Setting Healthy Boundaries With In-laws

As a couple, one of the most significant challenges you may face is setting healthy boundaries with your in-laws. In-laws can be a source of joy and support, but they can also cause tension and conflict in a relationship. The key is to find a balance that works for everyone involved. In this post, we will discuss some tips on how to set healthy boundaries with your in-laws.

Why boundaries with in-laws are important:

Setting healthy boundaries with your in-laws is crucial to maintaining a healthy and positive relationship with them. Boundaries help to clarify expectations and prevent misunderstandings, which can often lead to conflicts.

  1. Protect your marriage: One of the primary reasons for setting boundaries with in-laws is to protect your marriage. While in-laws may have good intentions, their involvement in your marriage can often cause stress and strain on your relationship. Boundaries help to establish the boundaries of your marriage and protect it from outside influences.
  2. Maintain a healthy relationship: Boundaries help to maintain a healthy relationship with your in-laws. By setting boundaries, you can establish a clear understanding of what is and isn't acceptable behavior. This can help to prevent misunderstandings and conflicts and foster a positive and respectful relationship.

Let's be clear for second... we LOVE both of our in-laws and have great relationships with them. Boundaries are not bar or unhealthy. They don't have to be in place only when you have a rocky relationship with your in-laws. Clear boundaries are kind, and as mentioned above, help protect your marriage and maintain a healthy relationship.

If you're engaged, we go more in depth about in-laws in our online premarital course.

Times when you might need boundaries:

Establishing boundaries with your in-laws can be especially important during certain situations. Here are some common times when you might need to set boundaries:

  1. Holidays: These are often an important time for the whole family to get together. Your in-laws may have different expectations and traditions than what you're used to. However, you may need to set boundaries around how much time you'll spend with your in-laws, where you'll celebrate, and what activities you'll participate in. Remember: you and your spouse are a complete family unit. You make decisions together.
  2. Spending time together: While it's important to spend time with your in-laws, it's also important to establish boundaries around how much time you'll spend together. This can include setting limits around how often you see each other or how long visits will last.
  3. Money/finances: It's likely that one or both of you were (at least somewhat) financially dependent on your parents leading up to your marriage. If boundaries aren't setting, in-laws can overstep the new relationship by giving money or participating in financial decisions. You may need to set boundaries around what you'll accept from your parents/in-laws around money.
  4. Communication: Effective communication is key to building healthy relationships with your in-laws. However, sometimes communication can be challenging, especially if there are disagreements or misunderstandings. Setting boundaries around how you communicate can help ensure that conversations remain respectful and productive.
  5. Living near your in-laws: If you live near your in-laws, it can be easy to become overly involved in each other's lives. To avoid conflicts or feeling overwhelmed, it's important to establish boundaries around how often you'll see each other, what types of activities you'll participate in, and what kind of involvement you'll have in each other's lives. For example, decide wether or not you'll give your in-laws a key to your house or if they need to ask for permission to come over.

6 Ways to Set Healthy Boundaries With In-laws

Okay, now that you understand why boundaries are important and some times when you might need them. Let's get into how to set these boundaries.

1. Understand your boundaries.

The first step in setting healthy boundaries with your in-laws is to understand your boundaries. You need to be clear about what you're comfortable with and what you're not comfortable with. Take some time to reflect on what you need from your in-laws and what you want to avoid. Discuss this with your partner and make sure that you are on the same page.

You can use the list of 5 examples above, but here are some other instances you might want to talk about:

  • Vacations
  • Gifts
  • Access to areas of your home
  • Kids/parenting styles
  • Talking about your spouse (ie, venting)

Keep in mind, there's no one size fits all when it comes to boundaries. In some cases, you may need to set more firm boundaries, while in others you can loosen up. What's important is to reach agreement with your spouse on these boundaries, which leads us to...

2. Communicate with your partner

It's essential to communicate with your partner about your expectations and boundaries regarding your in-laws. You need to be in full agreement and work together to establish healthy boundaries. Decide together what actions you will take when your in-laws cross your boundaries. For example, if your in-laws drop by unannounced and let themselves into your house, you and your partner need to be on the same page about how to respond.

3. Be clear and direct with your in-laws

When setting boundaries with your in-laws, be clear and direct (there are a few sample scripts below). Don't beat around the bush or try to sugarcoat your expectations. Instead, be honest and straightforward. Let your in-laws know what your boundaries are and what you expect from them. For example, if you don't want them to drop by unannounced, tell them that you prefer they call ahead to make sure it's a good time.

