Customer Reviews: Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage
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on October 25, 2005
I often recommend Susan Forward's other books, "Toxic Parents" and "Emotional Blackmail" in my ministry for adult children of abusive or controlling birth-families (Luke 17:3 Ministries). I read "Toxic In-Laws" in the hopes of adding yet another dimension to the damage overbearing or controlling parents can do to your life.

I liked how the book started out, describing the types of toxic in-laws, which include Critics, Engulfers, Controllers. Rejectors, and Masters of Chaos. The analysis of why they behave this way was right on. Examples of the reasons why include concern over "what people will think", a missing empathy gene, holding onto your partner (their child) at all costs, acting out old scripts, and exorcising their demons by attacking you. The author is so right when she warns young marrieds that if they think the in-laws are controlling now, just wait till the grandkids come along! She teaches us that although many of us cling to the false hope that "once they get to know me, they'll like me", time doesn't help and usually worsens the hostility.

We are shown that we are part of a triangle- often viewed as competition by our spouses' parents. Many times they don't like that they now have to deal with you, and that their issues are no longer just between them and their child. They know you influence their child and are angry that their child has "left them" for you. They may have rigid opinions, think they know everything and you (and/or their child) know nothing , and will distort reality to make it conform to their truth.

Unfortunately, the child of such in-laws usually does not stand up for his or her spouse. The spouse is left feeling like an outsider with everyone against her. She often feels totally betrayed by a spouse who lets his parents criticize, insult, or abuse her.

Much of the rest of the book is devoted to enlisting your spouse as an ally so that you can make a united front against his parents' behavior. Unfortunately, in my ministry experience, most attempts at getting your partner to stand up to his parents and defend you will fail, but I agree that it's worth a shot, before taking matters into your own hands. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a waste, but I did feel that the author devoted a great deal of time to strategies for getting your spouse to support you, when what he will really need before he can stand up to his parents, is years of therapy!

There is an empowering chapter on rights and responsibilities. Many of us ask ourselves if we have the right to upset everyone, to speak up to our in-laws when they hurt us even though they're not our parents, to put our spouse in the middle, or to expect him to take our side.

The author lists our rights as a person and with our spouse, which include the right to be treated with respect, to protect your own emotional health, to get angry, to raise your children without interference, to change your mind, to express your own feelings and opinions, to set guidelines with your partner for your household and have them honored, to protest to your partner when his parents hurt you, to expect your partner to put you first, etc.

Our rights with our in-laws include the right to say no, to disagree, to not love them, to let them know when they've offended you, to have them stay out of problems between you and your husband, to set limits on how much time you spend with them, to take an active part in how holidays are celebrated, etc.

We are warned that although these rights are a matter of freedom and common sense, everyone resists change. Accepting the fact that in many cases, we will be standing up to our in-laws alone, the author prepares us for confrontation by teaching us the skill of non-defensive communication in setting limits on our in-laws and their behavior. She teaches us how to stand fast against their reactions, and appropriate responses when they pull out the big guns such as denial, anger, playing the martyr, or accusing us of being the problem.

