Here's How to Get Along With Your Father-in-Law, According to Therapists

And the in-law of the year award goes to…you!
Woman talking with father-in-law
Photo: Momo Productions / Getty Images
Lauren Dana Ellman - The Knot Contributor.
by
Lauren Dana Ellman
Lauren Dana Ellman - The Knot Contributor.
Lauren Dana Ellman
The Knot Contributor
  • Lauren is a contributor for The Knot covering topics such as music, cakes, venues and speeches.
  • She has been published in a wide array of lifetsyle-oriented publications including SELF and Allure.
  • Lauren is a proud graduate of Syracuse University's SI Newhouse School of Public Communication.
Updated Feb 12, 2024

Weddings are exciting and emotional, with two families coming together as one in honor of your relationship. However, that's not to say the blending of families comes without complications, especially when in-laws are involved. More specifically, if you're worried about how to get along with your father-in-law, we're here to help alleviate some of the stress. Moreover, while the in-law relationship can be complex and complicated, it is a special and beautiful one—even if there are some forks in the road. Ultimately, know that you're not the only person struggling with this new dynamic, which, at times, can be challenging. That said, whether you're engaged or already married, there really is no need to fret: We've compiled a list of nine tips to help you build, strengthen and maintain a solid relationship with your father-in-law for years to come.

Accept Him for Who He Is

For better or worse, your father-in-law isn't going to change, so if there's something you don't like about him, try your best to let it slide off your shoulder, accept them for who he is and carry on with grace. That said, taking the time to honor and acknowledge your feelings—and realizing that there is nothing you can do to change your father-in-law—will ultimately help you move forward.

Be Respectful

Let's face it: "No one ever wants to feel disregarded, disrespected or upstaged," explains licensed psychotherapist and Deeper Well Therapy founder Annalise Oatman. That said, leading with kindness is key. Also, "Pay careful attention to the 'ceremonial offices' he holds at family gatherings [even if it's something as trivial as carving the turkey at Thanksgiving] and do not step on his feet in that role."

Try to Stay Cool & Establish Boundaries

Sometimes discussions can get heated, and points of contention could be raised. If this ever occurs, try your best to stay cool and collected instead of getting defensive and adding fuel to the fire. Take a deep breath and, if necessary, remove yourself from the situation. Establishing boundaries early on can also help mitigate these scenarios from popping up. And remember, you can always confide in your spouse if something is bothering you. From there, you can work together to address the problem at stake and even come up with a game plan to prevent it from happening again.

Show Your True Colors

According to Oatrman, you'll want to "demonstrate that you are a caring, considerate partner who wants to provide safety and commitment to your new spouse." Besides, she says, "A father-in-law's worst nightmare would be any indication that their adult child has landed in a situation of instability, pain or attenuated safety in any way." So, let your true colors shine through to let him know that "you are honored to carry on the torch from here."

Express Your Gratitude

Ultimately, says Oatman, "I would add that in-laws (regardless of gender) want to feel seen and acknowledged for the role they played in raising your wonderful spouse." With that in mind, she recommends showing "gratitude, respect and recognition." She continues, telling The Knot, "If you're courageous enough, you might even say something as vulnerable and heartfelt as, 'Thank you for raising _________. They are the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life.'" While it may seem small, this sweet sentiment will go a long way.

Get to Know Him on a Personal Level

Make a conscious effort to get to know your father-in-law by doing some digging to discover any shared interests or hobbies. On that note, don't be afraid to ask questions to find some common ground! For example, let's say you find out that you're both passionate about wine. In that case, consider signing up for a wine-tasting class for some fun in-law bonding in a fun, low-pressure setting.

Make an Effort to Include Him

In order to maintain a good relationship with your father-in-law, licensed relationship and sex therapist Michelle Herzog, LMFT, CST, advises involving him in "family gatherings, celebrations and activities whenever possible." Moreover, she explains that "making him feel included and valued can help strengthen your relationship." You can even go the extra mile and invite him to spend one-on-one time with you!

Turn to Him for Advice (if Applicable)

Your father-in-law likely has a wealth of life experience and wisdom to share," says Herzog. "Respect his knowledge and expertise, and be open to learning from him." One caveat: "Only do this if you respect what your father-in-law has to offer or teach you." For example, she says, "If you are completely misaligned on values, I wouldn't recommend this tip."

Speak to Your Spouse

Chances are, nobody knows your in-laws better than your partner. So, why not utilize that to your advantage? That said, Herzog recommends sitting down with your spouse and asking them, point-blank, what would be most helpful or impactful for getting along with your father-in-law.

Up Next
  • Collage of four gift ideas for father-in-law: whiskey set, spice set, charging tray, mini fire pit
    40 Impressive Gifts for Your Father-in-Law