8 Common Misconceptions About In-Laws

South Asian family

By Nadia Shah @desiinlaws & online at: www.southasianinlaws.com

Columnist, In-Law Corner

Columnist, In-Law Corner

Family relationships are closely connected to culture in the South Asian community but misconceptions about In-Laws and their role can make navigating family, harder than it needs to be:


Here are my Top 8 Misconceptions About In-Laws:

1. In-laws usually interfere, criticize, and are overly involved:  Hopefully this misconception goes without saying, but many people are fearful of what to expect post marriage with in-laws. If you go in with the attitude that you’re going to dislike your in-laws, you will end up disliking them (at least for a while). Think positive.

2. Your relationship with your in-laws can be absolutely perfect: Even though you should think positive, you have to be somewhat realistic as well. Perfection is impossible to achieve, but your in-law relationship can be happy, healthy, and fulfilling. Keep in mind that building and strengthening your relationship with in-laws will take time and effort: it won’t happen overnight. As long as you keep trying, things will hopefully keep improving.


3. In-laws want to raise your kids for you: While you can almost guarantee that your in-laws are looking forward to being grandparents, you can rest assured that they don’t want to go through the trials of raising small children again. While you may need to remind them every once in a while that you’re the parent and you make the rules, you’ll most likely find that they just want to have fun with your kids (and maybe spoil them a little), not discipline them. So don’t be too fearful of how your in-laws will act with your little ones. Remember, kids can’t have too much love.

4. Mothers-in-Law are the root of all your in-law problems: While it’s true that most in-law horror stories usually surround mother-in-laws, it would be unwise to overlook the potential for issues with other family members. Challenges can arise with sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, and fathers-in-law, among others. Rather than automatically assuming your mother-in-law is going to cause problems, the best approach is to just be aware and cautious that problems can come from anyone. The key is to identify and address them as soon as you can.

bigstock-Mother-and-daughter-talking-in-208331605. Both sets of in-laws have to get along for a marriage to work out: Although we want the people we love to get along and to love each other, unfortunately that doesn’t always occur. As long as your parents and your in-laws can be cordial, you’ll be fine. And if they can’t even be cordial, then set boundaries and refuse to tolerate bad-mouthing of the other set of parents. Over time your parents and your in-laws might grow to be friends. And if they don’t, you should try make sure it doesn’t affect your relationship with either set of parents or your spouse.

6. “I can’t live with my in-laws”:  I’ve heard this multiple times, and it usually means “I’m scared and don’t want to live with my in-laws.” But if you have to live with them, trust me, you can. You may have difficulties at times, but as with any cohabitation, it takes time to adjust. Avoid using the word “can’t.” It only serves to put you in a negative mindset. My in-laws lived with me even though I never planned or expected it and I was fine (and in some ways it was beneficial to our relationship). You will be fine too. Go in with a can-do attitude.

7. Mother-in-laws want to continue controlling their sons: Unfortunately for some, this may be true. But for many, there is a deeper reason mother-in-laws appear to be controlling: fear of losing their sons. Moms usually spend at least 18 years raising their child, and it can be difficult for them to let go when he gets married. Try to remember that it’s not typically about control but rather about fear. Think about how it might feel when you have to let go of your own son or daughter when they marry. Try to use this perspective to temper your negative feelings.


8. Only son-in-laws and daughter-in-laws are scared of their mother-in-laws and father-in-laws: Much to the surprise of many, parent-in-laws are sometimes scared too. Many want so badly to have a good relationship with their son or daughter-in-law and worry about how they’ll be viewed.  Keep that in mind; the realization of this possibility will help you approach your in-laws from an empathetic perspective. Check out the following Huffington Post article where a mother-in-law feels forced to stay quiet to maintain peace, fearing that if she doesn’t, she may not be able to see her grandkids. 

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There are 8 comments

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  1. IQra

    I would call these stereotypes not misconceptions because one is the general understanding while the other means it is the wrong understanding and living with my inlays for 6 years, there are a few on the list that are definitely not myths for me but realities.

    • Nadia

      Thanks for your sharing your thoughts. These can still be considered misconceptions because sometimes we assume that the statements above are true for ALL in-laws. My point was to show that these statements are mistaken thoughts for many (aka misconception).

      But for some, like you, these statements are a reality. And that’s unfortunate. I would love to hear more about your situation if you are willing to share. I’m sure I can relate in some ways because my in-laws lived with me for quite awhile (but it was a role reversal in many ways). Stay strong and know that you have the support of Masalamommas.

  2. Roshni

    Well written! I have a very cordial relationship with my in-laws! Now that my sons are growing up, I do often think about who they will end up with and hope to have the same kind of relationship with my sons’ partners!!

  3. Worried

    My Indian fiancé is in a predicament. His parents are healthy and in their early 70s and have social security income, retirement and pension from both the U.S. and India, and also own a home which they rent out. They insisted that my fiancé take out a mortgage to buy them a new house to live in. And that he furnish it for them, including televisions in the bedroom and living areas and satellite television with Indian channels. They also expect him to pay the mortgage. And all of their expenses, including cell phones and medical expenses. He earns only $38K, which is less than his parents’ combined retirement incomes. He has no savings as he has always supported them. They have significant savings and $45K annual income free and clear to do whatever they want with. They take trips to India, give more than a thousand dollars to the church each year, and save money for their two grandchildren. But what of their son, my finance? He has no money to support himself or to support a family of his own or to save for his own retirement – least of all contribute to our household when we marry. He can’t even buy me an engagement ring because all of his money goes to his parents. He has to work a second job or overtime if he has any significant financial needs. Why would parents who HAVE sufficient lifetime income demand that their son support them, leaving him penniless? If and when we marry I will have to support us and our retirement and our children on my own as he has nothing left after giving it all to his parents. He will not be able to contribute to our income or financial security. He has a younger brother as well who now lives in a separate household. His brother earns about $60K per year. I told him to sit down with his parents and put it all down on paper and show them how much he earns and how much he is spending on them and how much he has left – and also how much they earn. And then insist that they pay their own way, or at the very least a large portion of their own expenses – and then if they still insist on taking money from their children have he and his brother each contribute a small amount. I also told him to go to counseling with his parents, or or have his uncle and/or someone from the church sit in so that they will listen. I also have a son. I would never expect him to take care of me at the expense of himself, his family, or his future – and certainly not when I was able to care for myself. I love his parents, but I find their expecting their son to support them selfish – it would be different if he were well off or if they were impoverished … but that is not the case. I also don’t see this as a Christian thing to do. I understand there are cultural dynamics at play here, but surely as parents you want the best for your children, and culture or no culture what parent would allow a child to support them when that child clearly could not afford to do so?

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