Here’s why Ethan and Olivia Plath’s fight with his parents is such a big deal

Welcome to Plathville follows the classic TLC formula: You take a non-mainstream family — in this case, the ultra-religious, conservative, culturally isolated Plaths — and watch what happens when outsiders from the “real world” invade. Like daughter-in-law Olivia Plath. Predictably, sparks will fly, and ratings will grow. The most recent fight between Ethan and Olivia Plath with Ethan’s parents, though, which Ethan detailed on Instagram, appears to be more than just a TLC plot twist. According to Jaime Bronstein, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker who specializes in relationships, it’s looking like splitsville between this young married couple and the rest of Plathville.

“Ethan and Olivia distancing themselves from Ethan’s controlling parents is a big deal because it means that there are many tensions and misunderstandings that need to be addressed,” Bronstein told The List. “There seems to be a lot of things that aren’t being said that need to be said if they want to have a working relationship with Kim and Barry at some point.” The real issue, Bronstein points out, is that the younger Plath couple is distinct from the elder Plath’s school-age brood. “Ethan and Olivia are a married couple, and what they do and how they live their life is their choice,” she said. “What Ethan’s parents think should not influence the choices they make as a couple.”

Issues with the in-laws can destroy relationships, expert notes

Like many young married couples dealing with intruding in-laws, Ethan and Olivia Plath are not enjoying Barry and Kim’s over-involvement in their lives, noted Bronstein. “Establishing boundaries is crucial in the adult child-parent relationship,” she added. “It’s not easy to do, but it’s crucial to set boundaries in order to grow up and know who you are as an adult. At the moment, Ethan and Olivia need to focus on their relationship without his parents’ influence and the tension they bring.”

Because Ethan never addressed this head-on earlier, their conflicts are coming to a head, according to Bronstein. “There are unresolved issues that are showing up in all of them, as it appears that they have all been triggered in their own way,” she said. “Acknowledging the trigger and taking ownership of their behaviors will be a critical factor in healing these relationships.” This isn’t something that the Plaths can just sweep under the rug, Bronstein added. “Not getting along with Ethan’s parents is a big deal because any time there is discord with in-laws, it can cause marriage issues,” she noted. “No one ends up being happy when there is this level of tension in a relationship.”

The elder Plaths need to be the 'bigger person' here, according to expert

There are two sides to every story, of course, but since Barry and Kim Plath are older and more experienced, Bronstein believes they should step up and make amends. “It seems like Ethan’s parents are not being very mature,” she commented. “It’s a big deal that Ethan’s parents are ignoring Olivia at Walmart. No one likes to be ignored, especially if it’s a family member.”

While Ethan and Olivia have some ownership in this conflict, according to Bronstein, this family discord is a Plath-wide problem. “There has to be a way for all of them to get along, and I believe it can happen if they take the time to look at things,” she advised. “They all will need to be very honest with themselves and each other about how they really feel.” Seeing eye to eye, though, might require some professional intervention. “I believe that family therapy with the couple and Ethan’s parents could help as the therapist would be an objective third party who would create a safe space for them to resolve the issues at hand,” Bronstein said.

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