10 Principles to deal with Enmeshed In-laws

10 Principles to deal with Enmeshed In-laws: Marriage is a beautiful thing. With a wedding come many new relationships. And you are super lucky if you get along with your new family. But that’s not always the case. Often being a new addition to a family is hard, all the new relationships and just dealing with them in certain ways can be overwhelming.

Gradually, you start seeing the individuals of your new family as how they really are. If you are in laws are enmeshed in an unhealthy way, there can be runners of that vine throughout the marriage that will eventually choke it to death.

Toxic in laws can have a huge negative impact on your marriage.

Yes yes, not all-in laws are horrible, but some are. And setting boundaries with your parents and in-laws is an important factor for establishing a healthy home.

Sometimes parents are needy and demanding and this interferes with marriages. So, if you are in laws are enmeshed and it is ruining your life, then firstly; I am sorry this is happening to you…

…secondly, have some home because I did my research and gathered up a couple of worthy tips on how to deal with enmeshed in laws.

So, keep your calm and allow me to take you through every point!

We should start with a little background to get a clearer idea, but first, this video is also a good start.


Most families aspire to be close.

They want to be there for you at your lowest and at your best, give you all the support you need and all the help you require.

Enmeshed Vs Disengaged Family

However, there is a thing such as “too close” and it is often referred as enmeshment.

Psychotherapist Salvador Minuchin developed the concept of enmeshment to characterize family systems with weak, poorly defined boundaries. The boundaries are unclear and permeable.

And when boundaries are blurred or not clearly defined, it becomes difficult for each family member to develop a healthy level of independence and autonomy.

Enmeshment often involves a level of control where parents attempt to know and control their children’s thoughts and feelings.

They also may rely too heavily on the children for emotional support and may even try to live their lives through their kids’ activities and achievements.

If the child decides to pursue a life apart from the family, they are often met with extreme resistance. The other family members may try to manipulate them and make them feel guilty for stepping outside the family expectations.

They may even be cut off financially for trying to separate from the family.

In an enmeshed family, the members are loyal and have a shared belief system. All this comes at the expense of individual autonomy and well-being.

Dissent, in such families, is often viewed as a betrayal.

Enmeshment creeps in many ways into a marriage.

A few examples of enmeshment can be:

Enmeshed in laws like having control over their children’s life decisions like the married daughter who still allowed her mother to balance her and her husband’s joint checking account or a married son who lets his parents plan their grandchildren’s future and so.

Or how an adult child with children of their own may be expected to spend every holiday with the family.

If they spend a holiday with in-laws or with their own family, the enmeshed family may shun or otherwise punish them.

Such families even tend to have unusual and dysfunctional norms; such as they may have a norm of never calling the police on a family member who abuses their partner or the entire family might support the idea of the father as a wonderful parent or great leader, even though he is physically abusive.

Closeness Vs Enmeshment

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These two terms are now a little confusing.

But to truly understand them, you should know the difference between them.

The difference is that in closeness, the bonds and relationships are not toxic.

They are healthy relationships without compromising one another emotional well-being and mental health.

While on the other hand, enmeshed requires sacrificing one’s self-esteem and self-respect which is suffocating and toxic for your emotional health.

Healthy families also enjoy spending time together, but they still respect the other family members’ need for privacy and independence.

They freely allow one another to have a life and relationships outside of the family and enjoy coming together individually or as a group when they can.

While the same scenario in an enmeshed family would cause issues and arguments. Such families expect you to celebrate all the celebrations together or else it will cause quarrels.

Close families also support one another as they pursue their dreams and their goal without using this family closeness as a weapon or a tool to get what they want, which is the case with enmeshed families.

Now that I have given you a clear idea of what enmeshed is and what it is to have such in-laws, furthermore; you believe you can relate, let us move on to the ways to deal with enmeshed in laws.

If you believe your enmeshed in-laws are trying to run your life, the following principles might help.

