16 Effective Ways to Deal with Disrespectful / Rude In-Laws

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

Man trying to calm wife and mother arguing, in-law conflict

If your dreams of a fairytale ending complete with the perfect in-law relationships have been dashed, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Thousands of couples have found themselves in the very same difficult situation: the in-laws don’t particularly like them and behave somewhat disrespectfully towards them. Now what? What exactly can you do to rectify the situation? Luckily there are a few things you can try before throwing in the proverbial towel. 

Don’t let a rude or disrespectful in-law get under your skin. Instead, use it as an opportunity to show just what a good catch you are. You can be light-hearted, good-natured, and pleasant, even when being treated a little badly. That’s a great way to be! Below are a few examples of how you can deal with the in-laws when they are being less than kind and welcoming. 

These are 16 ways to deal with disrespectful in-laws:

1. Show a united front with your partner.

You and your partner need to be a team in the eyes of the family, so be united with your partner throughout the event. Chances are that they will then also be exposed to the rudeness and will react accordingly.

2. Do not engage in conflict situations. 

Sometimes situations primed for conflict arrive as if delivered on a silver platter. Don’t fall for it. For instance, your in-laws keep making comments on how you cook a certain meal or how the house is laid out. Bite your tongue. Smile and ask for their recommendations on how to do the cooking and layout the house. Really listen and engage with them. It doesn’t mean you actually have to make these changes. 

3. Set family “ground rules” with your spouse.

Your spouse is bound to know that their family is rude or disrespectful. To deal with it, take some time to sit down to discuss what can be done. Perhaps you can implement certain ground rules like plans have to be made before family shows up to visit, or that there’s a certain time in the evening that’s “home time” when visiting the family.  

4. Have a sense of humor about it – rather laugh than cry.

There will be times where you literally want to tear your hair out. Just take a breath and look for the funny side in it. Tell a friend. Laugh about how ludicrous it all is. Don’t let it take your happiness away from you. 

5. Never gossip about the in-laws to your partner – they must-see for themselves.

You might feel that you and your partner are on the same page, and it’s okay to gossip about or badmouth the in-laws. It’s not. It never will be okay. You need to allow your partner to see the rudeness and disrespect and then take action personally. It is not your place to do so.

6. Keep it light, always.

Because you just haven’t clicked with the in-laws, don’t try to force a deep and meaningful relationship with them. Rather keep it lite. Keep the conversations short and sweet, don’t share every tidbit of information, and be as light-hearted as possible. Talk about the kids’ swim lessons or a funny joke you heard in Yoga. That’s about as light as one could keep it. 

7. Limit the time you spend with them.

If you don’t feel comfortable with the in-laws, limit how much time you spend with them. You don’t have to personally attend every event, and when you do, you don’t have to stay very long. There can always be something else you need to get to. You can’t escape them, but you can be strategic about how you spend time with them. 

Woman sitting at cafe table

8. Never let your guard down – never let your upset show.

There will be times when a comment or change of your plans causes upset, but don’t show it. It is important to keep your guard up and keep going. Rather smile, let the upset flow right over you, and put it out of your mind. This might seem like they are getting away with treating you badly, and they are, but it also makes them think… about what they are doing.

9. Avoid spending time with the in-laws without your spouse – always be together.

Remember that these are your partner’s parents, and while you need to be present and polite, you don’t need to be there when they are 24/7. If your partner isn’t around to attend an event, excuse yourself too and only invite the family over for dinner or a gathering when you are certain your partner is going to be fully available. 

10. Don’t blur lines when it comes to finances and favors.

One should never blur lines when it comes to money and favors with family, but this applies even more in instances where the in-laws are not on the best terms with the couple. Avoid money issues completely with the in-laws where there’s an element of rudeness or disrespect. Money has the ability to complicate these issues even more.

11. Be acutely aware of how your spouse is feeling at all times around the in-laws.

Remember that while the in-laws are being disrespectful, your spouse is probably feeling on edge about it. They want to make sure both parties are happy and relaxed, but it can seem like an impossible task. Ask your partner how they are feeling, and make sure that you react and act accordingly. After all, you want your partner to come out feeling well, so put in the effort where you need to. 

12. Always respond with politeness and a smile (even if you have to bite your tongue).

For instance, if your partner’s mother says something to you that is particularly upsetting, learn the art of biting your tongue. Respond with kindness and politeness. Ask why she feels that way and politely say that you hope she doesn’t feel that way forever. Do not take the bait. Bite your tongue.

13. Ask your partner for advice on how to respond (do not let this turn into an argument).

As your partner is probably aware of the rudeness or disrespect, perhaps approach the topic very gently with them. Mention there is a level of poor treatment happening and that you are happy to let things continue as they are, but how do they feel it should be handled? What would they like you to do? This will really help your relationship as your partner will see that you value their family members, and how they feel about it is of paramount importance. 

14. Orchestrate gatherings and events with extra “cushion” guests to deter the focus and soften the blow.

You can be quite strategic about how you handle family gatherings. You can gather as a family but have a cushion guest to take the focus off you and limit the amount of personal contact you need to have with the in-laws. Invite a family friend or one of your own family members. The more, the merrier…and the less chance there is of an upset flaring up.

15. Try to focus all conversation on the in-laws (people love to talk about themselves).

When spending time with difficult or disrespectful in-laws, it is best to deflect all conversations back to them. Start talking about what interests them and what they like. Naturally, people like to talk about themselves, so it will take the focus off you. Keep bringing the conversation back around to them, and you might just get through the entire event snarky comment-free. 

toasting with her family

16. Be longsuffering. 

Yes, the in-laws might not be your cup of tea or glass of whiskey, but they are there to stay, so you have to find a way to make it work. You will get upset and irritated, but the best thing you can do is find a way to work around it. Stick it out. Over time, they will realize you are here to stay, or you will become skilled at handling time spent with them.

All things considered

While most of us cannot avoid disrespectful in-laws or simply ignore them, we can acquire a firm approach and ensure that boundaries are set in place while being perfectly polite and pleasant. Use the above pointers to at least get along with them when you do have to. Your relationship might start to grow – wouldn’t that be nice?!

Either way, remember not to change your cheerful approach to life just because of other people.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.