In-laws or Outlaws?

I have a dear friend (whose name will remain concealed for her familial accord) who has spent the last fifteen years in agony when she is around her mother-in-law. Holidays are the things of nightmares. In fact, her first Christmas as a married woman was ruined, she believes, by her husband’s mother. My friend had a list of all the items she wanted to purchase as gifts for her husband to celebrate their first Christmas as a married couple. Her mother-in-law called one day to ask what she planned to purchase, so they did not buy him the same things. My friend found out two days before the holiday during a gift exchange that her mother-in-law had shopped for and purchased every single item on her list, leaving my friend to return her gifts at the last minute and try to find other things for her husband. Needless to say, she was beside herself in anger and frustration!

The relationships involved in these type of situations are delicate indeed! Your spouse’s parents are not people you can just write off. They are now your family and must be respected, in one way or another. More importantly, they are your partner’s family and being at loggerheads with them can put a strain on your relationship. Depending upon the familial situation, it can be far easier to weather friction with your own parents than with your in-laws. After all, you’ve been working on your relationship with your parents since you took your first breath! With your in-laws, you are not sure what is allowed and what is not…or how they express emotions and stress. You may find yourself saying something wrong and upsetting them or remaining silent while resentment eats away at your psyche. The fact remains that you may never feel as comfortable with your mate’s family as with your own, yet bear in mind that these people will be in your life for a long time. In fact, they will be a vital part! Working out squabbles and personality conflicts is extremely important for the future of all involved.

Right off the top, there are several things that you should not do when it comes to your in-laws! Do not assume that their family dynamic is the same as yours. Whether the differences are religious, cultural, or simply their way of interacting, every family is different. Take the time to dwell on their way of living, to take note of the interpersonal cues. Be your normal polite, friendly, charming self while paying attention to how they communicate with each other. Take that time to get to know your in-laws. Your mate will appreciate your efforts, and you may develop a loving relationship with his or her family along the way.

It is important to remember that there is no need to easily take offense. They cannot read your mind and may not understand the offense they caused. Do not assume that they understand how you feel. Talk to your partner in a calm manner, asking if you were reading the situation correctly. When discussing your in-laws with your spouse, it is vital to steer clear of accusations and insults! The last thing you want to do is hurt your loved one and place him or her in the middle.

When you married, you gained not only a spouse, but another family. That family came with its own traditions and expectations. You should both recognize and respect this, within limits. You don’t have to submerge your own feelings or allow disrespect or control. You do, however, have to make a valiant effort to come together as one family instead of two, if for no other reason than the happiness of the person to whom you have devoted your life.