How to Handle Rude In-Laws

You can pick your spouse, but you can't pick your in-laws. Learn Modern Manners Guy's 3 tips for surviving your in-laws.

Richie Frieman
6-minute read
Episode #327

If you're married, or in a long-term relationship, you know the question of in-laws is a dicey one. And if you happen to have rude in-laws, it can make your family life that much dicier. 

Don’t get me wrong, not all in-laws are bad - mine rock (Hi JoAnn and Michael!). I consider myself very lucky, especially since I know quite a few people who aren't nearly as fortunate. After all, you can pick your spouse, but you can’t pick your in-laws.

So if you want to make it through another family dinner without being disowned, check out my top 3 quick and dirty tips on how to properly handle rude in-laws:


Rude In-Laws #1: The Ones Who Can’t Let it Go

A Modern Manners Guy Facebook friend named Carl told me about his disastrous in-laws who can’t move past his wife’s previous relationship with Captain Fantastic (aka, Jordan). For them, Jordan had it all: good looks, money, an Ivy League degree...all the characteristics of someone who is 100% perfect.  

But as well  know, looks can be deceiving. The fact is that Carl's wife ended things with Jordan because he was a two-faced liar who treated her poorly. But his in-laws can't see past the shiny exterior.

The in-laws constantly refer to Carl as Jordan, like it’s a “mistake” - and it's been 5 years! Even more disturbing, they keep a photo of Jordan and their daughter in the house…hanging on their wall!  Beyond frustrating. Carl just wants them to follow Princess Elsa's lead and "Let it Go.”

See also: Meeting Your Date’s Family for the First Time


It’s understandable that some in-laws have a hard time getting over their child's former love interest. If this person has all the qualities that parents want for their child and brought their A-game to win them over, why shouldn't they be enamored? However, they have to respect their adult child's decision. Carl’s spouse continually tells her parents that Jordan wasn't right for her and that Carl is. They are married, they have children together, and he's not going away. That should be enough do to the job, no matter how amazing the ex appeared.

So when you find yourself in Carl’s shoes, I recommend a two-pronged approach.  For starters, have a talk with your spouse about how his or her parents' behavior affects you. After all, you’re a team now, and your spouse should be able to stand up to their parents. Plus, it’s much easier for your spouse to drop the hint without making you look like the bad guy.

Secondly, when someone is consciously discourteous to you, sting them with sarcasm. So when the in-laws call you the wrong name (whether by accident or on purpose) try something like, “No, I’m Carl. Remember, Jordan was the one who cheated on your daughter?”  

And if they won’t ditch that photo, no matter how many times your spouse politely asks them to take it down, bring a photo of yourself every time you visit and tape it over the old flame. It’s a hilarious way to make your point.

Rude In-Laws #2: The Political Gurus

One of the things you have to get used to when you marry into a family is that your in-laws may have vastly different opinions from you. And despite differences making us all unique, let’s be honest, some differences are too hard to see past. One of those differences that can divide a family is opposing political views.

I'm not talking about opposing views that lead to a lively, educated debate with a healthy back and forth of counterpoints. No, folks, I’m talking about when your in-laws are so adamant that their political views are the family’s political views, that your opinions are completely flat-out wrong. Usually in cases like this, the head of the house has gone decades being unchallenged and whether it’s Mom or Dad leading the charge, they don’t appreciate you “brainwashing” their child. I believe cults see things the same way…