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4 Peace-Loving Ways to Embrace Miserable In-Laws

How do you handle in-laws who ignore you – or are hurtful? These tips for visiting miserable relatives are inspired by a reader’s question on my article about difficult parents.

Should You Visit In-Laws and Family Members Who Are HurtfulIf your mother-in-law, father-in-law, or other family members ignore you or get under your skin in the worst possible way, read Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage by Susan Forward. It’s a bestselling book on balancing in-laws and marriage. There are no quick tips or easy solutions for dealing with abusive, toxic, or hurtful in laws. You need to learn strategies that are effective, and apply them to your relationships.

Here’s my reader’s question: “Should I continue to go to my in-laws’ family events at their home, for my husband’s and daughter’s sake, even though I have grown to despise these people?” asks M. on my article about dealing with toxic people. “My husband agrees they are miserable, but his preference is to see them a few times a year and ignore their rudeness. He sees their unhappiness and jealousy. But the healthier I have become the more I see the toxicity. My in laws ignore me and I’m tired of it.”

There are no “right” answers to this question. You have to decide what’s best for you and your family. My thoughts about spending time with family members who are emotionally unhealthy are based on my experience with a mom who has suffered from schizophrenia my whole life. I don’t believe in cutting off family members unless they are abusive…but different people see things in different ways. Read my thoughts for coping with hurtful in laws who ignore you, and tell me what you think.

If you find that your family is negatively affecting the way you see yourself, read How to Love Yourself When You Don’t Feel Good Enough.

4 Peace-Loving Ways to Embrace Miserable In-Laws

My friend and her husband refuse to visit her family members because they have political arguments that she’s not interested in. She doesn’t “get” them, so she refuses to visit them. Thy don’t have a problem with ignoring their in laws and family members because it’s a deliberate choice they made.

My sister is the same way. She hasn’t spoken to my mother for over a decade, because my mom is mentally ill and my sister doesn’t feel like talking to her.

Those are personal choices. I wouldn’t choose to ignore my in laws or family members, because I believe that not seeing eye-to-eye with your family members or in-laws doesn’t mean you should to ignore their existence. I’m not saying you have to live with them or visit them every Sunday afternoon…I’m encouraging you to visit or talk to a hurtful or toxic family member once every few months.

In this article, I’m not talking about physically or emotionally abusive in laws or family members. I’m focusing on in-laws and family members who are merely irritating, crazy-making, critical, negative, judgmental, and even miserable. If you are being harmed (not just annoyed or hurt) by anyone – family or not – you need to do anything you can to protect yourself and your children.

1. Do your best to live in harmony – for your own peace of mind

Find ways to rise above your in laws’ behavior, and don’t let it affect your mood or spirit. If you have kids those miserable family visits can even be teachable moments. You might use those negative, toxic comments and behaviors to teach life and relationship lessons. Discuss how to live a meaningful, happy, healthy life – and how to handle miserable people without letting them wreck your day. If you don’t have kids, take a deep breath and be thankful that you aren’t the miserable in law who is ignoring you.

If your difficult mother-in-law refuses to visit your home, talk to your daughter about the importance of accepting other people’s lifestyles and showing compassion and love no matter how a person lives. You don’t have to criticize your hurtful in-law or ignore her; you need only verbalize your belief that people shouldn’t be judged by the size or shape their homes are in.

And, remember that your daughter may one day marry a man who doesn’t like you, who doesn’t want to visit you! By honoring and respecting your in-laws – even though they are hurtful – you’re teaching your daughter to do the same for you one day.

Even more important: if you live in peace as far as it depends on you, then you can sleep with a clear conscience. You can’t change your family members, but you can learn how to deal with difficult parents.

2. Put your emotional health to work

“My mother- in-law always criticizes us, and rubs in the fact that they had more at our age and we are a major disappointment,” says A. “Their other children are divorced, out of work, and are always asking for handouts – yet they get all the approval. My husband and I are treated like second class citizens.”

toxic in laws ignore me

How to Handle Hurtful In Laws

Ouch – I would hate that. Yes, it would hurt me to be compared with other family members and come up short, to be treated like a second class citizen. Being emotionally and spiritually strong doesn’t just help you identify toxicity and problems quickly, it gives you the strength to cope with those problems.

