What To Do When Parents or In-laws Are Adversely Affecting Your Relationship

Marriage Counseling Insider secret for Saving Your Marriage: What To Do When Parents or In-laws Are Adversely Affecting Your Relationship

For over 20 years as a couples therapist, I‘ve specialized in saving relationships that were on the verge of ending even when only one person still wanted the relationship to work and even when they had no hope that it could be saved.

As a marriage counselor, I’ve found that many of my clients have parents or in-laws that are, at times, adversely affecting their life and their relationship.  Here are some ideas that I’ve given to clients coming for couples counseling that might help that I recently gave to Sam.

Sam has kindly given me permission to base this blog post on the exchange he and I had about this common marriage problem.

Dear Fred,

My Dad is widowed. He has lots of friends and is very active on almost a daily basis at the local senior center especially playing cards with his buddies there.

He expects me to call him every day.  When I don’t, he keeps leaving voice mail messages and sending me emails about how hurt he is and says or implies I don’t love him and that he feels abandoned.

When I do call him, he goes on and on for what feels like hours and all he does is whine and complain and puts me down. He tells me all the things wrong with me and with my wife and with how I’m living my life. And, he keeps rehashing the past over and over.

When I tell him how he makes me feel he just acts hurt and sad and says more things to guilt me. He never really listens to me. When he comes over or we go to his place, he’s very controlling and constantly telling me and my wife what to do. My wife can’t stand to be around him.

I come out of every conversation and every visit with him drained and exhausted and defeated. This is putting a strain on my marriage and has become one of the biggest marriage problems we are having. When he calls during work hours, it’s hard for me to concentrate in my meetings after I speak with him. He’s ruining my life. I don’t care if I ever see or talk to him again and that makes me feel really guilty. I would appreciate any advice you can give me.

Thank you,
Sam (name changed to protect the guilted)

Hi Sam,

It sounds like you both love your Dad very much and that you feel trapped and controlled by him.

I can tell you that as a marriage counselor this is a relationship problem I run across a lot in doing marriage therapy.

Here are some possibilities for you that I have found as couples therapist have worked for my clients:

Call your Dad at five minutes to the hour during work hours. Tell him you are about to go into a meeting but that you wanted to say hi before you do. That will help to keep the conversations short but still make him feel that you’re connecting with him.

When you go to visit with him, consider going by yourself. You can make up a believable reason why your wife can’t come. That will take some of the strain off your marriage.

When you do visit him, do some activities that you both enjoy doing together. For example, if you take him to a movie you both want to see, then up to two hours of your visit is watching a movie you’ll enjoy and being free from the negativity you are used to receiving from him.

Try going with him to the senior center on at least one of your visits. I predict he will be on much better behavior there than when he’s alone with you. If he is, that can be a standard part of your visit and you can also suggest that he invites his friends from the senior center over when you come for a visit and you can do a fun activity together as a small group like playing cards.

Again, as a marriage counselor, these are options that I have found in relationship counseling that have worked for many of my clients that were having a similar relationship problem.  Let me know how they work for you.

Take care,

Fred Talisman MFT, Licensed Marriage Counselor

Here is  Sam’s report to me on what happened:

Hi Fred,

Your suggestions were a life saver and they’re working!

My Dad is fine when I call him 5 minutes to the hour and tell him I’m about to go into a meeting.

You were right. He’s a whole different, more positive person when he’s at the senior center or when we invite his friends over for a card game when I visit.

To my surprise, he’s ok with my wife not coming with me on my visits to see him. She still comes when it’s a major holiday but she’s ok with that and we now play a lot of cards and board games on those visits and always have his friends over during the visits.

Thank you,

What’s your most burning question you want to have answered?

I am grateful that you are in my community. Thank you for allowing me to share my knowledge and experience with you.

Here’s to you successfully asking for and receiving what you want from the people in your life.

And, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Feel free to forward this email to anyone you think can benefit from it.

I have a question for you.  Given where you are in your relationship right now, what  are the marriage problems or relationship problems you’d most like to have solutions for?

If you have an immediate need for my help, feel free to Contact Me or give me a call.

Take care,
Fred Talisman MFT

Licensed Marriage Counselor
Saving marriages for over 20 years
Author of: Save Your Relationship
A proven system to rescue your relationship and to keep your family together.
Cell: 310 321-4658


P.S. As part of the marriage therapy I do, I sometimes recommend inspiring books for couples to read or hear together on audio. I just  heard a wonderful and fascinating audio book: “Homer’s Odyssey, Or How I Learned  About Love and Life With a Blind Wonder Cat.”