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How to Avoid Taking Sides in Family Arguments

What to do when you agree with your child's spouse — not your son or daughter

By Lisa Carpenter

(This article originally appeared on

My husband and I went through a challenging time several decades ago, as people in most long-term (and short-term) marriages do. Nothing all that unusual for a young couple battling the growing pains of lifelong commitment.

What was unusual, though — and unforgettable to me — was the response of my parents: They rallied behind my husband. My mom and dad comforted and cared for their son-in-law rather than their daughter.

Sure, I was the one questioning the coupling, the marriage, but I never thought my own parents would support their son-in-law instead of me. Their interference was far from helpful and was, in fact, quite hurtful.

My husband and I made it through that challenging period and now have three adult daughters. I have one bona fide son-in-law and two likely-to-be sons-in-law.

With that many partnerships between imperfect people (as we all are), there are sure to be disputes of varying degrees.

As such, I occasionally find myself on the verge of committing the same faux pas my parents did: supporting an in-law instead of a daughter. Then I recall the sting of such unwelcome interference and set out to approach clashes in a manner as unbiased (yet truthful) as I can muster.

(MORE: What to do When Your Adult Children Don’t Like You)


While the best tactic for parents may be steering clear of sticky situations between adult children and in-laws, that strategy can be impossible and unrealistic at times. So when my opinion, feedback or perspective is requested concerning a child and their betrothed, I do my best to adhere to the following eight rules, whether I believe fault for the friction lies primarily with my child or with my in-law:

(MORE: How to Heal a Rift with Your Adult Child)

Perhaps my parents’ reaction to my marital discord all those years ago was more helpful than I originally thought. It’s by considering how they treated their son-in-law that led me to formulate a plan for potentially similar sticky spots with my own sons-in-law. And daughters.

Taking sides between an in-law and your child is an eggshell-walking experience of epic proportion. These tips should assist you in expressing your opinions — as well as your support — without causing harm to your relationship with either side.

Lisa Carpenter Read More
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