What’s the point of being emotionally healthy if you turn and run from in-laws and family members who hurt you? Don’t just say you’re emotionally healthy (“talk the talk”). Prove it (“walk the walk”)!

You need to decide what’s best for you and your marriage. But, I think it’s better for an emotionally strong, healthy woman to visit a toxic mother-in-law a few times a year than to avoid her altogether – especially if your husband wants to see his mom.

3. Be aware of your family’s hurts, wounds, mistakes

There’s something about family that drives us crazy. Family members get under our skin and make us angrier, more frustrated, and more nuts than any other people on earth (except maybe our own children). If you can see your family members with compassion and even love, you’ll be less hurt when they do and say mean things. If you can see through their behavior, you may not find it hurtful if your in laws ignore you.

Put down your hurt and thoughts that “they shouldn’t be that way.” For example, instead of being angry that my mom has never offered me any type of support in my life because of her mental illness, I focus on how sorry I am that she is who she is. I can’t resent her when I feel compassion for her illness, wounds, and mistakes. She is who she is.

Parents, including in-laws, have wounds that make them act in hurtful ways to the family members they love. They don’t behave in loving, caring and supportive ways – perhaps they can’t.

One peace-loving way to embrace hurtful in laws who ignore you is to think about and discuss how they were raised, what hardships they endured, and how they coped. Talk to your husband about his family’s past. You might even try talking to your hurtful in laws.

4. Focus on what your in-laws do and did right

“I have been married to an amazing man – their son – for 25 years,” was one of the first things my reader said. That statement alone shows that her in-laws did at least one good thing with their lives: they raised a loving, kind, compassionate, faithful man! There’s a lot to be said for that. Your in laws may ignore or hurt you, but they raised your husband.

Very few people – including difficult parents – are bad through and through. Give them credit where credit is due. Focus on the good, and shake off the bad.

For more practical tips on visiting family members or in-laws who ignore or hurt you, read 6 Tips for Toxic Relatives – How to Handle Family Problems.

What do you think of these tips for visiting family members or in laws who ignore you? Comments welcome below…I can’t offer advice, but I welcome your thoughts.

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35 thoughts on “4 Peace-Loving Ways to Embrace Miserable In-Laws”

  1. My nasty father in law told me never liked me and that he strongly disliked his baby Grandson – my baby! I’ve never been able to move on from that as it’s not something that can be fixed. It wasn’t said in the heat of the moment or during an argument. It was his response to me when I asked why he treated the way he did. Somethings cannot be unsaid.

    I decided enough was enough. I’d tried to be loving and helpful and to be part of their family but unfortunately I never lived up to expectations.

    After being told to my face how he viewed me I made the decision not to put myself in any situations where I’d be in the same room as him. This helped me regain self esteem.

    Now he is a very elderly man who regrets that he doesn’t have the physical support from me that he could have had. I almost feel sorry for him.

  2. Dear Emily,

    After reading your comment, I feel compelled to comment on your post. My last comment was posted on April 17th, 2016 (see below). As you can read, I had to extricate myself from a highly toxic situation as I was actively bullied by a mentally unstable mother in Law. Fast forward 2 years and she is still alive, still bullying everyone around her including her dear son (my husband) but I am happy to announce that she is no longer bullying me. The best decision I ever made was to cut her out of my life and I do not regret my decision for a moment. I don’t even allow myself to be within a mile radius from her. I am fine not participating in family get-togethers as long as I have peace in my life. There is no price tag for peace. I have come to the realization that nothing will ever change this woman. She is a textbook narcissist and an emotional vampire who will lash out at anyone for no rhyme or reason. This past week, my daughter was visiting us from college during her spring break. My husband insisted she goes and visits her “granny” ( I am cringing right now) which she did reluctantly, knowing all to well that she would be stepping into a minefield. Lo and behold, my daughter came back from her house crying and distraught. I knew from the minute I saw her that the crazy old bat had most likely lashed out at her. In fact, this is exactly what happened. However, my daughter stormed out of her house before things got uglier. In the past, my poor sweetie would sit there and take it while her dad sat there helplessly allowing the abuse to take place in front of his eyes. NO MORE! My daughter will never again step into this woman’s house. I am so happy that she finally came to that realization on her own. Although my decision to sever ties with my MIL was a standalone decision, I had never imposed it on my daughter. However, I was always watchful from afar and ready to jump in if things got too heated.

