Your in-laws are a crucial part of your spouse’s life. This makes them a crucial part of your life as well. No one ever said it was easy to balance your needs with the needs of others – especially the needs of an entire new family. But creating family harmony is possible and it’s very much worth the effort.
You realise it won’t be easy to build bridges and rebuild some that have been burnt but you also realise that it’s a valuable way to spend your time. The return you get on your investment will last the rest of your married life. Familyeducation.com offers us some ideas to get us started.
Work with your spouse
This is the key rule. Never put your spouse in a situation where he or she has to choose between you and a relative. If you do so, you’re putting your spouse in a nearly impossible bind. Instead, try to understand the bond your spouse has with his or her grandparents, parents, and siblings. If possible, try to support that relationship. Even if your spouse has parents from hell, they are his or her parents.
Set boundaries and limits
With your spouse, decide what’s important and what’s not. Then communicate your values to your in-laws. All of your values and all of your in-laws.
Speaking of boundaries, don’t make promises that you can’t keep. Placating people to keep the peace rarely solves the problem especially if your in-laws are tyrants.
Whenever possible, avoid communicating through a third party. Don’t ask your spouse to talk to his sister about something she did that hurt your feelings. Talk to your sister-in-law directly.
If something bothers you, address it as soon as possible. Sometimes it’s a genuine problem; other times, it might be a misunderstanding.
Shakespeare said it a zillion years ago, and the advice still holds today: Don’t try to remake yourself into the person your in-laws want. For example, what if they’re looking for little Susie Homemaker and you’re a high-powered corporate attorney? You’re under no obligation on your day off to bake.
Get with the programme
Not every father-in-law lives to snake out your kitchen sink; not every mother-in-law dreams of baking cookies with her grandchildren. Put away the stereotypes and adjust your thinking to the reality of the situation. Don’t expect what people can’t deliver.
Learn to cool off
Many times, in the face of a misunderstanding or problem the best thing to do is nothing. Time heals many wounds and wounds many heels. While we’re at it, play nice. Spare your in-laws the insults and character attacks.
Your parents have to love you; it’s in the contract. But your in-laws don’t. Accept the fact that your in-laws aren’t your parents and won’t follow the same rules. Try to think different not ‘better’ or ‘worse.’ To make this work, give in on small points and negotiate the key issues.
Learn to see the situation from your in-law’s point of view. And even if you don’t agree, act like a big person.
Even if you have to grit your teeth, try to say something nice. And if you really can’t say anything nice, shut up and smile.