4. Set consequences

If your in-laws cross your boundaries, it's essential to set consequences. The consequences should be appropriate to the situation and should help your in-laws understand the importance of respecting your boundaries. For example, if your in-laws show up unannounced, you might ask them to leave and tell them that they can't come over unannounced in the future. Stick to your consequences, even if it's difficult.

As a quick note here, this is why it's so important for you and your spouse to be in full agreement. One of the worst things you can do is uphold a consequence for your in-laws, then your spouse is talks to them later and says they didn't agree with the boundary. This is a recipe for frustration.

5. Be respectful

When setting boundaries with your in-laws, it's important to be respectful. You don't want to be rude or hurtful. Be clear and direct while also being respectful. Remember that your in-laws are an important part of your partner's life (and hopefully yours!), and you don't want to damage that relationship.

6. Find common ground

It's possible that your in-laws may not fully understand your boundaries or why they are important to you. In such cases, try to find common ground. For example, if your in-laws insist on giving your spouse money behind your back, suggest ways they could do that that are beneficial to the relationship as a whole. If they still don't understand, try to explain your reasoning calmly and respectfully.

Setting boundaries with in-laws can be challenging, but it is an essential part of maintaining healthy relationships with them. Sometimes, it can be difficult to know what to say or how to say it when setting boundaries. To help with this, we have compiled some scripts for different situations that you may encounter when setting boundaries with your in-laws.

Scripts for Boundaries

Below are some scripts for different scenarios where setting boundaries with in-laws may be necessary. Remember, these are just examples, and you can always tailor the language to suit your specific situation and communication style.

1. Holidays

"We really appreciate that you want to spend the holidays with us, but we also want to have some time to ourselves. This year, we have decided to spend Christmas Eve at home, just the two of us. We would love to have you come over for Christmas dinner the next day, but we hope you understand that we need some time to celebrate on our own."

2. Spending time together

"We love spending time with you, but we also need to make sure we have enough time for just the two of us. We have decided to start having date night every Friday, and we hope you can respect our time together and not make plans with us on those nights. We really value our relationship with you, but we also want to prioritize our marriage."

3. Money/finances

"We appreciate your generosity, but we also want to make sure we are financially responsible. We have decided to start budgeting and saving more carefully, so we won't be able to accept any more money from you. We hope you understand that this is just something we need to do for ourselves and our future."

4. Communication

"We really value open and honest communication, but we also want to make sure we are respecting each other's boundaries. When we discuss certain topics, we would appreciate it if you could refrain from giving unsolicited advice or making judgments. We want to feel comfortable sharing our thoughts and feelings with you, but we also need to feel like our boundaries are being respected."

5. Living near your in-laws

"We love living close to you, but we also want to make sure we have some independence. We would appreciate it if you could give us some space and not drop by unannounced. We also want to make sure we are not always relying on you for help with things like childcare or errands. We want to make sure we are responsible for ourselves and our family, while still maintaining a good relationship with you."

Final tips for setting boundaries with in-laws:

Lastly, here are some tips to keep in mind when you're setting boundaries with your in-laws.

Respect their boundaries too:

When setting boundaries with your in-laws, it's important to remember that they may also have their own boundaries. Be respectful of their wishes and try to find a compromise that works for everyone involved.

Be consistent:

Consistency is key when it comes to setting boundaries. Once you establish your boundaries, make sure you stick to them. This will help your in-laws understand that you are serious about your boundaries and that you expect them to be respected.

Use "I" statements:

When communicating your boundaries to your in-laws, it's important to use "I" statements instead of "you" statements. For example, instead of saying "You always show up unannounced," say "I prefer when you call ahead before coming over." This will help prevent your in-laws from feeling attacked or defensive.

Be open to compromise:

Setting boundaries doesn't mean cutting off all contact with your in-laws. Be open to finding a compromise that works for everyone involved. For example, if your in-laws want to spend more time with your children, but you need some alone time with your family, suggest a schedule that works for everyone.


Setting healthy boundaries with your in-laws can be a challenging task, but it's essential for maintaining a healthy relationship with them and your partner. Remember to communicate clearly with your partner and be direct, respectful, and firm with your in-laws. Establish consequences for when they cross your boundaries, and don't be afraid to find common ground with them. By doing so, you can build a healthy and happy relationship with your in-laws.

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