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Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage

Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage

4.3 18
by Susan Forward

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Susan Forward's practical and powerful book will help couples cope with terrible and toxic in–laws.

Toxic in–laws are in–laws who create genuine chaos through various assaults––aggressive or subtle––on you and your marriage. Toxic–in laws come in a wide variety of guises, " The Critics.; ", who tell you what you're


Susan Forward's practical and powerful book will help couples cope with terrible and toxic in–laws.

Toxic in–laws are in–laws who create genuine chaos through various assaults––aggressive or subtle––on you and your marriage. Toxic–in laws come in a wide variety of guises, " The Critics.; ", who tell you what you're doing wrong, "The Controllers.;", who try to run you and your partner's life, " The Engulfers.;", who make incessant demands on your time, " The Masters of Chaos.;", who drain you and your partner with their problems, and, " The Rejecters.;", who let you know they don't want you as part of their family.

Susan Forward draws on real–life voices and stories of both women and men struggling to free themselves from the frustrating, hurtful and infuriating relationships with their toxic in–laws. Dr. Forward offers you highly effective communication and behavioral techniques for getting through to partners who won't or can't stand up to their parents. Next, she lays out accessible and practical ways to reclaim you marriage from your in–laws. She shows you what to say, what to do and what limits to set. If you follow these strategies, you may not turn toxic in–laws into the in–laws of your dreams, but you will find some peace in your relationship with them.

Editorial Reviews

The author of the bestselling Toxic Parents now treads in the poison fields of in-law relations. Instead of just grousing about these supposedly alien creatures, Dr. Forward describes how you and your partner should respond to in-laws who instinctively "know better." Even contented couples with decades of experience will learn something from this refreshingly nontoxic dose.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The In-Law Triangle

By the time you reach the point of a serious commitment, you usually know a lot about your partner, and you've either met or heard about the family, with all its saints, smotherers, dictators, and martyrs. Looking back now, with the dazzling clarity of hindsight, you can probably remember your first inkling that you were headed for in-law trouble. For some people, it's a frosty reception or a sense of tension that never seems to lift. For others, the preview of things to come flashes past in curt phone conversations and cutting remarks. If the unpleasant moments dissipate and don't form lasting patterns of behavior, there's no major problem. Other times, however, there's a revealing moment or event that signaled the beginning of ongoing trouble, and you can play it back in your mind like a movie.

For Anne, a thirty-one-year-old graphic designer, it was her prospective mother-in-law's reaction to a personal and professional decision she made.

"Ruth started on me even before Joe and I got married. She was incensed that I wasn't going to change my name, even though it's on all my business literature and phonebook ads. At the rehearsal dinner, she told Joe, loud enough for several people to hear, including me, that, in her opinion, I'm too ambitious and he'll be playing second fiddle to my career, which, of course, is worthless as far as she's concerned — even though she has a career of her own. I didn't say anything, but I felt humiliated and furious. So I tried to laugh it off and make nice. It just wasn't the timefor an argument."

Joe's mother was critical and denigrating with Anne, and her behavior was a bright-red flag. Should Anne have reconsidered marrying Joe because of it? Of course not. But certainly if Ruth's behavior persisted, there were things Anne and Joe would need to address between them, and issues for the two women to resolve as well.

Over time, though, Anne could never find the "right time" to work things out. Four years into her marriage, when she came to see me, she was still feeling humiliated and furious — and berating herself for shrugging off those early warning signs and permitting Ruth's behavior to go unchecked. Like most people with toxic in-laws, she'd sensed from the beginning that marriage would turn out less like a happy merger of two families than a hostile takeover by her partner's parents. But working against that realization were the potent forces that keep many of us suffering in silence. You're in love. You don't want to bring up anything that could spoil the romantic feelings. You want to be liked and accepted by your future in-laws.

Anne looked back in amazement at how hard she'd worked to persuade herself that the unpleasantness at the rehearsal dinner was a momentary blip — followed by years of new "momentary blips":

"I wanted so much for her to like me, and I was sure that she would once she got to know me, but that was a laugh. After we got married, it only got worse. Then I was sure that things would improve after she became a grandmother. Now it's two grandchildren later, and she's still taking potshots at me all the time."

