You heard that you were "marrying the entire family" when you chose your spouse, but did you really get how deep that truth runs? Sure, it seems nuts that your sane, loving spouse came from such a dysfunctional family but - for better or worse - these people are here to stay.

The question is, how can you co-exist with your in-laws without completely losing your mind? If your crazy in-laws have become a lasting bone of contention in your otherwise happy marriage (if you're really stuck with these people forever), you're going to need a game plan.

Keep criticism to yourself

Chances are good that your spouse is also bugged by his family's idiosyncrasies, but unless the people raised you, you don't get to criticize them - even when your spouse is in full-on "rant mode." Your spouse can say whatever he wants about his own family. He's earned that right by putting up with them longer than you. Chiming in with your own grievances will only make you seem like the bad guy.

As unfair as it seems, your spouse is still probably defensive when it comes to his family, flaws and all. When you verbally attack his mother, father or siblings (no matter how justified you are), things will not end well.

Bite your tongue.

Establish boundaries

The key to surviving a difficult family situation is refusing to get sucked into the mess. As a married adult, you have your own family now, and your family always takes precedence over extended family. Anytime the in-laws try to involve you in their drama, repeat to yourself, "Not my circus, not my monkeys." Their problems are not your problems.

Keep your distance.

Work with your spouse to decide how much involvement the in-laws have in your life, and don't muddy up the waters by accepting loans from them, lending them money or involving them in childcare arrangements. The last thing you need with crazy in-laws is a feeling of debt or obligation - on your end or theirs.

Protect your kids

Above all else, don't let your spouse's dysfunctional family pass the crazy down to the next generation. As a parent, you have to protect your kids at all costs. Yes, it's good for kids to know their extended family members - but only if that family will not hurt them. If you have any doubts about the emotional or physical safety of your children around your in-laws, keep your kids away. At the very least, arrange for visits when you and your spouse will remain present the entire time.

Have a sense of humor

Lastly, and most importantly, find a way to laugh about your situation. Either you choose to spend your life angry and annoyed at your in-laws or you find a way to reframe the craziness into a grand adventure. The upside to having quirky in-laws is that life is never boring. Focus on that instead of harboring resentment.

Don't let a bad in-law relationship get you down or tamper with your marriage. You have the power to rise above it. Don't let extended family kill an otherwise great marriage.

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