The famous couple talks about how to cope with the 5 biggest relationship busters, and their stay-together secrets for no-longer newlyweds
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Problem 3: Family Members Who MeddleDr. 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 husband's.
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 remember....
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.