Ask Dr. Joy: Getting along with your In-laws

By WEEK Producer

January 30, 2013 Updated Jan 30, 2013 at 10:53 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- What does Mike Stivic, Phil Dunphy and Greg Focker all have in common?

They are famous son-in-laws whose lives sometimes conflict with their step-parents on All in the Family, Modern Family and Meet the Parents.

They may seem like comedic relief, but dealing with your in-laws might be something powerful.

A 26 year study showed that son-in-laws who get along with their in-laws have strong and enduring marriage.

Strong relationships between son-in-laws and in-laws tend to connect the husband and wife. The strength of this in law relationship says to a wife: "You are important to me, and that means so are your parents."

What else do we know about this relationship?

* When the husband reports being close to his in-laws, the risk of divorce is 20 percent lower than other groups
* When a wife is close to her husband's parents, there is the opposite effect, the risk of divorce is 20% higher.
* Dr. Orbuch from National Institute of Health says this is because a wife who feels close to her husband's parents may not be able to set boundaries and she may see her in-laws as meddling
* Women need to feel like the mother figure and a meddling mother-in-law can create conflict.

What are some tips for couples and in laws:

* If you are a parent of a daughter, be open to bonding with your son in law
* If you are the parent of a daughter, your daughter needs you to see him as a cherished member of the family
* A son-in-law and a son will rarely be as close as a father and a son, but find some ways to bond
* If you are a parent of a son, be careful. Your daughter-in-law is probably sensitive to meddling and may perceive interference when none is intended
* As a wife, be aware and maintain boundaries with your in-laws especially about the marriage, parenting and personal issues. Learn to say no
* If you are a husband, treat your in laws as special and important. Remember when you care for them, you care for your wife.

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