You know that saying: you don’t marry your partner, you marry his or her family? Well, it’s true and the sooner one realises that diplomacy and tact are two of your greatest allies, the sooner any threat of hostilities can be averted. Your in-laws are not going to go away and what’s more, you had better make damn sure that they like you! Creating family harmony is worth the effort, and there are a few tried and tested methods of coping with future in-laws once you’re past the stage of wedded bliss:
- Never underestimate their importance – think your partner’s parents aren’t going to play much of a role in your life? Think again. If you’re going the long haul with your partner, you’re going the long haul with your in-laws. Bare minimum requirement is going to be Christmas lunch, but you’d be wise to factor in family weddings, funerals and christenings; and once you’ve had children, there will be regular in-law visits – you can see why getting them to like you is important.
- There can be no divided loyalties – THE most important piece of advice you’ll ever hear is that your primary loyalty is now to your family – that’s you, your partner and bambino (when and if they arrive). Work with your partner. If there is conflict with in-laws always work these through with your partner. And never, ever place your partner in a situation where he/she has to choose between you and a relative – you just don’t want to go there. Even if you have the in-laws from hell, they’re your partner’s parents!
- Accept that they may frustrate you – recognise that they will have shortcomings, there will be things they say or do that get on your nerves – of course they’re going to irritate you, you probably irritate them too. Acceptance goes a long way to handling any given situation that might arise.
- Set boundaries – you’re not closing them out, you’re just establishing the fences. In the same way that your children won’t be allowed to eat chocolate cake before dinner, there are going to be ‘no-no’ zones for in-laws, and you need to agree these with your partner. Negotiate the role you want your in-laws to have in your life together – never assume you’re on the same page.
- Keep problems inhouse – if you’ve got problems within the marriage, keep them there. Remember, despite the excellent relationship you might have with your parents, criticising your partner and turning to your parents to resolve a relationship issue is not a good thing. And the same goes for your partner. Your in-laws aren’t going to hear you make up, are they?
- Go direct to the source of the problem – if you’re experiencing conflict with your in-laws then talking them through with your partner is almost essential, but getting them to fight your battle for you isn’t. You need to iron the problem out with your in-laws yourself. This is a life long relationship; you’re going to have to learn to deal with them sometime.
- Be a grown up – lastly, in any conflict situation it pays to keep your cool. Getting involved in the fracas doesn’t earn you brownie points. And hey, they just might be nice!
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