What to Do When Your Spouse’s Family Doesn’t Bond

If you come from a family that is connected and has traditions, it can be tough to walk into a new family that doesn’t share this special bond. Marriage brings on both the better and the worse, and marrying into a family who doesn’t get along, or lacks a bond, may be a tough road you have to face together.

When you’ve had warm and wonderful memories growing up, it’s hard to accept that not all families are this way. And with the Holiday’s quickly approaching, it’ll likely bring out feelings of hurt more so than other times. This week, we want to share what you can do if your spouse’s family doesn’t bond. Let’s dive in.

Invest in your in-laws

One thing you can do that will go a long way is to invest in your spouse’s parents. Don’t expect the focus to be on you, ask them questions that are engaging and uplifting. For example, ask what their hobbies are and what they love to do. Perhaps you can schedule some special time with them to do something they enjoy.

Let your in-laws know you are interested in getting to know them better, and would like to create special memories with them. Do what you can to pull them out and build a bridge of connection. Once you have connected with your in-laws, you can slowly work on connecting the other family members as well.

Model healthy family behavior

You can become a transformational presence within your spouse’s family. This is especially important when the entire family has gathered together. Practice modeling the family behavior you experience with your family.

For instance, if your spouse’s family doesn’t have any holiday traditions, sharing some of your favorites with them might lighten any awkward or painful moments. Ask members of the family what they are interested in doing, and help create new traditions as well. Create a new opportunity for family bonding through these traditions.

The best thing to remember is that you are doing this because you love your spouse. You are honoring your spouse by valuing their family and not walking away from a difficult situation. Instead, walk into the situation and encourage healthy family roles and behavior.

Find out what matters most

Given the speed of life, it can be hard to bond when everyone has different schedules and expectations. This can be especially true if there’s already existing friction within a family. With the help of your spouse, do some digging and find out what matters most. As we already learned, a good place to start is with your in-laws. Ask them what they would enjoy doing most with the entire family. Perhaps Sunday dinners? Or maybe attend a grandchild’s sporting game? Start small and invite the entire family along.

Eventually you will be able to branch out and learn what other members of the family enjoy, as well. With time, you’ll likely find a common denominator that you can all enjoy and bond over together. And by opening the doors to more family activities, you are providing an opportunity to grow as a family.

Putting it together

If you grew up with the experience of an unshakable family bond, marrying into a family who doesn’t bond or get along can be painful. With a little extra effort and time investing in your spouse’s family, and by being a healthy example and presence in their lives, you can model what a heartfelt family bond looks and feels like.

And remember, going the extra mile to work through this will mean a great deal to your spouse. It may take time, but will be worth it in the end!

Does your spouse’s family lack a bond? What do you and your spouse do to encourage family time together?


  • Chris says:

    There was a little bit of a bond until their step dad passed away. Seems like everybody has just scattered and is doing their own thing now. This one is tough. The thing is they don’t care if you want to offer a new tradition or not they just kind of look at you like you’re different. Trying…

  • Karina says:

    Family bonds and traditions are so challenging, especially after the death of a parent. Decades of disrespect and manipulation could be really difficult to overcome. Continuing compassionate communication through the holidays is definitely a MUST. May God be with us all this holiday season! Amen!

    • Dale says:

      For anyone who has tried their best to put into practice all the good insights and sound recommendations of this article yet find they have not worked…just know you are not alone and it is not all your fault. After decades of initiating contact and making time for trips of hundreds of miles from where we were in ministry…nine this past year and even living with my wife’s remaining parent for nearly a month to provide hospice care…and after trying so hard we were disinherited and disowned for not caring enough. We have the peace of Christ because we did this out of love for Him and this family, and the only inheritance that matters is the one waiting in heaven. Just keep in mind the warnings of Scripture in Luke 12:49-43 or II Timothy 3:1-9 when such things happen no matter how hard you try.

  • jennifer says:

    I always tell people who are dating to MEET THE PARENTS as soon as possible. I always thought it strange as a young woman from London UK when I was marrying my American boyfriend that none of his family came. I realize not everyone has the resources to travel and I figured they were normal people. We married and had two babies and moved back to the East coast where my then husband was from- I finally met his family- His parents had died when he was 3 but the siblings were all such a different type of human than I’d knwn.I came from a nice family. My father was a veterinarian and my mum a local Dr and we grew up in a lovely place and had friends. I expect I was very sheltered as when I first went to his siblings home I realized why he had never flown us there and introduced us as she kept watching TV and drinking beer. Anyway I divorced him years later but have always stressed with my children to please meet the family – Its so important. At least then you can make sense of senseless behaviors. There would be no attempt at bonding.

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