Why do we so often let months and years pass between the time we know we have in-law problems and the time we stop waiting for them to disappear on their own? I'm convinced that it's because we cling to a whole collection of reassuring platitudes about how best to handle in-laws. These reassurances are deeply etched into our collective belief systems, and they crop up often in the advice of well-meaning friends and relatives. They're the first things we tell ourselves when we realize, with a thud of dread, that our current or future inlaws aren't our allies. I call these beliefs "In-Law Myths," because most of the time they are pure wishful thinking and not grounded in reality. They are comforting, though, and we cling to them until they're as threadbare as an old security blanket.

Cutting Through the In-Law Myths

The seven short statements that follow sound perfectly reasonable, and like tall stakes in a garden, they serve as supports for the tiny shoots of hope, which, over time, bloom into a thicket of lulling beliefs and rationalizations. Holding on to any of these myths will keep you from focusing on what is happening right now in your relationship with your in-laws. So, though I know it may leave you feeling vulnerable, I'd like to dispel these fantasies, one by one.

1. Things Will Get Better After We're Married.

They might. They might also get worse. As the wedding day comes and goes, most people find that toxic in-laws are consistent. If they didn't warm to you while you were dating, and even worked on their son or daughter to break up with you, it's highly unlikely that they'll drop the campaign against you while you wait for them to come around. Wedding cakes and rings are lovely and meaningful symbols, but they're not magic when it comes to solving in-law problems.

2. Things Will Get Better After They Get to Know Me.

This phrase echoes poignantly among people struggling to cope with the hurt of in-law criticism or rejection. Time and familiarity alone won't open closed hearts and minds. Putting on a brave front while waiting for your natural goodness and charm to win them over is like waiting for a broken dish to mend itself.

3. Things Will Get Better Once I Have a Baby.

Certainly I've seen cases of in-laws who softened...

Toxic In-Laws. Copyright © by Susan Forward. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Susan Forward, PhD, is an internationally renowned therapist, lecturer, and author. Her books include the number-one New York Times bestsellers Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them and Toxic Parents. In addition to her private practice, she has served as a therapist, instructor, and consultant in numerous Southern California psychiatric and medical facilities.

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Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book not only validated my feelings about all of the snide and covert things my mother-in-law was doing to undermine me, but was absolutely instrumental in helping my husband see for the first time that the things she was saying/doing shouldn't be 'let go' and 'overlooked'!! Because the book outlines specific guidlines for setting boundaries to protect your marriage and family, he ended up confronting her with me and now even my relationship with my in-laws is better!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
For years my husband responded to his mother's continual harrassment as 'not a big deal,' or 'that's just the way she is.' Well, the 'way she is' was destroying our family. I can't say a paperback solved our problems, but at least made him realize them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was literally on the verge of divorce when I found this book. My spouse stood by while his parents manipulated us, ate up all our time, guilted us into doing whatever they wanted, constantly criticized me and gave endless 'advice' and 'opinions' on how we were raising our children. This book identifies several different poisonous personalities AND gives strategies to rediscover your voice, redefine the boundaries of your marriage, and help your spouse realize that the two of you and your children ARE the family.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are having trouble with your in-laws and this is causing conflict in your marriage, this is certainly a good book to read. You can enjoy reading about the different type of problematic in-laws, their controlling behavior, and how it affects you spouse and in turn your marriage. The book gives different family scenarios and how spouses deal with interference from in laws, from being pressured, and from feeling guilty. Read this book & you will learn some valuable tactics and strategies and have an insight as to what category your problematic in-laws belong to!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Here is a book I will have to read five more times... Loads of helpful advice and behavioral strategies that can be used in all aspects of daily life... I will refer back to this for years to come!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In-law problems... This is the book... If you have in-laws that are living & can't pin-point the source of your relationship's short coming, do give this book a read while at the book store. I had to buy it after picking it up. This book has become my prescribed medication for all my married girlfriends. Doesn't matter if you're not cuacasion, I come from a very cultured Asain background and felt every breath of me was suffocating till I found this book.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book as though it were written about me. It was unbelievable. I am not crazy, these things do happen to other women. I read this book in one day. Outstanding and super helpful. I take my hat off to Susan because she gave typical instances and then guided me on how to react calmly and logically. Very helpful. I'm going to give this book to my mother-in-law for Christmas!