Sometimes we will set limits on our in-laws (or parents) and they will not respond at all. We may not hear from them again. We may be confused and wonder what is going on. But the author tells us that "No answer is the loudest answer of all." We are helped to accept that sometimes nothing will get resolved, but that will be their failure, not ours. The important thing is that we hold to our truth and live in peace, with or without them.
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on May 11, 2003
Let me begin by saying there isn't a book by Susan Forward that isn't very helpful in making you understand what the problem really is and how to make it better. Her book on verbal abuse was so excellent. I think I have read ALL of her books. What makes this book great is that she gives numerous examples of different couples and their in-law problems so there is a very good probability you will find your specific problem in the book. The strategies given are ones you may not have even considered in your frustration of dealing with your obnoxious self centered in law(s). I was very angry before I read this, now I'm just mildly amused. I won't be controlled with my own resentments/emotions any more. Susan will help you understand their ... little world of either not being able to "share" the love, or whatever unresolved mess is in their minds, so you wont/dont take it personally.
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on March 8, 2007
I ordered Toxic In Laws after enduring yet another horrible holiday season with my in-laws. I was prompted to order the book because of the "protecting your marriage" part of the title. In the past, I've been angry with my in-laws on many occasions, but usually I just put it behind me. This Christmas, however, my mother-in-law verbally attacked our young son, and that was the end of the line for me. I had concerns about being able to effectively communicate my position to my husband, and as many of Dr. Forward's clients mention in the book, I have never felt like my husband was completely on my side. In reading the book, I could pull out specific examples of behaviours that are very similar if not identical to things we've gone through with my in-laws, and I was able to share the information with my husband. I felt very empowered by the book, and began to realize that there is no way that one person in a relationship involving three other people can possibly "fix" it all by themselves. The book gave me suggestions about what to say to my husband and helped me move past communicating from anger and hurt to a more rational and sincere way of speaking. I would highly recommend this book to anyone having trouble with in-laws who is concerned about the effects on your marriage. I wish I'd read it sooner. We are still going through the process of dealing with this and I don't know how it will all come out. Dr. Forward isn't promising any quick fixes. I do know, however, that if the very worst happened and my husband and I were to break up over these issues with his parents, that I would feel totally comfortable that I had done all I could to stand for myself while supporting my husband and protecting my kids.
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on January 11, 2007
If you have a husband you don't understand and a mother in law you'd like to take out (and we aren't talking dinner) this book will do a great deal for you. It's very helpful in understanding the cycle of mental abuse your spouse has endured and why they simply cannot see things in the same light as you. It gives good advice on how to set your own boundaries and when to let things go. Certainly worth buying, especially if your marriage is in trouble b/c of a nasty inlaw.
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on October 20, 2001
Good book. If you have problems with your in-laws it will give some insight into why they behave so badly and some pointers on how to over come the hurdles. Now I'll never say "I didn't marry your parents, I married you!" again. I'm going to hand a copy of "Toxic Parents" (another book by Susan Forward) to my husband.
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on October 25, 2005
I purchased this book on the advise of friends in dealing with my mother-inlaw. I didn't find this book useful in my situation. It seems very geared for those who do not have supportive spouses (i.e. the spouse sides with his/her parents).

My husband has always stuck up for me with his mother. I was really looking for something to help me deal with her on my own, and as a couple. Although we attempt to set boundaries with her, we're finding it increasingly difficult. This book didn't really help me with that aspect. It has a lot to do with communicating with your spouse.

I think if you're in a situation where your spouse doesn't stand up to their parents or side with you, then this book will probably work for you.
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on October 22, 2003
This husband was helped by the book. My in-laws were both problem parents, and they are now problem in-laws. Reading the book gave some measure of greater objectivity, outlined the specific types of problem in-laws, recommended not being 'brought down to their level,' and ways of handling the problem behaviors. Since my spouse is not able to set limits on her parents behavior, I would have to go-it alone with them. As such, physical distance and refusing to talk with them via any means are my best strategies. Methods of severing all ties are not covered in the book, and since I've known several families that followed that approach successfully, I think the book has it's major shortcoming in not discussing isolationism or how to achieve it, short of divorce.
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on February 21, 2002
This book is great! It's written objectively enough that I think you could share it with a spouse who has an unhealthy relationship with his/her parent. Some of the other books I read were so "over the top" that my husband would have never taken them seriously. I found the book very helpful with many good "how to's" rather than just a bunch of stuff telling you how horrible being in this situation can be. The little stories about how other couples dealt with this situation were also very helpful. If you're doubting yourself or how devistating this type of relationship can be to YOU - read this book.
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on March 25, 2002
Toxic In-Laws is another winner for Susan Forward, PhD. This book takes the problems she addressed in "Toxic People" and "Toxic Parents" to a new level. She explores how particularly destructive a toxic in-law can be to a marriage. I shared this book with my husband to back-up what I've been saying for years, i.e. it is something that we have to deal with or it will destroy us. We have to remember that whenever we have an argument about her, she wins. Whenever we can work together, stand united, and place each other first, we win. Thanks to Susan Forward, PhD., I have a perspective on the situation I didn't have before and some tools to use when problems arise. I highly recommend this book.
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on June 5, 2002
This book gives specific methods and language for improving in-law relations. It gave me the confidence I needed to assert my rights in a calm manner. I read and reread it and finally tailored an appropriate "speech." I was pleasantly surprised by my husband's reaction, which was far more supportive than I expected. Frazier also helped me accept that some problems can't be solved, but can be managed. Her wealth of client experiences covers nearly every in-law problem imaginable and made me realize my in-law "challenges" could be much worse.
After I ordered the book and before it arrived, I was so frustrated and upset. Each day, I would find some comfort by telling myself "Help is on it's way." I was not disappointed.
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