10 Helpul Principles to deal with enmeshed in laws

1- Be united with your spouse

The first thing you must do is: be united with your spouse.

Once you are married, your first loyalty is to your spouse.  Your spouse is now your center of gravity and should be the most important person to you.

So, you both need to sit down and talk the situation out, calmly, and openly.

You both need to be honest about your feelings, you should openly communicate with each other and try your level best to understand and hear each other out.

Talk about how the situation is making you feel and what is going on.

You both should handle the situation together.

One of the best tricks is to avoid any accusatory language like “you did” or “they did”, instead stick to “made me feel” or “made me think” or “made me realize” and so.

It is not necessary that you and your spouse will agree on all points, but it will surely create some space for a middle ground on with you both can work things out.

And it is always best to communicate and not bottle things up inside of yourself.

This will also freshen up your mind and give you a healthy state of mind.

2- No resolution or Compromise

The main point of initiating a conversation of how you are in laws are enmeshed and how its making you feel is so you can resolve the issues and work things out.

It is not so you can come up with some resolution or agree to a compromise.

Enmeshment is hard to deal with and is mentally very torturing. You are so strong for keeping your calm and dealing with it for however long you have.

But things do get overwhelming and you need to let your partner know!

You both are supposed to be a team, you both need to have each other’s back and give each other your shoulders!

If you feel like you are under attack, let your partner know what is going on and make sure the two of you come up with some first-attempt plan that you can both stick to comfortably-enough.

Focus on your feelings and own up to how you feel while avoiding any critical statements about your in laws and the way they approach you.

Address all your concerns well and clearly.

And most importantly, do not settle on some compromise or resolution.

Come up with a solution! Work it out!

3- Prespective and Assumptions check

It is for the best that you analyze the entire situation for every perspective and have any assumptions cleared out.

Especially when a first child marries, it is common for all involved to have immature expectations and those expectations cause each generation to operate things from their own perspective.

Assumptions lead to misunderstandings.

Instead of assuming things, it is best to just be straight forward and ask politely. This will not create any issues and quarrels in the future.

Here is the thing, every family have a certain degree of dysfunction.

So instead of passing statements of what is “wrong” with your partners family, try thinking of the situation from your partner and you are in laws perspective.

Again, the conversation should be focused on how YOU FEEL and not what is wrong.

Giving a few examples of the norm in you family might be helpful. You may compare the norm with the norm in your spouses family to prove a point.

Give your partner the time they need to consider your point of view, but make sure they know you will not allow time to equate to dismissal.

Keep the conversation prompt and focused and make sure your points are fully addressed before making any decisions.

4- Changes and decisions

Once you have opened up completely and given your partner the time to process everything you have told them, it is time for you both to work on a few changes and make some decisions.

Do not assume that you are on the same page when it comes to strategy.

Even if your spouse does not agree that there is a problem, let them know that something has to change in order for you find your happiness again.

You need to negotiate and agree on how your in-laws will become a part of your life and set-up clear boundaries that you both can agree to.

And it is completely okay if you both cannot come up with a plan in just one day. These things often take some time.

As long as there is some progress, you both are good to go.

Just get your first steps down and make sure that you both commit to a plan of change that protects the bond you share.

5- Terms and boundaries

Healthy boundaries are the core for making relationships last longer.

You should brainstorm what terms and boundaries you have and let your partner know about them.

Allow them to have their own terms and boundaries in return.

Boundaries should be set in the context of love.

When establishing these healthy boundaries and terms, you should base them on how best to deal with your in laws.

And it is important to make sure to give your parents and in-laws appropriate respect, along.

Affirm and value them as parents, making sure that they know that you are grateful for all they have done and are in your life, but be clear your spouse is now your center and only decision-making partner.

Building a few good fences will strengthen your relationship with your spouse and will surely improve relationships with your extended family.

Removing confusion and setting expectations allows everyone to settle in to the new normal.

NOTE: Therapy can help a person draw clear boundaries, take their emotions seriously, and move beyond enmeshment.

