When you choose to marry a person, it’s important to recognize that they’re already part of a family and that they likely have a role that they play in the lives of their relatives. The roles can vary and include, but are not limited to, the role of the peacemaker, the voice of reason, the shoulder to cry on, or even the financial safety net. In most cases, partners shouldn’t marry in trying to change that. At the same time, some families can develop an unhealthy dependency on one another and it’s up to spouses to communicate that when the decision is made to marry and start a family, priorities should shift, which may mean not always being available to relatives in the capacity they once were.
“In-law entanglements are common in marriage and take root early, leaving an imprint and becoming a potential source of ongoing friction and divide,” explained Dr. Lynn Margolies in an op-ed for Psych Central. “To insulate marriages from damaging intrusions, a symbolic boundary must be drawn from the beginning, and reinforced over time, establishing the sanctity of the couple as a unified entity.”
Unfortunately, these boundaries are not always established, and the end result is often one spouse who is overextended from trying to juggle the demands of family life with the overwhelming needs of their relatives and another who is deeply frustrated by the fact that their partner can’t seem to ever prioritize the needs of their family over those of their relatives. Here are five struggles only people with overly needy in-laws understand:
Your spouse is constantly distracted
Managing work and family is already a balancing act, but when you add the needs of people who live outside of your household to the equation, it can be a recipe for chaos. From the phone constantly ringing to unannounced visits to text messages coming in at all hours of the night, it can be hard for anyone to remain focused on what’s in front of them because they’re being pulled in many different directions.
Resources are always being diverted
While it’s great to lend a helping hand to your relatives when they’re in need, it can become a drain on resources when the requests for handouts are constant. And once you have children of your own, you tend to need all hands (and coins) on deck. Thus, it becomes more frustrating when your partner is unable to focus on what’s happening at home because their family members are always asking for financial support.
Your spouse has less time for your household
With the adults working all week and the children at school, nuclear families generally look forward to slowing down on the weekends and spending quality time with one another. Unfortunately, when your in-laws are on the needy side, they usually make plans for your weekends without even informing you.
Their dependency increases with each request
The thing with some people realizing that they can rely on you is that the requests hardly ever stop. They keep rolling in and each one is grander than the next. Even worse, some get so comfortable that they expect your spouse to come to their rescue for any minor inconvenience that they may experience.
Pent up resentment
Having in-laws who are too reliant on your spouse can place a significant strain on your relationship and family life. While you definitely want your partner to be there for their family, it can be frustrating when boundaries are not established. In many cases, this leads to feelings of resentment towards the spouse and their relatives, which can be a recipe for disaster.
Like Dr. Margolies said, a symbolic boundary must be drawn from the beginning to help divert some of these frustrations in your union. However, be prepared for the likelihood of having to remind in-laws about said boundaries, as their adjustment period likely won’t be a short one.