All The Best Marriages Have This One Boundary In Common

In-laws can be challenging, but they don't have to be.

Couple creating boundaries to protect their marriage Jacob Lund | Canva

Are you newly married, and have you and your partner learned about the importance of setting healthy boundaries in a marriage? Have you worked to identify what your boundaries are, and are you determined to respect them so your marriage is successful? Good for you.

What many people don’t know is it can be very important, from the get-go, to set boundaries for your in-laws as well. Why? Because your in-laws will be a part of your life for a long time, and your relationship with them could have a huge effect on your marriage.


Here are 5 reasons why setting boundaries with your in-laws ASAP is the secret to having a good marriage:

1. Setting boundaries creates clarity.

Now you're married, you've created the beginning of a new family for all of the previous years you have been a member of your original family. Things that formed your original family — holiday traditions, gender roles, financial considerations, etc. — were the foundation upon which the family existed. But after marriage, those things that lay the foundation for your original family might not exist in the new family.

I know when I was married, my husband’s family had always lived close to each other, and as a result, they spent a lot of time together, particularly around birthdays and holidays. My family had always been more spread out and our time together was somewhat limited, so we lived more independently of each other. I was hoping our new family could live in a way more aligned with my original family. My ex wanted to spend holiday time with his family. And his family expected it, too.


In retrospect, if we'd set boundaries early on with both of our families about how we would spend birthdays and holidays, instead of having to have conflict around them every time one arose, we would have saved ourselves a lot of conflict. So, setting boundaries early on with your in-laws allows everyone to know what to expect going forward so conflicts and hurt feelings can be kept to a minimum.



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2. The new relationship must take precedence.

One of the most important reasons healthy boundaries in a marriage may apply to in-laws is because the marriage of two people creates a new family. This family is new, untested, and needs time to develop into what it will be. It's of the utmost importance this new family takes precedence, so the wants and needs of this new couple are taken into consideration above the wants and needs of the original family.


This is not to say the original family should be shunned, but the wants and needs of the new family are discussed first. Once the discussion has been had, the new family can decide together how they will proceed. My ex and I never truly decided what was important for our family. Every time a family conflict arose, we punted it to the next holiday. If we had only made a conscious decision for ourselves and our family, we both would have been happier, and there would have been less conflict.

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3. Everyone needs to know what expectations are.

Unmet expectations are the number one thing that can cause problems in any relationship. Unfortunately, no one usually knows what those expectations are. This isn’t done maliciously. It just never comes up until someone gets hurt. If you can set expectations early on with your in-laws, you can prevent hurt feelings on both sides.

In the example of my ex and I, perhaps if we had clearly stated at the beginning of our relationship what we expected around the birthdays and holidays or engaged in a discussion with our in-laws about what we all wanted, then a whole bunch of conflict would have been avoided. Instead, we just acted like it was a command performance at holidays and birthdays, and we showed up accordingly, often crabby because we fought about it the whole car drive over.


silent tension between mother and daughter-in-law

Photo: fizkes via Shutterstock

4. Relationships can be maintained.

One of the biggest regrets of my marriage is we weren’t able to set boundaries and manage expectations with our families. If we had, some relationships would have been healthier. As I have said before, my ex and I often ended up butting heads when we were put in the position of meeting extended family obligations we didn’t necessarily want to engage in. That was very damaging to our marriage.

Furthermore, our relationship with our in-laws suffered because there was often conflict about how we engaged with them. We weren’t always honest, in an attempt to not upset them, but they often knew. And my ex and I, usually crabby, weren’t always fun to have around. So, if you want to maintain a healthy relationship with your in-laws, I would encourage you to set boundaries to preserve those good feelings.


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5. You will be prepared when the kids arrive.

Ah yes, babies. Aren’t they wonderful? Adorable little creatures who arrive and turn our lives into chaos. And, yes, grandparents. The adults in our lives who raised us, sometimes in ways we wished we hadn’t been raised. They want a say in how your new family will be raised as well.

If you have set and practiced healthy boundaries with your in-laws, when the babies come, you'll be able to discuss with them what kind of boundaries you need around the kids. You can work together to define how they will be involved with the children — will you need them for child care, will they be part of managing discipline, do they understand how important the car seat is, etc?




The grandparent relationship is a key one in the lives of our children. I know my relationship with my grandmother was one of the best and most nurturing of my life. I know my mother’s relationship with her mother wasn’t always a healthy one, and if they'd set boundaries, then a lot of silent dinners might have been avoided.

So, set up and practice boundaries now, so that when the kids are born, both sides are well-practiced in managing expectations and avoiding conflict. Now you know why healthy boundaries in a marriage may apply to in-laws as well. Marriage is long, hard, and wonderful. For the length of your marriage, your in-laws will be a part of it.


It’s crucial to set boundaries right away so you can maintain a good relationship with them. The boundaries don't need to be set in stone — as relationships develop, needs can change — but the discussion must be had and expectations are clear. I know it might be difficult for all parties involved to have the discussion, but in the long run, it will be worth it.

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Mitzi Bockmann is an NYC-based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate who works exclusively with women to help them be all they want to be. Mitzi's bylines have appeared in The Good Men Project, MSN, PopSugar, Prevention, Huffington Post, and Psych Central, among many others.