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How Your Relationship with Your In-Laws Impacts Your Marriage

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A younger couple sits with an older couple on couches in a living room.
Photo by Do More Good

Do you get along with your in-laws?

According to a newly released study, men who are on good terms with their wives’ parents are more likely to enjoy a long-lasting marriage than those who struggle to get along with their in-laws.

Yet, researchers found that a wife’s relationship with her husband’s parents is a bit more complicated and less indicative of overall marital happiness.

Why the disparity?

Terri Orbuch, the study’s author, explained to a columnist with Salt Lake City’s Deseret News:

Orbuch says that when a man bonds with his in-laws, his wife gets the message that “your family is important to me because you’re important to me. I want to feel closer to them because I want to be closer to you.” Wives love that and marriages get a longevity bump.

But when the wife feels close to her in-laws, Orbuch sees two possible reasons things go the other way. First, in-law ties are more stressful to women, because it “interferes with and takes time away from bonding with the husband and her own family. Women like to analyze, work on and improve relationships. They think of in-law ties the same way,” Orbuch said. That time takes away from other things that strengthen bonds with the husband.

Because both of my parents died when I was young, I can only speak to how my relationship with Jean’s parents has positively impacted our marriage.

Jean’s mom and dad, Jerry and Pat, were married for over 58 years before Jerry’s passing just two years ago. Jerry was the first person to manufacture the concrete saw and was just a man’s man. We experienced many good times together, especially during our annual family retreats to Estes Park here in Colorado. Pat is now widowed and we continue to enjoy her company during trips to California. Neither Jerry nor Pat ever interfered in our marriage or with the raising of our boys. There was always a spirit of deference and mutual respect.

Movies and television regularly highlight in-law dysfunction and in some cases, justifiably so. We’ve all heard the stories of a meddling mother-in-law or a cranky or grumpy father-in-law. But is that the exception rather than the norm?

I hope you might take a moment to let me know about your relationship – past or present – with your in-laws. How have you navigated the challenges?

What are some of your memories of attempting to bridge and blend the generations?

And the bottom line: Have your in-laws had a positive or negative impact on your marriage?

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