Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage

Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage

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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

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

bn.com
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062031440
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
09/07/2010
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
174,142
File size:
2 MB

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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.

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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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