6- The Lead

You partner takes the lead. It is that simple.

No matter what terms and boundaries you both have set up and come on terms with together, your partner is supposed to engage in and take the lead for any confrontations or charges.

Because, if you do not get along with your in laws, then any charge or whatever they say about or to you will be perceived by you as an attack.

When we feel attacked, we let our emotions get the best of us and we lose our ability to think, thus we become hyper and make wrong and hasty decisions.

If you have got a problem with your in-law’s behavior then it is best that you let your partner take the lead in setting down the new lines.

After all, they are his parents and discussing these hard issues should come down under their family matters.

Whether your partner agrees with your feelings or not, it does not matter. As a committed couple, you have a duty to protect one another.

This means speaking up and speaking out, even when it is hard or even when you both do not necessarily agree.

7- Authority and Adjustments

Once you have set down new boundaries with your in laws, you and your partner have to adjust your own behaviors in order to communicate that your changes are reality and not a threat.

For example, when you as an adult are at your parents’ house, it is easy to fall back into the role of the child and allow your parents to be in charge.

But you need to be the adult and make sure your terms and boundaries are being taken seriously.

These adjustments include how you and your partner will change the systems of interaction with your in laws and will include in educating the in laws on what will and will not be tolerated and why.

Surely you can value the input of extended family and even value their contributions, but ultimately you and your spouse need to set the guidelines.

Be clear that “slip-ups” will not be tolerated and that there will be consequences for their actions.

8- It will take time

It is important to remember that change is unlikely to occur overnight.

While sometimes you have to put your foot down.

You have to make your point. it is important that you enforce your boundaries and remind them where the lines of your boundaries are drawn.

It is best that you try to remain friendly, tactful, and straightforward and refuse to sink to their level.

Approach your needs with a strict and consistent pattern of enforcement and

If your in-laws, however, continue to disrespect your needs approach them from a stronger angle and cut off contact entirely.

You do not have to lower yourself to be disrespected. It is not right for you and your spouse and you deserve the same respect as your spouse is given.

You should have enough respect for yourself to walk away when things are causing more harm than good in your life and relationship.

9- Honor but dont obey

We all desire parental affirmation and want to make parents happy, but their happiness is not your first responsibility.

You honor whatever they say or do but you do not obey them.

Obeying parents, is time limited. After the certain time, you need to outgrow them and not obey them because you are the adult in your life, and you are supposed to make you choices.

It is not right with your spouse that you allow your parents to make decisions about your life.

It is your parent who should be making the decisions along with you, not parents.

You must leave some distance with your parents to focus on your new family, it is how your marriage is supposed to be.

Some parents still want first place and a vote on the decisions their children make. But it is on you to make sure that the parents do not get a vote.

That position is now held by your spouse.

Spouses need to make allowances and space for each other and make decisions together, but they should do it alone.

The parent’s role in their child’s marriage is advisory, not participatory after their children have started a new chapter in their lives.

10- Default and Change

I have finally made it to the last helpful principle on my list, so let us wrap things up!

How our parents did things is how we learned to do things.

We learned how to do things the way our parents did things like; how they handled finances, responsibilities, family, and decisions.

All this will shape how we act in our marriage. The same goes for your spouse, they had their own default because their parents handled things differently than yours.

So, you both need to Recognize that your defaults are not the only normal and may not be best.

Communicate and be honest with your spouse and learn to change and get better, together.

Resist the urge to complain about your spouse to anyone–not parents, not friends.

It is never wise to allows a third persons insights in your relationship. That just causes more issues.

Ending Note

It is important that you learn to spot the signs and learn how to understand the behavior and how it undermines your relationship with your partner.

The signs are not always easy to spot, but they always manifest in damaging ways.

Once you have spotted them, initiate a conversation with your spouse.

Keep parents involved in your family but do not let them have control of your marriage.

Remember your loyalty is with your spouse first and so is your alliance.

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