33 In Law Relationship Lessons from “Everybody Loves Ray”

Coming from a South Asian background, I have always assumed that an extended family is a norm and that issues of in-laws were only unique to our culture. Fast forward many years, and we came across the TV comedy, “Everybody Loves Ray.” Ray, his wife and children live in a house on the East Coast. Their parents and Ray’s brother-in-law live across the street. They are an American-Italian family. The parents and brothers have no sense of boundaries and privacy, so they barge into Ray’s home any time they like. Add to it that, the father role. Frank is old-school (“my way or highway” type). The mother, Marie, has a superiority complex, especially with her daughter-in-law, Debra. She always favors the younger son, Ray and has many other quirks. It’s a wonderful comedy that reflects on some of the everyday conflicts that some of us may go through. Below are some of the in-law related ones.

  1. No matter how hard Deborah tries to cook and clean, she is never good enough for her mother-in-law
  2. Sharing personal problems with parents
  3. Having to lie to parents to get some intimacy
  4. Parents stop speaking to each other and one of them moves in
  5. Getting both in-laws and parents to behave similar
  6. Being treated like a kid by your parents
  7. Parents play arbiter in sibling rivalries
  8. In-laws reveal your past relationships
  9. In-laws keep intruding on wife’s personal life and space
  10. Helping your daughter/son-in law when they don’t ask for it
  11. When aging in-laws pretend that they are still young
  12. Receiving unwanted gifts from in-laws
  13. Discovery from past and unable to forgive and forget
  14. Taking care of sick/injured parents/in-laws
  15. Getting too close with brother-in-law, sister-in-law
  16. Family takes sides with/against husband-wife over senseless argument
  17. Discussing what constitutes a “sex life” with parents/ in-laws
  18. Deciding guardians in will/living-trust who are not in-laws/parents
  19. When a sibling becomes ultra-religious
  20. Finding new ways to improve relationship with in-laws
  21. Who is included in family (pic)
  22. Finding “alone time”
  23. Joining forces against mother-in-law
  24. Lying to parents and then having whole family cover for you.
  25. Family get together and differing family traditions
  26. “Whose side are you on” can apply to any conflict,
    Seeking counselling
  27. Lending money to in-law and consequence
  28. In-laws good intentions sidetracked by overzealous participation
  29. Small event triggers bigger one, “straw that broke the camels back”
  30. Parent discovers, reads, personal information of their grown child, in-law.
  31. Father-in-law needs to be the boss in every situation and becomes too much to bear.
  32. Tempers flare when a sentimental item that was borrowed is not returned
  33. When parent-in-laws decide to separate after decades of marriage

There are many episodes and lots of laughter. If you have a chance, check them out. Of course, in the real world most short-term problems do not resolve in 30 minutes. Grievances, misunderstandings, poor choices, communication skills, bad ethics, and so many more things can lead to an escalation, rather than resolution. That is where empathy, active listening, forgiveness, getting help and praying to God are some of the measures to resolution. I will leave you with a quote from Debra, which encapsulates the show:

“When I got married I didn’t just get a husband, I got a whole freak show that set up their tent right across the street. And that will be fine if they just stayed there, but everyday, everyday they dump a truckload of their insane family dreck into my lap. How would you like to sit through two people in their sixties fighting over who invented the lawn…the lawn. And then the brother, “I live in an apartment, I don’t even have a lawn, Raymond has a lawn.” But you can’t blame him when you see who the mother is, she has this kind of sick hold on the both of them. And the father is about the most disgusting creature God has ever dropped on this planet. So no wonder the kid writes stories, I should be writing stories, my life is a gothic novel and until you have lived in that house with all of them in there with you day after day, week after week, year after freakin’ year…YOU ARE IN NO POSITION TO JUDGE ME!!! Debra Barone




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