They are the recipient of numerous jokes and often the most colorful characters in
movies. When I think of in-laws, I think of characters in movies such as Meet the Fockers, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, or Father of the Bride. These
movies conjure up images of four parents with distinct personalities having crazy
adventures, laughing, crying, fighting, and eventually coming together through
mutual love and respect for their children and acceptance of each other for who
In-laws are a significant part of your family and your married life. My mother always told me you not only marry your spouse but you marry his family too. Many people don’t believe this statement and have a love/hate relationship based on either not trying or just acceptance for a situation they feel they cannot control.
No matter what the relationship is currently like, with some effort on your part, you can learn to build bridges or mend bridges. Here are some ideas to get you started.
1. You and Your Spouse/Partner are a Team
Dealing effectively with in-laws all starts with first working conflicts through with
your spouse/partner. The two of you are in this together. Never put your partner in a position where he has to choose between you and a relative. Try to understand and support the relationship and accept it for what it is, whether it is a good or bad. Try to understand there is a bond that your spouse has with his or her parents, siblings, and grandparents. As a team you need to put differences aside and make decisions based on the collective good of your marriage and family.
2. Set Boundaries and Limits
With your spouse, decide what's important and what's not. Working as a team includes setting family rules and values based on collective input from both of you. Rules such as “No candy before dinner and doing homework as soon as they get home from school” are rules that need to be enforced by you and by all relatives in the home. Working as a team, set your family values and
then communicate your values to your in-laws. There are times you need to be
flexible on some rules but make sure you stay true to the rules that are most
3. Enforce the Boundaries and Limits
When it comes to important family values and rules, stick to your guns. For example, if you don't want drop-in company, tell your in-laws that you'd prefer that they call before they show up at your doorstep. If they ignore you, don't answer the door the next time they just happen to drop by. This goes back to functioning as a team but working through issues with your partner. Again, respecting each other allows you to command respect and in turn teach respect.
4. Respect as You Would a Friend
Speaking of respect, by thinking of your in-laws as a potential friend, it allows you to treat them as a potential friend. Respect them, be interested in them, and listen to them.
5. Communicate Directly
Whenever possible communicate directly. Don't ask your spouse to talk to his father about something he did that hurt your feelings. Talk to him directly. Address things that bother you as soon as possible, when things fester they tend to get more exaggerated and more emotional.
Well, above are the first 5 of 10 tips to get you started, you are now well on your way to building a more positive and functional relationship with your extended family. The next blog will discuss tips 6-10.