Family Dynamics

Case Closed is our new series that share stories about community members' adventures with advice on and off the app. Feel free to weigh in and let us know if you’d like to submit your own adventures.



My husband and I have been married for almost five years. His parents have long been divorced and his father has remarried. We try to avoid most situations that would bring them together as they do not have a very amicable relationship. However, last year we had our first child and I anticipate many events bringing us together from now on, the next one being my son’s first birthday party. I’m so afraid that my in-laws will not get along and cause a scene and i don’t know what to do. My husband assures me that everything will be fine but I don’t want the day overshadowed by their relationship. Do I bring it up again to my husband? Talk to the in-laws separately? Or just hope that everything will be okay?


My Sister:

Is unmarried and has yet to have to deal with family dynamics beyond our own. She has seen some of the tension between me and my mother-in-law but doesn’t know what to do. She suggested “standing up to her and putting her in her place” forcefully.


“In-laws are terrible! Good luck” She really didn’t give me any sound advice other than cowering and avoiding the in-laws at all costs, which didn’t help with my overall worry.


This is the first of many episodes in which your in-laws will be in the same place at the same time and not be the center of attention. They need to understand the parameters; if they aren’t OK with them, they can opt out. It’s not your responsibility to manage their adult drama. Don’t rely on your husband’s reassurance alone. Men don’t always see or more importantly, feel the nuances that women do. It would likely give you peace of mind if you write a short, but sweet note explaining your anxiety and hope that they can keep it together. Make sure it comes from your husband’s email account but is from both of you. Point out what worst and best case scenario look like for you, so they really understand what you’re talking about and don’t create any unnecessary tension. Send the note to each separately and make sure they know that if they’re not OK with it, you will arrange for one of them to come the next day. 

Soother #2:

My in-laws are infamous for acting like children as grandparents. Don’t trust them not to take center stage, at a 1st birthday party no less, when it’s all about the adults, given the age of the kids who will likely attend, if any. Make sure alcohol doesn’t play a role too! You should have direct conversations with each of them and don’t let them get away with pretending it won’t be an issue; it will be! And the scene will be distracting and embarrassing and lead to bad memories of what should be a happy day. First, figure out exactly what you want to happen and the most obvious ways in which it could go badly. Then, with that skeleton plan in your mind, talk to them. Give them the option of not coming, ask them about their comfort level, and gauge how they would like to see it all go down. Don’t rest on hope for this one. Confront it while you can.  


In-laws are tricky, how would you respond to this situation? What advice would you share?