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Resolving In-Law Power Plays

There are eight steps to resolving power plays among your in-laws. Learn how to diffuse any family argument with these steps.

Resolving In-Law Power Plays

Here are a few final suggestions to make it easier for you to solve power plays with your in-laws.

Don't Go There

People are written off or discounted when mean behavior is expected or tolerated. As a result, old complaints and power struggles keep repeating like a foot-long chili dog.

  1. Remember that revenge is indeed sweet, but it is a dish best served cold.

    Don't be so quick to strike back. Let things simmer down before you extract what you consider justice. Everyone doesn't always have to get their just desserts.

  2. Look at your own behavior.

    Sweetpea, no one is innocent in this situation. Consider what you may be doing to throw off the balance of power in the family.

  3. Choose your battles carefully.

    You may win the battle but lose the war. Weigh each issue so you can decide if it's worth the effort to duke it out.

  4. Show respect.

    Even if your in-laws are a pain in the you-know-where, they are your in-laws and they (usually) are older. Americans in general don't have a whole lot of respect for age (why else would I be thinking about that face lift already?) but age does deserve some deference. Even if you don't feel it, try to show your in-laws the respect they have earned by their greater experience.

  5. Don't forget irony.

    If you stop sneaking spoonfuls of the super premium ice cream and lay off the bacon, odds are you'll make it to the stage where you'll be the mother- or father-in-law in the family photo. Let me tell you, Mouseketeers, it's a frightening moment when you first look in a mirror or store window and see your mother's or father's reflection staring back at you...but it's you, not them. If biology is indeed destiny, odds are you'll be mouthing those parental phrases you swore you'd never say. You know the ones: "Wait until your father gets home" and "I'll give you something to cry about." Ouch. So as you're judging your mother- and father-in-law now (as well as your older sisters- and brothers-in-law), remember that it won't be too long before you're walking in their Reeboks.

  6. Maintain a good sense of humor.

    Some things just aren't funny, but it's amazing how often you can find a germ of humor in even the grimmest situation. I'm not suggesting that you burst into gales of laughter when someone falls on his face in public, but you can make an effort to see the humor in most in-law power struggles.

  7. Never force anyone to make a choice. Almost.

    "It's them or me" could leave you twisting in the wind. The only exception to this is an abusive in-law situation, where your emotional or physical health is in danger.

  8. Don't bash your in-laws to make your own parents look good.

    This isn't a zero-sum game. You can have your cake and eat it, too.

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