How Parents Can Ruin Their Kids' Marriages

Learn how your parents may be sabotaging your marital bliss.

The course of true love never runs smoothly, especially if parents are involved (just ask Romeo and Juliet). But even if your parents aren't quite the Capulets and Montagues, they can stir up plenty of drama in your relationship. Read on for the ways they may be sabotaging your marriage -- even if their actions seem completely innocent -- and get expert tips on how to cope.

They're too intrusive. Just like on that old sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, your parents may feel a little too welcome in your life. "If you have parents who show up uninvited, or who spend too much time with you, you might have too little time to be alone with your new partner and formulate your life as a couple," says Susan Newman, PhD, a social psychologist and author of The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It -- and Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever.

How to deal: Set some rules -- and fast. "You need to clearly define your boundaries in regard to visits and time spent with parents," Newman says. Once you and your mate agree on the rules, tell your parents that you love them, but they need to call before they come by -- or whatever other guidelines you need to set for the sake of your marriage.

They assume that you're a mini-them. You and your partner may share genes with your respective parents -- but that doesn't necessarily mean that you plan to follow in their footsteps. "Your parents may make assumptions that you two think the way that they do, and then get angry when you don't," says Tina B. Tessina, PhD (aka "Dr. Romance"), a psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage.

How to deal: Tell your parents that you appreciate their viewpoints, but sometimes you need to go your own way. "You need to learn how to communicate clearly with them so they won't bully you or cause you to be at odds with each other," Tessina says.

Your parents try to do everything for you. Your doting parents may simply want to shower you with everything they can -- from a new car to your next vacation (with them, of course). "This can seem good, especially if they help you with the down payment on your house, take care of your kids or bail you out of financial problems," Tessina says. But you need to be careful that you don't become too dependent on Mom's help or accept gifts that come with strings attached.

How to deal: "Be very aware of the cost of parental help," Tessina warns. If your parents seem to be engaging in a quid pro quo, where you're forced to do their bidding in return for their generosity, tell them you won't be accepting any more gifts -- and stick to it. It may take you longer to save on your own for your house and you may be staycationing instead of heading to Hawaii, but you'll be able to do it on your own terms.

They treat you like babies. You and your mate may be grown-ups with mortgages and steady jobs -- but your parents may still see you as toddlers who need their constant supervision.

How to deal: Assert your independence. "You need to clearly tell them that you're not their 'baby' anymore," says Newman. Likely, this goes hand in hand with gift giving (see #3), and you may need to put a stop to handouts from your parents to help assert your responsibility for your own life.

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