My in-laws drive me up a wall, but my partner loves spending time with them. How can I make the experience bearable?

ShutterstockNot all in-laws are monsters.
  • Pop culture tends to portray in-laws as people you’ll never relate to or enjoy spending time with, but in reality most people like the experiences they have with their partner’s parents.
  • If you feel bored or misunderstood, first tell your partner how you feel and see if they can help you foster a relationship with your in-laws.
  • Boredom and annoyance often stem from feeling like we can’t be ourselves, so try being more authentic around your in-laws. It can feel scary at first, but will help in the long run.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.


Since we got married last year, my partner has stressed the importance of spending time with her parents. They live an hour away and we’ve been visiting them once a month, but I dread the trip every time and leave feeling like it was a waste of time. I don’t have anything in common with her parents and don’t know what to contribute to the conversation, so I mainly sit in silence for the entire visit. It doesn’t help that I think her mum doesn’t really like me.


I know it means a lot to my partner that we both have a close relationship with her family, but it’s hard for me to get excited about investing so much time and energy in people who don’t seem to get me and frankly annoy me most of the time. Is there a way to make our visits more tolerable?


– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Pop culture makes it seem like the relationship you’re supposed to have with your in-laws is bearable at best (I mean, have you seen Meet the Parents?), but I’m here to tell you it can be much better than that. It’s possible to genuinely enjoy the time you spend with your partner’s parents, even if you think you have nothing in common.

In fact, an INSIDER national poll of 1,127 people found that nearly a quarter of respondents said time spent with their in-laws was a “very positive” experience, and 27% described the experience as “positive.” Only 3% said in-law time was “very negative” for them.

You’re already part of the way there in recognising that your partner cherishes quality time with her parents, according to Bukky Kolawole, a licensed clinical psychologist. “It’s always helpful if you and your partner are on the same page,” she told me.

In that same vein, you should explain how you feel around your in-laws to your partner. Being vulnerable is scary, but sharing how you truly feel will help her understand how to better support you when you’re visiting. Maybe your partner can bring you into a conversation with her dad when she notices you’re more quiet than usual, or she can reassure you that her mum can be passive-aggressive to everyone, not just you.

Oftentimes, our partners don’t realise how we feel during family visits because they’re caught up in their own relationships with their parents. By airing out your feelings, it can help your partner gain a different perspective.

You also shouldn’t be afraid to be yourself around your in-laws, even if you think you’ll never understand each other. Boredom in social situations often comes from feeling like you can’t be authentic, so Kolawole suggested leaning into your interests and emotions when chatting.

It may feel uncomfortable or forced at first, but think of your in-laws as new friends rather than people who exist to judge your every move. It will take the stress out of the experience – and who knows, you might just enjoy it.

If your partner seems unwilling to help you feel more welcome, consider seeing a couple’s therapist. It doesn’t mean your marriage is on the outs. Instead, it suggests your partner is dealing with their own parent-related emotional baggage and needs professional help to sort those feelings out before giving you a hand.

SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. Total 1,127 respondents collected May 10-11, 2019, a margin of error plus or minus 3.12 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.


As Insider’s resident sex and relationships reporter, Julia Naftulin is here to answer all of your questions about dating, love, and doing it – no question is too weird or taboo. Julia regularly consults a panel of health experts including relationship therapists, gynecologists, and urologists to get science-backed answers to your burning questions, with a personal twist.


Have a question? Ask Julia at [email protected] All questions will be published anonymously.

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