With the holidays behind us, you probably think that you have had enough of your family, in-laws, and loved ones. It is normal to have relatives get on our nerves, but there are many steps we can take to avoid conflict in a healthy manner.
How To Handle The In-Laws
Try to get to know the in laws. Chances are, you have things in common and they are not so different from you after all. If they are too different from you, try to create an activity or a topic that you can share and discuss without fighting. For instance, you can lend your mother in law some of your favorite novels and exchange them for her favorites. You can then discuss them. You can take up knitting, exercising together, going on walks when they’d come to visit. The more time you spend with your in laws, the more you can appreciate your significant other, too. You get to see who raised them and how they came to be the awesome person you are in a relationship with.
Not only is it a good idea to get to know your in laws, but it is also nice to befriend them. You share a loved one together and so you can bond together over this person.
Communicate clearly with all parties involved. You can talk to your significant other about any issues that arose, but it’s best to take it up directly with your in laws in a calm manner. You can express frustration, anger, or any negative feelings without snapping at them. Try to narrow it down to a specific incident, avoid generalization and extreme words. For example, rather than saying, “Your cooking always sucks!” you can say, “The spices in this particular dish are a little off, but I like how you cooked the carrots.” Remember that words hurt a lot, but so do actions. So, try to treat your in laws with gentleness, forgiveness, and kindness.
Draw Clear Boundaries
Just with every relationship, even friendships, it is absolutely important to draw boundaries. Explain, calmly, that certain things are not up for negotiation or discussion with your in laws. You can, for instance explain that how you raise your children, spend your money, or anything personal is just that: personal. It is important that you have the a-okay from your significant other first, though, because then it can be a team-led approach to how you want your family to be. You can discuss this with your significant other early on in the relationship to avoid any awkward conversations or arguments with your in laws. Communicate away, but, remember to play nice!
Reframe Your Approach:
Remember that your father and mother in law are people, too. They are not a problem to be managed. Sometimes, people become things rather than subjects with feelings and thoughts. So, rather than thinking of them as something to be managed, think of them as people that you really want to get along with—if not for your significant other, it is for karmic energy at least.
Be Willing to Learn:
Way back in kindergarten, you were once the new kid in school. Now here you are again, in the same position: you are a new person in a new atmosphere. This family has been together for a long time. Accept that there are some inside jokes, some sensitive topics, and other family secrets that you may not understand for a while. Just like in kindergarten, or at any new school, new workplace or environment, you learn by trial and error. If Aunty Marcy was not pleased by you hugging her, maybe it is because she had something traumatic happen to her, or it takes a while for her to warm up to people.
Ask Questions Carefully:
With learning, there comes the need to ask questions, of course. Remember to be sensitive. Sometimes, you have to ask your significant other for clarification on things you notice in the family or in family members specifically. Do not be blunt and ask the person directly, at least not until you have gotten to know them well enough to ask for clarification.
Your in-laws have had a dynamic with their children, nephews, and nieces for quite some time. Therefore, it is only natural that it will take you some time and effort to blend in with the family. Give yourself the opportunity to get closer and get to know your significant other’s family. Be flexible to accommodate others. Sometimes, your in-laws, just like your better half, can help you become a stronger, kinder, wiser, and more loving individual.
By the same token, remember to express yourself when things get too much for you. If a certain family relative is making you feel uncomfortable for any reason, maybe they are too intrusive or judgmental, you should make sure you verbalize that in a polite but firm manner. Being flexible does not mean you have to be a doormat, so stand your ground.
Here’s Dr. Phil’s advice for dealing with your new extended family: Managing Your In-Laws
How To Get Along With The In-Laws
Get to know your mother in law, father in law, sisters and brothers in law. For the first few visits, try to take more of an observational role to get to know the family. You may notice that some relatives are closer to you than others, which is not at all a problem, but remember not to make assumptions or generalizations about anyone.
For instance, the uncle in law who seems to give you stink eye may actually just have a lazy eye. The sister in law who never talks to you may be extremely shy. The brother in law who does not like you at all may have some issues with your significant other. Remember, you are being introduced as an extension, through this person.
Build Banter with the Family:
Try to find something in common with every single member of the family. It may seem difficult, but it is only a matter of time before, you find things you share in common with each relative. Let’s say you are vegan, you can bond with an animal-loving father in law, who was raised on a farm. Let’s say you wanted to learn how to knit. You can bond with your mother in law, who just happens to be a knit-ninja. People will surprise you. What may seems to you as a cold silence may actually be a shy younger sibling, just unsure of how to communicate with you.
