, facetime, or random texts, you can show them you care and develop your bond with them.

Remembering special days like birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions is like icing on top.

If you find it difficult to remember dates, feed them into your calendar because these little things show how much you care for your in-laws.


How do you set expectations with in-laws?

The most important thing is to be yourself and not try to set an ideal image of yourself in front of your in-laws.

This would set realistic expectations. Be respectful and kind in understanding your in-laws.

Create healthy boundaries by understanding your in-laws and yourself in the process.

It’s important to compromise on small stuff but voice out your concerns when it means giving up on your values and beliefs.

How to maintain a good relationship with in-laws?

Understanding your in-laws will take time and patience. But the important thing is to not please them to the point where you can’t stay true to yourself.

Forming a deep relationship requires constant effort and letting go of your ego, so do so as long as you aren’t being taken advantage of.

What are the expectations of a daughter-in-law?

In-laws would expect a daughter-in-law to be as dutiful as their children, like taking care of everyone and dedicating their lives to being the perfect person who hosts family dinner parties.

But that level of commitment can’t be achieved overnight or forced out of them. For your daughter-in-law to care for you as your children do, you also need to be open-minded and try to care for her like a daughter.

With time you’ll be able to earn respect and attention similar to your children.

How do you make a good impression on in-laws?

First impressions are essential for anyone, so the following points might help achieve that:

  • Dressing appropriately and nicely.
  • Being kind and respectful.
  • Talking about yourself but also listening to your in-laws.
  • You should put forth your ideas and opinions but not argue or indulge in a conflict on the spot.
  • Help them out with chores if meeting at home.
  • Bringing in a gift is considered polite.

You can judge a lot about someone from the first meeting if you keep your ears and eyes open.

Excuse yourself and take a deep breath to calm down if you find yourself getting into a conflict.

You can revisit the situation later on and discuss any ill feelings with your partner if they seem too problematic.


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Hi! I’m Saumya, writer and editor at Marriage & Bliss. “To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow—this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” —Elizabeth Gilbert. Every marriage faces pitfalls, be they internal or external, and with my words, I hope to help couples find possible solutions and mend their broken relationships. After all, a successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.
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