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This might just be every married woman's worst nightmare: You're getting hot and heavy with your husband behind your closed bedroom door, or in his childhood room over a holiday break, when your mother-in-law and father-in-law burst in unannounced and find you in flagrante delicto. Cue everlasting embarrassment and the fear your in-laws will never look you in the eye again.
"Too often people will pretend that nothing happened," says Julie de Azevedo Hanks, Ph.D., licensed therapist and author. But if you find yourself in this undeniably awkward situation, that's the last thing you should do. "When a child walks in on their parents in the act, I always suggest talking about it afterward with the child to explain and address any questions. When the tables are turned and parents walk in on their married child and partner, it's also important to address the feelings that might have arisen out of the situation."
How you address it, she says, should be with playfulness. "This is a situation where humor can be your best action plan!" Hanks says. "A witty comment like, 'well, this is awkward,' or 'here's proof that I really do love your son — though you probably don't need this much proof!'" is the perfect way to ease into a conversation about what just happened.
Then, suggests Ginger Bercaw, Ph.D., sex expert and author, it's time to ask your in-laws how you can prevent this situation from ever happening again. "What you're really talking about is setting some boundaries with your in-laws," says Bercaw. "Whether you are visiting their home or they are in yours, having an explicit agreement about knocking on the door and waiting to be invited in — or investing in a lock for privacy — is very important."
While this conversation may seem even more uncomfortable than the moment they walked in on you, "this need not leave a bad impression on your in-laws," says Bercaw. "Sexuality and enjoying sex is a healthy part of every marriage. And, establishing boundaries with in-laws is something every couple needs to negotiate regarding a variety of topics, including privacy."