Why It's So Important to Set Boundaries with Family

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Yes, establishing rules with your partner’s relatives can be a good thing.

Tina Simpson, Jessica Simpson’s mom, raised eyebrows when she posted a photo on Instagram of herself and her son-in-law, Jessica’s husband Eric Johnson, while on vacation in Mexico. Eric, who was lying between Tina’s legs, didn’t seem uncomfortable with the risqué shot as he was seen giving the thumbs up while grinning from ear to ear.

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(Photo: Instagram/TinaSimpson)

While most couples will not find themselves dealing with a too-close-for-comfort moment with an in-law, it does bring up the question — do boundaries need to be established with your significant-other’s family?

“There definitely needs to be boundaries between in-laws and partners because it’s a relationship that functions better when there are certain rules in place,” Dr. Robi Ludwig, a nationally recognized psychotherapist, tells Yahoo Health. “And those rules can be highly variable, given the parents and the partner. But if the boundaries aren’t honored and there’s intrusiveness one either side, then it can create a relationship breakdown.”

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Even a simple lifestyle habit, like knocking on one’s door unannounced, can cause friction not only between the couple and their relatives, but also between the twosome themselves.

“For some people, popping by might be normal and seen as complimentary,” explains Ludwig. “It’s their way of saying, ‘I care about you, I love you, so I’m going to swing by whenever I feel like it because that’s what families do.’ But to another person, they may feel their home is their boundary and that others need to schedule their visits.”

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In order to avoid conflict, Ludwig suggests having a conversation that covers the important do’s and don’ts of your household. “Many of these preferences will have to take place with discussions and clarification because they’re not automatic,” she states. “You can’t assume that your mother-in-law will just know not to do X and Y. You’re dealing with another family who will have another set of rules, and you’re probably dealing with people who operate differently than you do.”

As for the closeness between Mama Simpson and Jessica’s hubby? “In the moment, it could have been a brief second,” concludes Ludwig. “But the fact that it was captured and presented on Instagram…it looked sexually inappropriate, which is unsettling when you’re thinking about a mother-in-law and son-in-law.”

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