Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Real Talk With Rachel: On the Outs with the In-Laws

by Rachel Kurzius

Dear Rachel,

I have been married to my wife for 15 years. We have a good life together, with two wonderful kids. Her family is a whole different story. Our kids are her parents’ only grandchildren, so you would think they would be happy with us, but they never are. It’s always something -- our house isn’t big enough, or my job isn’t impressive enough, or our kids don’t play piano. It goes on and on.

I don’t know if I didn’t notice this as much when we first married, or if my in-laws have gotten worse over time. It tries my patience but more importantly, it really gets to my wife and makes her feel terrible.

Should I stand up to them and let them know how they’re making her feel? At the end of the day, they love their daughter even if they don’t know how to show it.

On the Outs With the In-Laws

Dear On the Outs,

We all have daily brushes with negativity. From disgruntled co-commuters to rude colleagues, we deal with a never-ending barrage of people looking for things to complain about. So how do we deal? Well, we try and create a protective shield around our sense of well-being, so the negativity bounces off of us, instead of affecting us.

That’s much easier to do when it’s a random passerby spewing negativity than your in-laws. But here’s what I wonder, On the Outs. Why do you let their garbage grumbling get to you? You know your family is great. You’re proud of your kids and seem to have a meaningful relationship with your wife. Who cares what these windbags have to say? You certainly shouldn’t.

But your wife does. I get that. These people reared her and perhaps she feels like she’s letting them down. She should talk to them. It doesn’t have to be accusatory. Maybe something like, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been really down on the decisions On the Outs and I have been making. Is there a reason for this?” Your in-laws might not even notice they’ve been such dissenting voices.

If the verbal abuse continues, you and your wife should consider making her parents a less frequent part of your lives. They might catch the hint that their negativity has consequences. You can’t just go around insulting people’s homes and jobs and lack of piano-playing children without finding that you get fewer invitations in the mail.

Here’s the bottom line, On the Outs. We’ve all got enough negativity on our hands. No need to keep letting it inside.

All my best,



Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via

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