    The reason why I am telling you my story is because I wanted you to compare your situation to mine. Your feelings are completely valid. Being ignored is no fun. You feel disrespected and undermined and wonder why on earth you should bother being around people who seemingly don’t care about you enough to inquire about your life. You feel like a ghost. I also understand why the fact that your husband won’t face them makes you mad. After all, once he married you, he married into a new family and should theoretically put you first in his life and readily defend you against his uncaring and rude family. The reality unfortunately is a lot more complicated. Look at families as complicated webs with tightly weaved strings. He has known his family a lot longer than he’s known you. I know…so what.. right? He is conflicted between his loyalty to his birth family and his loyalty to you. Most men have a very difficult time navigating these stormy waters and will settle for what feels most natural to them. All you can do is gently remind him that your feelings are being hurt and that you always feel shadowed in the presence of his family. Hopefully, he will get a hint. Another advice (take it with a grain of salt) is perhaps not participating in all those family get-togethers. Just reserve your energy for major holidays. You could look at it as you taking the high road and being there when it matters most for your husband and son. These people don’t seem to be abusive. They just seem to be dismissive. Am I correct? The worse that could happen if you decided to lighten your foot would be for your husband to ask you why you don’t want to attend get-togethers. You already know the answer to that question. It is important you remain consistent. If getting together with them makes you feel miserable, you owe it to yourself to find peace in your life and you can do it without upsetting the balance to the point of no return.

    Hope this helps..Best of luck!

  3. I have been married for over 27 years & my in-laws have never asked me anything about my family, my parents both died when I was young & I was raised by an Aunt & Uncle. They talk only about themselves. The whole focus is on the core family, the kids are all grown up. The adult children do the same & even talk over me! Really it is all I can do to hold my emotions together & not storm out. My husband says nothing to them about the disrespectful way I am treated.
    I am ready to forego socializing with them….always a one way street. I have always allowed my husband & son to attend but, I dread going. I now have health problems & the negativity is too much. I may stay home next time.

  4. I’m coming from a psychology background and as someone whose marriage was nearly ripped apart by toxic inlaws (yes we go through it as well ). My story short for the sake of my husband and children I ignored my own treatment by my inlaws, I became “friendly” with my inlaws and thought we’d grown from the past only for all 3 sister inlaws to redirect toxic behaviour toward my 6 year old as I was letting it slide against me. This is where the line gets drawn and the inlaws get cut off. Toxic behaviour doesn’t get better, it gets worse the longer you tolerate it

  5. Thank you for your kind reply. I have tried to accept it. But as the end of my years draws near barring some accident or trauma, there are basically perhaps 15 years more to my life, may be less for them (they are 70), I find it harder and harder to have no closure, to not have some interaction with my daughter, the son in law I have never met, the grandchild I have no picture of. The inlaws who have never said hello or sent a card. My overtures are not answered. My daughter’s behavior was so bad that I am sure she discourages all contact so they won’t find out. (they are up north, I am alone down south). It just seems unfinished and bothers me terribly. My brother died years ago, I have no third party to interact for me, and don’t know if that would even help. I keep thinking of the novel “Sylvia Garland’s Broken Heart” where Helen Harris wrote of the plight of grandparents cut off, but there seems no resolution to this one. Thanks again

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