Whenever two people get married, new relationships form. Aside from their new status as husband and wife, both of them get a new set of family that they will each work on getting along with.
In-law relationships are always tricky -- you are expected to treat these people as family instantly even if you are only linked together by your spouse. There are some who are fortunate to hit it off with their in-laws even before marriage was considered, but there are some who end up having very tumultuous relationships with their in-laws.
The problem with poor in-law relationships is that it almost always affects the marriage. It will be good to remember that your spouse’s family is part of who he or she is and any conflict will have effects, no matter how little, on your relationship. Whether you like it or not, keeping your marriage strong would involve having better in-law relationships -- or at least trying to.
Here are some tips to help you have better relationships with your in-laws.
1. Take time to build a relationship. Despite the instant ‘family’ status, a real relationship with your in-laws will take some time to develop. Just like any other relationship, it will take some nurturing and effort to have the kind of relationship that you would like to have. Spend time with them whenever there’s an opportunity and try to get to know each of them better.
2. Treat them like YOUR family. When you marry your spouse, you marry into the family so it is important to remember to actually treat them like you would treat your own family. This is easier said than done, especially since most people may not be aware that there is a disparity between their treatment of their own family and of their spouse’s. Always ask yourself: what would I do or say to my own mother, father, or sibling?
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3. Lower your expectations. Even while treating them like your own family, keep your expectations low. Your spouse’s family is still different from your own -- they have their own habits, behavior, views, and attitude. Do not expect them to be like anyone in your family. You will have your differences with them and it is best not to expect them to change their views or opinions if they do not agree with you. Always remember that if having them in your life requires some change and adjustment from you, it is the same for them. Give each other a chance and lots of time to settle into the in-law role.
4. Set boundaries. There are some people who, in their eagerness to fit in with their spouse’s family, will change and adjust based on what their in-laws want. The problem with this is, once the novelty of being newly married wears off, many of these little things can start to put a strain on the relationship. Set boundaries on what your in-laws can and cannot be involved with. In situations when you find yourself having to make the boundaries clear with everyone, don’t forget to give them assurances that they are not being shut off from your lives. Thank them for their input and concern, but let them know that you and your spouse have decided on what’s best for your family.
5. Include them in your new life. On the other end of the spectrum are those people who choose to distance themselves from their new in-laws in an effort to keep things harmonious. Although there is a saying that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’, excluding your in-laws from your new life can make them resentful of you. It can make them feel like they lost their child (your spouse) to your marriage, instead of them gaining one (you).
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6. Give them the benefit of the doubt. A lot of hurts and offenses between in-laws can be chalked up to misunderstandings and miscommunication. Always give them the benefit of the doubt. Whenever you feel hurt or offended, try not to automatically feel anything negative towards your in-laws. Instead, always assume that there was no intention to hurt or offend and that it would be different had they known you’d feel that way.
7. Treat them with love and respect. In all your dealings with them, remember to treat them with love and respect. Although this may not be very easy especially if you’ve had conflicts with them, both of you deserve these for the parts that you play in the life of your spouse whom you both love and respect.
8. Don’t turn your spouse against them. Whenever there is a conflict between you and your in-laws, resist the urge to turn your spouse against them. Look to your spouse as the peacemaker who will bridge the gap and help you resolve the conflict with his or her family – not as someone who should be on your team.
9. Keep it in the family. The saying ‘don’t air your dirty laundry in public’ applies to in-law conflicts. Avoid sharing your gripes and issues with other people as this puts your in-laws in a bad light. Whatever conflict or issues you have, it should be resolved within your family.
10. Don’t involve the children. Your relationship with your in-laws is different from their relationship with your children. Don’t let conflicts with your in-laws affect how your children feel about them and never use the children as leverage. Do not hinder them from building a relationship with your children just because of a conflict or issue between you.