8 Signs Your In-Laws Are Toxic And How To Deal If They Are

Some people hit the in-law jackpot, but others aren’t so lucky. Maybe you’ve accepted their weirdest behaviors as nothing more than quirks, but could it be that they’re actually toxic individuals?

We all have a friend who tells endless stories about their crazy in-laws, but have you ever wondered if yours and your relationship with them are entirely normal? Sure, each and every family has a different dynamic. You might find certain things your extended family does funny, whereas a friend might find the same things a little strange. But it’s also possible that your in-laws could be so subtle with their toxicity that you don’t immediately notice anything’s wrong.

Although there’s a huge gap between differing opinions and being a toxic individual, there are some red flags you can look out for. Be sure to count your blessings if you never run into any of them.

They butt in.

Some people find that their in-laws always have something to say about their personal matters, whether they’ve been asked for their advice or not. Maybe you’re alright with their interjections here and there, but if they start giving you advice in a way that makes it seem like they believe their opinions matters more than yours, you’ve got a problem on your hands.

Man and woman sitting in cafe
Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

You may also have a significant other problem if your in-laws always seem to know about what goes on in your relationship, such as arguments or upcoming purchases, and that’s something you’ll have to nip in the bud as well.

The solution?

Ultimately, you’ll probably have to sit down with your in-laws and explain as nicely as you can that they’re not involved in the decision-making process.

If you’re not quite ready to be that direct, just let their advice go in one ear and out the other, then do what you wanted to anyway.

They’re mean.

Sometimes people just aren’t going to like you, and your in-laws are no exception. Because they’re adults, though, it’s natural to expect them to at least be civil toward you. After all, you’re either a part of their family already or about to be, right?

Garden gnome with
John Bussell on Unsplash

Unfortunately, that’s not always how it goes down. Sometimes parents resent their child’s significant other for “taking their baby away,” whereas others don’t agree with their child’s choice for religious or cultural reasons. Parents who just can’t be happy with their child’s happiness often take it out on their child’s partner, making snide comments or just being downright rude.

The solution?

The obvious answer here is to limit the amount of time you spend around your in-laws, but you’ll inevitably have to see them at some point. You can always try to explain to them how their actions and words hurt you, but it’s likely they do these things on purpose and are already well aware.

In an ideal world, we’d hope that your partner would be willing to have a discussion with their parents to let them know their behavior won’t be tolerated.

They pick sides.

Like we said before, your partner shouldn’t be telling their parents all of the nitty gritty details of your relationship, and that is a huge problem on its own. It becomes an even bigger mess when their parents decide to involve themselves even further and try to encourage their child to turn against you by playing the “he said, she said” game.

Close up of foosball table figures
Alex Rosario on Unsplash

The parents will most likely take their child’s side in a debate or argument and maybe even try to give you unwanted advice on what you did wrong or how to fix the problem.

The solution?

You can’t tell your partner that they can never go to their parents for advice, but you can ask them not to share the super personal details of your relationship. It’s important for couples to be a united front, and there’s no way that’ll happen when your partner is being fed one-sided advice.

Take any advice they give you with a healthy dose of skepticism and remind your partner to do the same.

They disrespect your time and space.

Are your in-laws on their fifth unannounced visit in just one short month? Do they take the liberty of rearranging your kitchen cabinets or sorting your dirty laundry without asking you if it’s alright? Maybe it’s that they expect your partner to be available to see them a certain day each week without considering that it’s one of the only days you typically have to spend together.

Couple sitting and talking in front of movie screen
Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash

No matter what it is, in-laws who do things like this may not always have bad intentions, but these are actions that are inconsiderate and tend to complicate things.

The solution?

No one wants to make their in-laws feel bad, especially when they’re well meaning, but it can be stressful and disruptive when someone invites themselves into your space without asking.

You may eventually have to speak with them if they keep coming around without notice. A successful talk is all about how you phrase it. Let them know that although you do enjoy seeing them, you’d prefer to know when it’s going to happen so you can be free for their visit. You can even try setting up a few days a month to spend with them as a family.

They ignore you.

We’re not sure what’s worse: in-laws who aren’t the nicest or those who just seem to pretend you don’t exist. Hey, at least with mean in-laws, they actually acknowledge your existence in some way.

Broken paper heart on a string
Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

It can be incredibly hard when your in-laws choose to ignore you in person, especially when they’re the type of people who’ll talk about you as if you’re not around even when you’re right there. It’s a hurtful and confusing situation, and most of the time you won’t have done anything to deserve their treatment.

The solution?

Ideally, this would be another situation in which your partner would address their parents and let them know they won’t tolerate their behavior. If you’re into a more aggressive approach, you can try to have a one-on-two talk with them by yourself and make it super difficult for them to ignore you.

They might admit their mistakes, but don’t hold your breath—be prepared to just stop spending as much time around them.

They treat you like a child.

Sure, every child is some parent’s baby, but normal parents realize that at a certain age their kids are not literal babies anymore and they treat them accordingly.

Grumpy baby making a face on a picnic blanket
Ryan Franco on Unsplash

Although there’s nothing wrong with your in-laws occasionally cooking for you or helping with laundry (after asking!), some people do go too far. When they start trying to cut your food for you or tucking a napkin in your shirt, you’ll know things are heading in a weird direction.

The solution?

This is a situation where you’ll have to be direct, but try not to be too blunt. If they start trying to baby you, let them know nicely that you can take care of it, but you appreciate the offer.

Sometimes they may insist that they’re happy to help or that helping is no problem, but you’ll just have to insist right back that you can manage. They may be reluctant to back off at first, but resist enough and they’ll take the hint.

They gossip.

Specifically, about you. It can be super disheartening to feel like you’ve gotten close to one of your in-laws only to hear that they’ve taken everything you’ve told them and started sharing it with other people.

Two women standing outside, one whispering in the other's ear
Ben White on Unsplash

Sometimes they might mean well, perhaps sharing something you told them because they thought it was interesting, but that’s not always the case. They may share your conversations with others to make fun of something you’ve said or done, and it can be a super frustrating experience, especially if they’re the type of person to start rumors.

The solution?

The best thing to do is be direct—let them know that you’re aware they’ve shared things you didn’t want to be shared and that you’d appreciate it if they’d stop. If they’re sharing information in a negative way, you can also ask if there’s some reason they felt the need to speak badly of you.

The most obvious solution, however, is to stop sharing things with them that you wouldn’t want anyone else to hear.

They expect you to bend over backward.

There are the in-laws who view their new son- or daughter-in-law as just another member of their family, and there are those who view themselves as being above them in some way. They expect that any newcomers to the family should try to please them, treating them as if they’re a bored child who needs a toy.

Man sitting on couch, with hoodie on, with hands on face
Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

If you don’t make the effort they expect, you might be deemed unworthy, and they’ll likely badmouth you to anyone who will listen.

The solution?

Of course you want your in-laws to like you, but no one is worth jumping through that many hoops for. In this case, the hoops will likely be never-ending, as well.

Eventually, you’ll probably need to sit down with the offending in-law to ask them directly if they feel like you’ve done something wrong. Your partner should also address their behavior, letting their parents know they should be happy for his or her happiness with you.

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