The most crucial piece of advice that I can give to any new bride, is to gently set firm limits with her in- laws right from the start!
It is very common and understandable for new brides to want to be liked and accepted by their husband’s family and in an effort to achieve that, many women fail to set firm limits with their in laws right from the beginning. This may work very well with healthy in laws who make sure that they don’t cross any boundaries and who are not inclined to take advantage of the desire to be accepted that they can sense in the new member of the family and also the fact that the new bride is usually younger and inexperienced.
Unhealthy in laws on the other hand will have no problem taking over and seeking to control the newlyweds. Marriages that start that way are likely to go through a lot of turmoil and even divorce. This type of situation often leads to a lot of resentment and even contempt among the parties involved. The new bride finds herself allowing an incredible level of trespassing in an attempt to avoid problems with her in laws, and in the hope that things will eventually get better, but it is highly unlikely that the situation will just improve by itself and sooner or later she reaches her limit.
Once your in laws have learned that they can intrude in your marriage, it will be very hard to change that pattern, and depending on the length of time it has been going on and the level of intrusion, your relationship with them could reach a point where it is beyond repair, which is not the best case scenario for your new family. It is better to allow them to be upset with you a few times in the beginning rather than having to deal with years or even decades of misery. You are not being mean when you set limits with your in laws, you are protecting your marriage and your sanity!
It would be ideal if your husband takes your side and shows his extended family that you are now his first priority, but most men raised in dysfunctional families are unable to do so, and are easily guilt tripped by their relatives, so they constantly put them before their wife and allow them to meddle in their marriages. These men are so used to the toxic ways of their family of origin that they don’t even realize that there is something wrong with the things their relatives do and even if their wife is being attacked in their presence, they are likely to not even notice and believe their wife is overreacting when she complains about it. If this is the case with your husband, gently start showing him that the in-laws’ behavior is unacceptable but in the meantime, don’t just wait for him to protect you from his parents/relatives and set boundaries yourself. Eventually your husband will start transferring his loyalty from his family of origin to you and he will understand that you are his family now and his loyalty should be with you. If this doesn’t happen after a reasonable amount of time, seek the advice of a marriage counselor or pastor before it is too late, but never fail to set appropriate boundaries with your in laws, that’s the best thing you can do for the health of your marriage and for your own sanity!
Take it from me ladies, a woman who waited 16 years to start setting limits with her intrusive parents in law to the point that her marriage was seriously compromised. I wish someone had given me this advice before my wedding or at least shortly after it, so my hope in writing about this subject is to save at least one new bride from a lot of misery. Remember that you earn a lot more respect by being secure and showing your in-laws that you will not tolerate poor treatment than by becoming their doormat!