Are difficult in-laws a dealbreaker?

My advice for a 25F

I recently chanced upon this post titled Are difficult in-laws a dealbreaker?

In a nutshell, (25F) have been together with her BF (27M) for 2.5 years.

The family is controlling and also abusive towards her partner and her.

There were a lot of harsh comments in the thread on his lack of ability to stand up against his parents:

  • “It is much easier to dump a mummy’s boy and to start over with a MAN than to change a mummy’s boy.”

  • “Your boyfriend needs to man up. He’s an adult and no longer a child.”

I thought about this issue and how I would advise this lady if she was my close friend:

🪷 1. Accept that an external family member will never receive approval and love

Nobody in this world will ever be accepted by a controlling mother-in-law.

What a controlling person wants is a meek person who will do exactly as they say.

No such person exists. There will always be something new to get upset about; some thing to be sensitive about and something to dislike.

If even her own flesh and blood can never ever win approval from her for the rest of their lives, what are the odds that an outsider can?

Initially, the girlfriend of her son can accommodate and change as many things about herself as possible. She will feel motivated to win his mother’s approval.

However, eventually this constant lack of acceptance and criticisms will eat away at her, affect the relationship and will reach a breaking point.

🪷 2. It all depends on the son’s attitude

Difficult in-laws are not the deal breaker.

No one can choose their parents. Those who suffered decades with toxic parents also deserve love; security and an opportunity to be different.

They deserve a chance to join a new family where they can experience unconditional love; security and teamwork.

Having said that, the most worrying part about this entire situation is the boyfriend’s inability to set boundaries with his parents.

This is concerning. How can someone be 27 years old but not able to make his own life decisions and still require parents’ approval?

There is a clear pattern in his primary coping mechanism - avoid and be submissive. It is likely how he survived as a child in such an environment. He is still living in fear and letting fear of them dictate his life.

Being submissive doesn’t solve the root problem ever. It simply gives bullies more power over one’s life choices and happiness.

Without proper therapy to weed out these patterns, he will continue to use these unhealthy coping mechanisms in his relationships.

🪷 3. Intergenerational trauma

Without boundaries set by your bf, this kind of unhealthy dynamics in a family will continually get passed on to your future children.

Based on his current coping mechanism, it does seem that there are tons of unresolved emotional issues within him.

It’s tough to unlearn wanting your parents’ approval.

An important question to ask is:

Is your partner willing to continue to go for therapy over the long term to really unroot deeper issues; cure his unhealthy pattern of avoidance and submission; and learn to set boundaries?

Without proper boundaries set by the first line of defence (him), your future children and you will be exposed to unhealthy grandparents and family dynamics.

Do you want your children to suffer from anxiety, depression and low self-esteem when they are exposed to this kind of grandparents? Or, when they deal with unresolved trauma their father has?

Do you want them to learn from their grandparents on how to treat you; your partner and others?

Do you want to them to adopt the same core values as their grandparents?

Children learn from the people in their families and how they act.

Closing thoughts

I don’t feel difficult in-laws are a dealbreaker.

The dealbreaker here will be if 27M continues to let his parents control his life even at 27 years old.

Sure, we can blame the parents for being toxic and leaving such an impact on him.

However at the age of 27, it is important to take responsibility, take a stance and undo the damage of toxic parenting.

If she wishes to stay, it is important to co-create and discuss a solution together in the next few years which involves boundaries; redefining the rules of the relationship with one’s toxic parents; moving out and becoming an independent human mentally.

If he does not see the need to learn to set proper boundaries now, his future wife and child will suffer.

There seems to be many stories of toxic families on Reddit. I am glad that people are willing to seek help.

If you are one of the victims, do not ever buy into gaslighting like “parents always want the best for us just not knowing how to express it”.

In Asia, dealing with toxic families has an additional layer of complexity which is the expectation of filial piety.

If you look at Confucius teachings, they emphasize the two-way reciprocity of relationships.

He says 父慈子孝. If the parents are compassionate and loving, the children will be filial.

What this also means is that if your parents were not compassionate to you, there is no obligation to be filial.

In the above case, the mum does not love her son. She puts her own interest and biases above his own happiness.

Filial piety should not be wielded as a weapon to demand obedience. Obedience and love are two different things.

If you grew up in a toxic family and continue to live in one, it is important to make a decision that the buck stops with you.

You have to minimize the impact on the future generation and your partner.

Decades of trauma will not take 1-2 years of counselling to resolve. This needs to be an ongoing process.

To access counselling services affordably, go to your nearest family service centre. This is free for some and cost $30 per hour for others. Enter your postal code to find the nearest one here.

Or, you might want to call Touchline for a free phone counselling session. Their number is 1800 377 2252 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm).

Remember that mental health is not something one should try to save time, effort and money on.

The effects are often subconscious, deep and damaging to our physical health and other relationships in the long run.

I am a Singaporean Millennial who writes about work; money; relationships and balance. 

💙 Hit reply and share your views with me

📥 Enjoyed this post? Ask your friends to subscribe here