Whether we’re talking about your ex-spouse, mother-in-law, sister, or brother-in-law, the dynamic changes when someone becomes an ex in-law.
The first thing you need to do – especially with interfering ex in-laws – is to set some healthy boundaries.
This will ensure everyone (well, maybe not them so much) will know where they stand and what they can or can’t do in regards to your life.
Here are tips for setting boundaries with ex in-laws and examples of healthy boundaries:
Why It’s Important to Set Boundaries with Ex In-Laws
It’s important to set boundaries with ex in-laws for a number of reasons.
For one, you want to protect your relationship with your current spouse or partner.
If there are no boundaries, it’s easy for in-laws – especially an overbearing mother-in-law – to try to come between you and your partner.
They may do this intentionally or unintentionally, but it can cause some serious issues for your current relationship if left unchecked.
Another reason to set boundaries is to protect yourself emotionally.
You don’t want to get caught in the middle of your partner’s relationship with their parents or other relatives.
It’s not your job to fix or mediate their relationships.
And lastly, setting boundaries will help you maintain a healthy relationship with your ex in-laws that works for you – and that’s what’s important.
Splitting with a partner fractures a lot of relationships and lives, and things are going to change.
The bottom line is that some people will be able to accept that, and unfortunately, some people will not.
You don’t have to be best friends, but it is possible to have a civil, healthy relationship with them – even if they are difficult.
Tips for Setting Boundaries with Ex In-Laws
So, how do you set boundaries with ex in-laws?
Here are some tips:
- Be assertive: This means being clear and concise about what you need and expect from them. If they cross a boundary, don’t be afraid to remind them firmly but politely.
- Don’t engage in drama: In-laws can be master manipulators and may try to get you caught up in their drama. Don’t fall for it. Just politely excuse yourself and walk away.
- Keep communication short and sweet: There’s no need to engage in small talk or pleasantries if you don’t want to. Keep your communication with them short, sweet, and to the point.
- Set limits on contact: If you don’t want to talk to them every day, or even every week, that’s perfectly fine. Where you may have felt compelled to be in touch before, that’s just no longer the case.
- Be clear about what you will and won’t tolerate: This is probably the most important tip of all. If they do something that crosses a line, be clear about what you will and won’t tolerate.
And finally, don’t forget that you have a right to say no. You don’t owe them anything, so don’t feel guilty about setting boundaries and saying no to their requests!
Examples of Healthy Boundaries for Ex In-Laws
1. They Can’t Just Turn up Unannounced Anymore
If your ex in-laws used to just drop by without calling first, that’s no longer going to be acceptable if you’ve moved on.
Make it clear that you need notice before they come over, and if they don’t respect that, then they can’t come over at all.
Some people will push back on this, I’m sure. But if it’s making you uncomfortable in any way, you need to be clear about this.
2. They Don’t Get to Tell You How To Live Your Life
Your ex in-laws may have been used to being involved in every aspect of your life when you were related, but now they’re outlaws, not inlaws.
If you want to move forward with your life, you need to be able to do that without them interfering.
You can still be polite and respectful, and maybe you’re good friends with some of your ex in-laws, but the dynamic of your friendship is going to change.
3. They’re No Longer Automatically Involved in Your Private Life
This one goes hand-in-hand with the previous boundary.
They’re not going to be privy to everything that’s going on in your life anymore, and that includes your relationship with your current partner.
You don’t need to give them a play-by-play of what’s going on, and you certainly don’t need to ask for their approval.
This boundary is all about respect. They knew about your private life by virtue of being related to you, but that’s changed.
4. They Have No Emotional Control Over You Anymore
Your ex in-laws may have been used to holding some power in your relationship, but that’s no longer the case.
You are now free to live your life as you please, without their approval or permission.
This boundary is about taking back your power and claiming control over your own life.
Whatever emotional ties you had to your ex in-laws should now be gone. If they’re trying to hold on to any you need to make it clear that you’re not going to allow it.
5. They Can’t Discuss Your Past with Your New Partner
This boundary is about respect and privacy.
Your new partner doesn’t need to know all the gory details of your past relationship, and your ex in-laws shouldn’t be discussing it with them either.
If they do, that’s a major boundary violation.
Having your new partner meet your ex in-laws is fine and for most people it’s going to happen, but they need to respect the fact that you’re in a new chapter in your life.
6. They’re Not to Get Involved Between You and Your Ex
There aren’t many breakups that do not result in family members taking sides or trying to console one or both parties.
However, if there is no chance of reconciliation and you’ve moved on it’s usually better for everyone concerned if they stop getting involved in your relationship.
Your ex in-laws need to respect the fact that you’re not together anymore and that means they shouldn’t try to get involved between the two of you.
If there are any issues that need to be discussed, they should be done so directly between you and your ex, without involving your new partner.
7. Any Negativity Will Not Be Tolerated
If your ex in-laws are the type of people who are constantly negative and always have something bad to say, it’s time to put a stop to that.
You don’t need that kind of toxic energy in your life, and you certainly don’t need them bringing it into your new relationship.
This is a hard boundary to enforce as some people are naturally just negative, but removing negative people from your life is going to help you be a better version of yourself anyway.
8. The Children Must Be Kept Out Of Any Issues
The ones who suffer most from breakups are almost always the kids.
If you have children from your previous relationship, they need to be kept out of any issues between you and your ex in-laws.
They shouldn’t be used as pawns or messengers, and they certainly shouldn’t be dragged into the middle of any arguments.
This boundary is about protecting your children and keeping them safe from any drama – I’m sure you’ll agree it’s one of the most important boundaries.
Image credits – Photo by Yanapi Senaud on Unsplash
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.