Do you get along with the in-laws? It is startling to realize the variety of ways a family can live together. So it’s no wonder that once a couple has said their marriage vows, they’re often amazed to find that their spouse has different expectations about life together. Perhaps they don’t have the same standards for the care of the home or the times they eat or the way in which they manage a budget. They may approach the balance between work and play differently or they may find they have different values when it comes to their jobs or their health or… you name it, people can have different opinions.
The difference in approaching daily life will have begun in childhood years in their separate homes. Thus the parents of each partner will also have different values. This makes for interesting if not downright antagonist relationships with a mother in law or father in law. You didn’t say your marriage vows to them, you said them to your spouse. And, thankfully, the vows you made to your spouse are the ones you need to keep.
It may take a lot of work and some willingness to accept certain situations you aren’t able to change to find a way to maintain a positive relationship with your in-laws. Here are a few tips to make those potentially uncomfortable relationships run a little more smoothly:
Be proactive in your relationships. Take the bull by the horns and set some expectations for time spent with the in-laws, holiday expectations, babysitting or other interactions with your children and the like. Once the expectations are determined, be sure to convey them to your in-laws. Be as friendly about this as possible, but once stated clearly, boundaries are easier to maintain.
Be friendly. A smile can go a long way to keeping the relationship happy. You may never adopt your in-laws lifestyle or accept their opinions, but you can remain civil. Find ways to interact positively and focus on interactions that can be enjoyable.
Accept differences. If there are differences in basic belief systems, political stances, outlooks on life and other major issues, chances are you won’t change your in-laws ideas or ways of expressing themselves. You have the choice of “walking on eggs” all the time, or just accepting that there are differences and living with them.
Be kind. Whenever possible minimize the negative parts of the relationship and treat your in-laws with respect. Along with kindness goes the willingness to admit mistakes. It is healing to apologize or admit weakness. And by all means accept any efforts from your in-laws to be friendly and congenial.
Now, let me turn the tables. What if you are the elder in-law and you’re having problems getting along with the daughter in law or son in law? Well, then some of the above points still hold true. It’s always acceptable to show kindness and friendliness. However, the young family has to find their own way in terms of time spent together and how much influence you have on their personal lives. Their budget, their time management, their methods of raising their children and a myriad of other ways they live are theirs to manage. If they ask for advice, by all means feel free to speak up; otherwise it’s best to keep your opinions to yourself. Is it easy? Absolutely not. When we’re older we do have the benefit of years of experience. However one of the biggest mistakes we can make with our children is to impose ourselves on them and try to dictate their lifestyles. It causes friction and it really doesn’t work.
It’s a bit of a balancing act to keep healthy relationships alive with our in-laws, but it’s not impossible. If you’re fortunate to have strong, happy relationships in your family, good for you, and if not, then make the best of the situation with your positive, kind and loving behavior.