Dr. Phil & Robin's Do-It-Yourself Marriage Makeover
Problem 3: Family Members Who Meddle
Dr. Phil: First of all, I don't believe in divided loyalties. When you get
married, your loyalty, first and foremost, is to your spouse, and to the family
that you create together. You know the saying that good fences make good
neighbors? Well, sometimes electrified fences make for good in-laws. Now,
that's not to say that you shouldn't be close to your family. But if you're in
a situation where your mother-in-law is constantly butting into your life and
offering opinions, and you feel like your husband is always siding with her
rather than you…. Guess whose problem that is? It's not yours. It's your
Each person should take care of their own family tree, because you've got
the most history with your mom, and he's got the most history with his parents.
Therefore, if you've got a mother who is just on your husband's case all the
time about this or that, or how you ought to be raising your kids, step up and
say something to her. Don't make it your husband's battle. And accordingly, if
your mother-in-law is getting on your last nerve, say to your husband:
"She's your mother, you get her to back off." If he says, "Well,
but you're the one that has a problem with her; you work it out" — no, no,
no. Make it clear: She's your mother, you get her under control. You get her
outside the electric fence; you get her to stop encroaching on our life.
Robin: Our oldest son, Jay, is married now, so I'm able to offer the
mother-in-law's perspective. When Jay and Erica were first engaged, people were
joking with me because I've wanted a grandchild for as long as I can
Dr. Phil: You've wanted one since the day we got married.
Robin: So when they announced that they were engaged, I immediately started
saying, "Oh, I want a grandbaby! I want a grandbaby!" But that wasn't
fair of me. I said to her later, "I want to apologize, because it wasn't
right for me to say that, even in jest. I don't want you to think that I'd put
that kind of pressure on you or make you uncomfortable." And I know she
appreciated the fact that I showed her that respect, and that I was willing to
take that step back.
Dr. Phil: It's great if the in-laws themselves put up boundaries. But if
they won't, it's up to their grown kids to do it, and enforce them.
Problem 4: Kids Who Won't Listen
Dr. Phil: If parents aren't united in terms of discipline, rewards,
lifestyle, focus, morals, values — all the things that ultimately define who
that child becomes — then the child is going to be a product of inconsistency,
and that creates confusion.