Whether you’re planning your wedding or simply struggling to cope with interferences in your relationship, we can agree that maintaining balance with the in-laws, is tough.
Relationships can bring out the best and the worst in people, and so it is important that you determine what is important (and why so) to each family member. If you feel that you are walking on eggshells every time you’re around certain individuals, it is essential that you address your emotions (and theirs) accordingly.
The secret recipe for handling your in-laws? Communication with a sprinkle of respect, Fairies!
Things To Understand
You are becoming part of a new family
Whether you’re engaged or already married, the truth of the matter is that you are becoming a part of a new family. The best case scenario is that you embrace them, and they embrace you. But, more often than not, this outcome requires time and effort. Realistically, you will have many differences with the new family. Whether these are cultural, religious, geographic, or social differences – communication is key!
You must listen and learn
If you’re open to spending the rest of your life with someone else, you must also be open to finding out where this person came from, as well as the people that contributed to his/her upbringing (which consequently, made you cross paths!). But don’t worry, this is a two-way-street. You are also expected to share who you are with them, and this will help develop your own relationship with them.
You must be welcoming
Chances are, they are just as worried about connecting with you, as you are about connecting with them. Your partner is equally special to both of you, as is your relationship. Whatever the case may be, it is important that you remain respectful (even if you do not like them at the beginning). Engage with them, and show that you are interested in establishing a meaningful relationship.
Depending on how close your partner is to his/her family, you should keep in mind that you will be dealing with his/her family after the wedding, too. Whether it’s twice a week or only on holidays, they are your in-laws for life. So, if disagreements arise, it is in fact wiser to take the high road and realise that you cannot change people. Remember to keep your judgments to a minimum, while being sensitive and respectful.
You must talk to your partner
Whether you’re about to meet your in-laws for the first time, or simply attempting to deal with some sort of issue, one thing is for sure – your partner knows his/her own family a whole lot better than you. Think of this process as your ‘briefing time’. Ask your partner appropriate questions that willl provide you with some insight into their beliefs and attitudes. Talk about wedding plans and make sure that you are on the right page, prior to discussing something with them.
Pro Tip: After you’ve been ‘briefed’, think of some suitable, engaging questions that his/her parents will be happy to provide input for. This shows them that you care about their opinions, and ensures that you are prepared to deal with all kinds of responses.
Once you’ve formed your ‘plan’, it’s go-time. Choose an appropriate setting, and show them yourself (with the appropriate twist!). Figure out what is important to your in-laws, ask them questions and see if you can comfortably incorporate their wishes into your lifestyle/wedding/etc… Keep in mind that your fiancé/husband, is their child. Ask them for input on things they’d like to do and give them lots of praise and thank yous. After all, your partner wouldn’t be here without them!
Is your partner siding with his/her parents more than he’s/she’s siding with you?
If so, communicate! Sit your partner down and express the need to be unified as a couple – especially in the face of adversity. However, being unified doesn’t mean that you become a defensive unit. Be open to suggestions from both sides of your families, and make sure that you are not pitted against each other. Remember, it’s you and your partner against the problem – not against each other…
This goes without being said, but make sure that you are not placing your partner between you and his/her parents. Because let’s face it, that is not a fair or easy decision to make. Instead, try to deal with everyone in your family as a couple.
Pro Tip: Regardless of his/her relationship with his/her parents, it is best that you refrain from complaining about his/her family. If he/she complains, you can be empathic and supportive, whilst offering solutions to solve the problem. Basically, don’t fight fire with fire.
Stand up for yourself
Are your in-laws trying to tell you how to do something, when really, it should be your call?
Before becoming infuriated, think. As a parent, you’re watching your child leave the ‘nest’. The apple of their eye is starting a family of his/her own, and let’s face it – the transition is harsh. Subsequently, they will always want to contribute to their child’s life, in any way that is humanly possible. The way to handle this, is to communicate with your fiancé/husband, about what is important to you, and establish what areas you are willing to compromise on. If it’s super important that you live in close proximity to your parents, instead of your partner’s, make it clear. But if you don’t really mind having an extra 50 guests at your wedding, let the in-laws know that they can invite all their friends. It’s all about finding a balance.
