3 Strategies To Help You Set Boundaries With Indian Parents & In-Laws

by Harleen Virk | Updated 7/31/21

Illustration of in-law comments and setting boundaries
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Married life is full of adjustments, one of the biggest ones being how to get used to new expectations from your parents and in-laws.

 

Desi parents don’t usually follow the expected “once you’re married we’re not as involved” approach that many Western and modern couples hope for, because that would just be too easy, wouldn’t it?

 

So what does this mean for you and your partner who yearn for and expect more independence once you’re married and as time goes on? You’ll have to get a little more creative with your tactics.

 

Here are 3 strategies to help you navigate married life with your in-laws and parents.

Compromise if it's not that serious (to you)

Scenario

Let’s say that you’re not very religious like your in-laws (or even practice the same religion), but you’re not totally opposed to it at the same time.

 

Your wedding comes and goes and your ultra-religious in-laws are pushing for religious ceremonies or traditions that center around you and your spouse (i.e., revolving around new jobs, new home, a move, first baby, etc.).

 

You’re annoyed at the pressure coming from your in-laws to participate in a ceremony that you don’t believe in. What do you do?

 

Strategy

If you’re not entirely bothered by religion, a compromise might work best here (as long as you’re not violating your own values or beliefs).

 

This doesn’t mean give in to every religious request from your in-laws. But ask yourself this question—is this an area of your life you can compromise on once in awhile? If the answer is yes, then just go for it. 

Stand your ground, but don't be combative

Scenario

You and your spouse just moved into your new place. Your mother-in-law calls and expects you to host a big gathering of your in-laws and their extended family to show off the house.

 

But the both of you aren’t the type and really aren’t feelin’ it. What do you do?

 

Strategy

Before you elevate your blood pressure unnecessarily, this is a great time to implement handy parent-related boundaries you and your spouse have hopefully outlined with each other—with a little dash of honey.

 

Let your mother-in-law know that her insight is cherished and you will think about it. Perhaps you will both host a gathering at some point or maybe not at all.

 

The key here is to let them know that the decision will fall on you in spite of cultural pressures. In other words, be a skillful surgeon in how you phrase your response and take the disease out without killing the patient.

It's okay to say no

Scenario

So you and your partner have made plans to turn every Christmas holiday into a couples vacay. Here comes the pressure from your in-laws to “do the right thing” and go to the annual family get-together instead. 

 

Strategy

It’s okay to not get with the program every once in awhile, especially when you’re 80/20 in most areas of life. Give yourself permission to stand your ground.

 

If you face a situation that falls into this category, don’t give in– people have a way of coming around in the long run and it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

 

Even if this means going strongly against the cultural grain, trust your instincts and just say no.

Between delicate compromises, sweet talk, and a firm boundary you can navigate parental pressure. Talk to your spouse to put a plan in place, because no strategy will work until you’re both on the same page.

 

And remember, when you’re dealing with your Desi parents and in-laws, actions speak louder than words.

Smiling staff photo on white background

Harleen Virk

Learning and Development Manager, Durhamite, YouTube nerd, dress whisperer, and Zumba queen.

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