How Setting Boundaries With In-Laws Early On Sets You Up for Success

Experts explain how to go about actually setting them, too.
Mother-in-law zipping up bride's dress
Photo: martinedoucet / Getty Images
Erin Celletti
by
Erin Celletti
Erin Celletti
Erin Celletti
The Knot Contributor
  • Erin is a freelance contributor to The Knot and loves creating lifestyle, travel, beauty, relationships and commerce content.
  • In addition to writing for The Knot, Erin contributes to a wide range of publications including The Everygirl, The Everymom, Scary Mommy, Romper, Bustle and Brides.
  • Erin lives just outside of New York City, has a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and two Master’s degrees in Education and Administ...
Updated Jan 25, 2024

In the early stages of marriage or a relationship, establishing boundaries with in-laws or future in-laws may not always seem unnecessary. But as you venture into doing life alongside your partner, it's so important to set boundaries with in-laws early on. Otherwise, it can get more difficult and all the more obvious in its necessity down the line.

We know, we know: The idea of creating boundaries with in-laws may seem intimidating. But having healthy boundaries with in-laws in place will ensure you and your partner feel safe and secure and can successfully preserve the intimacy and privacy of your relationship.

So, we spoke with experts to find out why you should set boundaries with your in-laws—and how to go about actually setting them, too. Here's what they had to say.

In this article:

Why You Need Boundaries With Your In-Laws

Boundaries are necessary in all relationships whether it be with your family, partner, friends or your partner's family. While setting them may feel difficult, having them is essential. "Boundaries let others know how they should treat us and how far they can go," Aura De Los Santos, a clinical and educational psychologist explains. At their core, they're simply ways we communicate our needs.

Setting boundaries is a way of protecting yourself, your relationship and your space, making them an essential component of self-care. Think about it: Not having certain boundaries in place could lead to uncomfortable, awkward and even inappropriate situations like:

  • Being asked intrusive questions about family planning, finances or other matters you'd prefer remain private
  • Unplanned, unwanted or unannounced visits
  • The sharing of information you want to be kept private
  • Unrealistic expectations when it comes to communication or events

There are so many reasons why boundaries are important. "They are a form of security we have against what we do not want in our life," says De Los Santos. "Boundaries protect us from situations we don't want to be in and provide us with well-being and satisfaction."

Examples of Boundaries With In-Laws

If you need direction in setting firm boundaries with your in-laws, Michelle Landeros, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Therapist Pages, recommends first identifying the issue that is causing discomfort or that you want resolved. "Discuss these concerns with your partner first, as they play a vital role in addressing them with their family," she says.

Examples of boundaries with in-laws may include (but are, of course, not limited to) the following:

Financial Independence

"Couples should have the freedom to manage their finances without undue

influence or pressure from in-laws," Landeros says. "This includes decisions about

spending, savings, investments and salary discussions. Privacy in financial matters is a cornerstone of marital autonomy and reduces potential conflicts."

House Rules and Living Arrangements

Be it lifestyle choices, household chores or parenting styles, "in-laws should respect the couple's decisions regarding their home environment and child-rearing practices," according to Landeros. "This boundary is vital for maintaining a sense of control and comfort in one's own home." she says.

Communication Preferences

Establishing boundaries around communication is key. "This includes setting appropriate times for calls or visits and the extent of involvement in personal matters," Landeros says. "Healthy communication boundaries ensure the couple has the space and time needed to nurture their relationship."

Decision Making

Decision making should be left to be solely between you and your partner. "In-laws should respect the couple's choices concerning career moves, lifestyle changes or family planning," explains Landeros. "While advice and guidance are often appreciated, these suggestions must not become coercion or criticism. Respecting the couple's autonomy strengthens their bond and decision-making confidence."

How to Set Boundaries With Your In-Laws

Once you've identified the area that needs improvement, Landeros suggests adjusting the way you interact with your in-laws, which might look like limiting meetings to essential family events and occasional phone calls. This, she says, "respects family bonds while maintaining comfortable boundaries."

Similarly, you can also change the way in which you spend time with your in-laws. She recommends opting for neutral settings like restaurants or theme parks for family gatherings. "This ensures enjoyable interactions without overstepping boundaries," Landeros explains.

Most importantly, Landeros stresses the importance of recognizing that your partner's affection and love for their family doesn't diminish their love for you. "Instead of competing for attention, acknowledge your unique place in your spouse's [or partner's] life," she says.

If it's proving continually difficult to set boundaries or have them respected by your in-laws, consider seeking out a couple's therapist who can help further address any underlying issues and help you to set your relationship up for united success.

They say nothing worthwhile in life comes easily—and that absolutely applies to setting and maintaining boundaries with your in-laws.

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