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Most parents believe that they have healthy relationships with their adult children. That being said, it can be difficult to step back and objectively assess our own behavior. If you have a married adult child, you may, without even realizing it, be getting over-involved in the life of your son or daughter.
Do you find yourself getting into disagreements with your son- or daughter-in-law? Do you, deep down, feel as though you’ve “lost” your child as a result of them growing up and getting married? If you can relate to these sentiments, you may need to assess whether or not you’ve unwittingly become a “monster-in-law!”
You’re Always Offering Your Help and Advice
Do you feel as though your child and his or her spouse need your help and guidance? Offering to clean up your child’s home, prepare meals for them, or do their laundry might simply be your way of trying to make things easier for them. Regularly doing things for your child and their spouse or providing constant suggestions and advice, however, can easily be perceived as being overly-critical and hyper-involved. Your tips for how your daughter-in-law might prepare a better casserole or improve the appearance of her living room, for instance, could easily be regarded as criticism and belittlement, even if you do have good intentions. Perhaps you simply miss being involved in your child’s life. Regardless, it’s important to take a step back and allow your child to live an independent, adult life. Instead of offering advice to your child and their spouse, it’s often best to simply bite your tongue.
You Spend a Lot of Time With Your “Baby”
It can be difficult to realize when our relationships with our own children have become unhealthy. Even if your child loves spending time with you, you may need to ask yourself whether or not you’ve established healthy, adult boundaries with your son or daughter. Do you still perceive your child as “your baby?” Do you feel sad and lonely if you don’t get to spend time with your child each week or haven’t called them in a while? Do you find yourself spontaneously “dropping by” your child’s home to say hello? Maybe your son or daughter has explicitly told you that they need more space. Perhaps your child’s spouse appears visibly annoyed when you show up unannounced. Though it might hurt you to feel as though your presence is unwanted, it is important to realize that your child is in the process of establishing a family of their own. Don’t take it personally if they’re not constantly in touch with you! Try giving your child and their partner the space they need. Wait until they reach out to you. By doing so, you will allow them to establish the boundaries in your relationship.
You Don’t Like or Trust Your Child’s Partner
Some of us aren’t the biggest fans of the individuals our children date or marry. Unfortunately, these feelings might not change over time. Perhaps you think your child’s spouse is lazy, rude, or simply not good enough for your son or daughter. Even though you might feel this way, it is important to resist criticizing your child’s partner. Don’t get involved in disagreements between your child and their spouse. Live by the adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Whether you openly judge your child’s spouse or simply find yourself making passive-aggressive remarks out of frustration, it is important to remind yourself that your critical opinion is unlikely to change the situation. Your child and their partner are a team; you shouldn’t try to pit them against one another. Even if you find it difficult, strive to see the good in the person your child has chosen to spend their life with. By being kind and accepting, you’ll likely improve the quality of your relationship with your own child, too.
You Struggle to Take “No” For an Answer
No one wants to admit that they’re controlling or manipulative. The truth is, however, that most of us struggle with such behaviors, even if we don’t fully realize it. Perhaps you feel upset that your child and their spouse are planning to move to another city. Reflect on your reaction to this change. Did you, intentionally or not, make your child and their spouse feel guilty about the move? Have you tried to convince them that you’ll be better off living closer to them when they have children of their own? If your child, hypothetically, planned to spend an important holiday with your son- or daughter-in-law’s family rather than your own, how would you respond? If you can’t accept “no” as an answer and struggle with not getting your own way, your child and their spouse will likely find it difficult to be open and honest with you. In trying to pull your child closer to you, you may be inadvertently pushing them away. Your child and their partner are adults who are allowed to make decisions on their own, as a couple. Though you may not agree with all of their choices, you should, in most cases, strive to accept them.
Realizing that you’ve become a pesky in-law can be a tough pill to swallow. If you’re concerned about whether your boundaries with your child and their spouse are healthy or not, consider approaching them with frankness and candor. Sit down with your son- or daughter-in-law and ask them whether or not they’re comfortable with the family dynamic you’ve established. Sometimes, even well-intentioned behaviors can be perceived in a negative way. By getting their honest opinion, you can gain a new perspective on the relationship you’ve established with your son- or daughter-in-law. By accepting their feedback, you can discover ways in which you may be able to improve your bond with both your child and their spouse.
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