Whatever the issue may be, if you feel that you are being swallowed up before you even begin, you can tell your partner’s parents how you feel. Let me tell you, Fairies – there’s nothing worse than letting all your feelings bottle up inside, till one day; BOOM! This ‘BOOM‘, can result to irreparable damage, resentment, and many ‘remember whens’ – which we certainly don’t want. Especially whilst you try to establish a positive and meaningful relationship.
Instead, be upfront and communicate your emotions in a respectful manner. Your in-laws may just be the kind of people that are used to giving their opinion, whether or not they have been asked. View this as their ‘style’, and don’t take it personally.
Are your in-laws simply ignoring your opinions, or even your presence?
Firstly, understand that this could in fact be a misunderstanding. Families often have their own way of relating to new people, and accepting a new member can be challenging. Just as your own family has their own language, reference points and histories, so does your partner’s. It is so important that you try to engage with them. If they’re discussing a trip that you did not attend, instead of letting your seat swallow you whole, say: “That sounds like it was fun! Tell me more about it!“.
Pro Tip: Your in-laws may in fact be very different people. Your mother-in-law may welcome you with open arms, but your father-in-law may still be annoyed that his son/daughter is marrying/married to someone outside their culture. In this case, nourish one’s good graces and use them, to get to the other. Ask your mother-in-law: “What’s something I can talk to so-and-so about, that will make them open up to me?“. This shows them that you want to form meaningful relationships, and guess what? They’ll probably discuss your positive efforts when you leave!
My in-laws never side with me.
Well, after all, they are his/her parents. If you’re blessed enough to have in-laws that remain unbiased when you have issues with your partner, yay! But if not, that’s okay, too. They may be doing it out of habit, and sometimes resentment towards you. But remember, relationships change over time. Let your partner know that you’d rather your issues remain your issues. Taking sides is never the way to go.
Pro Tip: Avoid arguing in front of your in-laws. Of course, this depends on how close you are to them; if your mother-in-law is the type to want to help, she’ll probably get involved – whether you like it or not. If you’re okay with that, so be it. But the tip remains, especially when you’re on shaky ground with your in-laws. Hopefully, as they get to know you, the nerves will ease and you will be able to openly bicker here and there…
I’m so close to my mother-in-law, that I can’t tell her when she’s being ‘too much’.
Okay, Fairies – this has an upside and a downside. Firstly, congratulations! You’ve cracked the mother-in-law code. This means that you have reached a level where you talk about things other than your partner, and genuinely enjoy spending time together. This is great – but can also cause some problems. Does this closeness mean that your mother-in-law is spending an excessive amount of time at your house? Does she call you every couple of hours? Well then, congratulations – your mother-in law is now your girlfriend!
Just joking. But seriously, try and see the positive side to it all. Being close to your mother-in-law means that you know her reasonably well. You know what language to use around her, and you know how she likes to be spoken to. This means that you instantly have an advantage. During your weekly catch-up, bring up the problem in a respectful and vocal manner. Don’t shy away from addressing the issue and your feelings, as they are.
Pro Tip: Begin the conversation by letting her know how much you love being close to her. Say something like: “You’re the best mother-in-law I could have asked for! I am so lucky to be able to call you a friend, too.”. Then continue with: “I love and respect you, so I just want you to know that while I love having you over, it sometimes gets in the way of my work schedule/fitness regime, etc.” Be ready for whatever response she provides, and make sure that you know how to console her if she becomes upset. No matter what, do not bring your partner into it, unless necessary.
We hope that this has helped, Fairies! Remember, your in-laws are most-likely very important to your partner. It is crucial that you are always respectful and willing to make compromises.
Digital Content Coordinator: Zoe Kanlis
Featured Image: Instagram