Marriage means getting a whole new side of the family. So how do you get along with these new in-laws?
While the relationship may be a lot closer than what you bargained for, you can score big points with your wife or husband by developing a friendly relationship with your in-laws.
All it takes is some give-and-take, goodwill, and a big heart.
Keep the line of communication open With Your In-laws
Listen to your in-laws. They’re likely to be full of stories about their lives either today or in years gone by. Let them tell their tales and make yourself a rapt audience of one. You might learn something interesting, and it will make them feel good to be listened to as well.
Many of the stories might be about your partner, and you might learn more about them in the process.
Encourage your in-laws to communicate with you. Invite them to “Tell me about life when you were growing up,” for instance.
Walk away from Arguments
Families often fight about politics, religion, or the proper course to take in current events. Don’t try to change someone set in their ways. Similarly, don’t try to correct someone’s social habits. If they spit, curse, or pick their nose in public, don’t feel obligated to call them out on it.
Your in-laws are likely to be quite a bit older than you, and people tend to be less receptive to new ideas and invitations to change when they reach seniority. Respect their decisions and perspectives, even if you don’t agree with them.
Try not to find fault with them. Do not create a long list of grudges that you regularly churn out when complaining to others or yourself about your in-laws. If your litany of issues becomes unmanageable, perhaps you should consider talking them through with your partner, and then, if necessary, with your in-laws directly.
Treat your father-in-law and mother-in-law as you would your father and mother.
Treat your brother-in-law and sister-in-law as you would your own siblings. Be friendly, cordial, and natural around them. Be honest and open in your communication. Relax when you are with them. Don’t feel as if you’re being tested or studied by them. Share with them your innermost feelings and thoughts, if appropriate. After all, your in-laws are family. Seeing them as such will go a long way toward helping you get along with them. Don’t share your spousal problems with your in-laws.
They will always take their child’s or sibling’s side, and letting them know about problems on the home front will only make them worry. Nobody wants to hear denigrating tales about their own son or daughter; hearing such things will likely make them become defensive. Work out your issues privately with your spouse. Do not attempt to drag your spouse’s family into things or make them choose sides.
Adapting to Your In-laws’ Behavior
Remember to set boundaries early on.Many sons and daughters-in-law will be extra accommodating in the beginning in order to win approval and make a good impression. While such behavior is natural when one is nervous and new to the family, it is important to establish boundaries sooner rather than later. This will make the relationship much easier in the future.
For instance, if your mother-in-law constantly invites herself over at all hours, insist that she make arrangements before coming over. Talk to your partner about making the suggestion instead of doing so yourself; hearing that certain boundaries need to be set will sound better from your in-laws’ child than from you.
Using the prior situation as an example, you might suggest to your spouse that he or she say “Mom, would you do me a favor? We love having you over to the house but need time to prepare for your arrival properly and ensure we have adequate time to devote to you. Could you please let me or my spouse know you want to come over before doing so? Thank you.”
If your in-laws offer advice on raising your children, you should listen patiently and think about it. They’re giving you advice from experience, and it might be worthy of real consideration. Thank them for their advice and inform them you will talk the matter over with your spouse. Later, in private, you and your spouse should decide whether or not to implement the advice your in-laws offered. If you choose to reject it, don’t rub it in their faces; simply don’t do it. Your in-laws are gracious and will let the matter should fade out.
Adjust your expectations.
Meeting your partner’s family might require you to go outside your comfort zone. Don’t assume that their family dynamic will be the same as yours. Perhaps your family is reserved and doesn’t show much physical affection, while your partner’s family is boisterous and tends to hug and kiss each other’s cheeks with gusto. Try to do things their way when you’re on their turf. Remember, “When in Rome…”
Make holidays and events a collaborative effort.
When it’s your partner’s birthday, for instance, call your in-laws beforehand and invite them to help you plan meals, games, and hosting. Perhaps your parents-in-law can bring the cutlery and napkins, while you bring the cake and snacks. Perhaps you can find space to host the party if they barbecue the chicken. Sharing responsibility in this way demonstrates that you trust them and want them to be involved, which will help you grow closer over time.
When you change or adjust plans, do it with your in-law’s consent. Don’t unilaterally cancel plans.Don’t allow your in-laws to dictate what your family does. For instance, if you’ve agreed to Christmas Eve dinner with them, you and your family should share Christmas day alone (assuming you want to).
Inform your in-laws that “We had a really nice time yesterday at Christmas dinner; we wanted the kids to stay inside today and enjoy their new toys.” If they are adamant about visiting, seek a compromise such as having your in-laws visit your family at your house.
Gaining Your In-laws’ Trust
Recognize parents-in-laws’ fear. As people see their children age, they worry more that they will grow further apart from their children. Parents often want to have an active role in their child’s life at any age. When a child marries, they might feel they are losing control of the child. This fear is only one part of a larger fear of losing control over their own lives as they age and become physically weaker and, sometimes, senescent.
Address your in-laws’ fears directly.They might not come right out and say they are worried about losing touch with their child, or losing their affection. Assure your in-laws, though, that you want them to remain an active part of your spouse’s life.
You might encourage your spouse to assure them of this themselves, as well.Follow up on your promises. Visit your in-laws regularly with your spouse, and invite them to join you during family gatherings, holidays, anniversaries, and special occasions.
Spend time with your in-laws.
Mere exposure to someone or something over a long period of time can inspire affection. Don’t avoid your mother or father-in-law, especially. When your partner proposes a visit, make time for it and accompany them there. Your in-laws will become more comfortable with you over time as they get to know you better, too.
Visit your in-laws regularly with your spouse, and invite them to join you during family gatherings, holidays, anniversaries, and special occasions.
Do favors for your in-laws.
As people age, they may need more help around the house with maintenance like raking the leaves, mowing the grass, and inserting and removing window air conditioners with the changing seasons.
Make yourself available to help them out when they need it. Don’t just wait for them to ask you; be proactive and suggest to mom/dad “I’d like to come over and give you a hand with the oil change. How does next weekend work?” This will endear you to them and make them feel that you’re capable of caring for their child, too.
Offer presents to your in-laws.
Don’t limit your gift-giving to Christmas and birthdays. Unless you visit very often find something thoughtful that your in-laws would like. It helps to know the collecting habits of your in-laws. For instance, if your father-in-law plays golf, you might consider getting him a new golf hat or set of golf balls when you go away on business trips.
If your mother-in-law enjoys baking or cooking, bring her new cookbooks or high-quality, luxury ingredients with which to whip up something good. Give gifts at the time of anniversaries and any special occasions too.
Get along with your spouse.
Make sure your spouse is happy enough to report good. While it’s not realistic to expect your relationship will be perfect all the time, keeping your relationship on an even keel is a good way to engender trust in your in-laws. Maintain open lines of communication, provide each other with love, and talk to each other as a team.
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