So, Communicate Clearly:
Make sure the family knows what is on your mind, why you think the way you do, what offends you or upsets you. Doing so will create a nice, warm atmosphere with clarity and honesty as staples of the family and your relationship with its members.
Create Boundaries and Respect Them:
Using your awesome communication skills, set boundaries and make sure you are comfortable with your new family. If someone is being too intrusive, let this person know that you are uncomfortable and explain why. Family is essentially a group of people; do not assume that family must know every single thing or that it should be invasive. Set boundaries, rules, and commitments. Abide by them.
Remember, always, that your mother and father in law are now your family, so show them appreciation and love, even if it is hard sometimes, even if you don’t always get along, because they are the reason your significant other is here; and that is a blessing in and of itself. It does not have to be perfect—chances are it will not be perfect at all, but show them love. What you put out there to the Universe comes back to you threefold.
What If Your In-Laws Do Not Like You
Fathers and mothers in law are a crucial part of your family. Not only do you spend the holidays with them, but you get to share a significant other and children with them. There are some steps you can take to deal with in laws who do not like you.
Talk to your father in law or mother in law about your feelings. Ask them politely why you are not getting along. Sometimes, what you perceive as “not getting along” is actually a misunderstanding. Perhaps your mother in law is just really quiet, or your father in law is shy. Ask them what you can do to get along better. Naturally, this conversation may not be the first of its kind; perhaps you will have to check in and see if the changes in the way you communicate with them are effective or not.
Address Every Issue Separately:
Be careful not to lump every aspect of your relationship with your in laws together. For instance, phone conversations are not the same as visits, which are not the same as cards. Every single way you communicate is different. In addition, be careful not to lump all conflicts into one conversation. Deal with each conflict separately.
Much like any relationship, you relationship with your father and mother in law will take time. Be understanding of their needs; you are new to their family and thus there is plenty to learn and understand, nuances in the relationship that will take time for you to develop.
Much like the being understanding with your mother and father in law, you have to try to be patient with your in laws. Developing relationships and understanding takes a lot of time, trial and error, and so you need to be patient with yourself and with your in laws. It will take time to develop trust, respect, understanding, and love.
Remember your End Game:
The end game is what should motivate you. What is your end game? Do you, for example, want a happy family that gets along? Do you want to create a safe haven for your children and significant other? Do you want to have a support system that will cheer you and your significant other on?
Aim For Realistic:
Aside from patience, understanding, and motivation, it is important to aim for realistic expectations. Do not expect immediate love and support. It is rare that people give these things, genuinely, right away. It takes time to develop and achieve these benchmarks. Everything of value takes time, so give yourself realistic benchmarks.
It is so important to celebrate the benchmarks you and your in-laws achieve. Send them thank you notes, cards, hugs, and high fives.
Here’s an opinion on this topic from Margaret Renki at Parenting.com: Making Peace With Your In-Laws
What If Your In-Laws Are From A Different Culture
If your father and mother in law are from a different culture, chances are, you are nervous about approaching them and meeting them. You have good reasons to worry; there are so many things that can go awry like cultural taboos, for example. With that said, however, there are plenty of steps you can take if they are from a different culture.
Educate Yourself About the Culture Beforehand:
Before you meet the family, look up the culture to understand what are taboos and what are not taboos. Study up on customs and traditions so that you do not offend anyone on your first meeting with the family. Ask your significant other about: the family, what they value, what they do not value, and what offends them.
Don’t Be an Eager Beaver:
Remember that getting along with your in-laws is not, in fact, a competition. So, avoid all name-dropping or culture referencing. For the first few visits, just observe the family and get to know them. Some families may come from a different cultural background, but they adopt different behaviors from these traditions, particularly if they have been living in a different country for a long time.
Build a Relationship:
Your father and mother in law are people who can affect your family tremendously. They can act as a potential support system for your own nuclear family. Therefore, try to build a relationship, a report with them. Try to build a loving, caring, and outgoing communication system with them. Maybe they live far away, so you would have to send them emails, cards, letters, pictures; whatever you do, keep them involved in your life, and keep getting involved in theirs because people are more than just cultural products. They are individuals with thoughts of their own and feelings of their own.
The more you stay in touch with your in-laws, the more you understand them, the more you see them as people, the more you understand your significant other, who is a byproduct of this relationship, of these communications and interactions. So, chat away, chat freely, chat with an open mind and an open heart. While you may have cultural differences, love is universal enough.
Enjoy meeting your in-laws and don’t worry so much about the cultural differences you may have. Try to get to know them as people, as individuals. Smile, take it all in, and know that it will take time for you to get to know them, consider them to be family, but smile anyway, smile at the potential this relationship may have. Smile because you are there with these wonderful people who brought up your significant other.