All couples struggle with in-law issues. Why? Because adjusting to two families becoming one isn't easy. And it's usually most difficult on the women. Very rarely does anybody say, "I have a father/son-in-law from hell," because men usually stay out of the drama and aren't nearly as sensitive.
Even though it's not always easy, good in-law relationships are doable if people make an effort to communicate and be respectful. Here's how:
- Make an effort with both sets of families. Every family functions differently and has a unique culture. Some families are very affectionate and others aren't. Some are very involved and others aren't. Each has different rituals and traditions. But just because something is different doesn't make it bad (unless it actually is bad). You may not always agree or understand another family's dynamics and you may not be that crazy about the people in it, but everybody's family is important to them. So you need to make an effort to show respect and participate.
- Be on the same page with certain expectations. Some parents are very active and always asking to do stuff. Other parents wouldn't call unless the house burned down (if that). My rule is to always ask permission:
"Would it be OK if _____?"
"What do you think about _____?"
- Treat your child and their spouse like autonomous people. One of the greatest insults is to show up unannounced because it means you're not respecting them as a separate entity from you.
- Separate your in-laws from your own relationship. No matter how complicated or difficult an in-law may be, remember that you are married to your spouse, not your in-laws. When your spouse's parents are difficult, show your spouse a little more affection. Don't let in-law issues hurt your marriage.
- Keep communicating. If you don't like your mother-in-law trying to cook or clean when she comes over, instead of shouting, "How dare you come to my house and take over!" say something like, "I love when you come over, but I still want to do the cooking," or, "You do enough cleaning at your house, I just want you to relax." Speak calmly and act nicely.
- Don't take everything personally. Remember, whatever your in-law has said, critiqued, advised, suggested, or pointed out is only an opinion. You don't have to follow it, argue with it, or take it as a stab to the heart. Just say, "That's very interesting, I'll give it some thought," and leave it at that.
- Never forget that your in-laws are human beings too. Your in-laws have needs, concerns, doubts, and feelings just like you. Think about where they are coming from. If you haven't had kids, then one thing you don't understand is that as a parent, you're worried about your child's feelings until the day you're dead. You never want anybody to hurt your child, and that feeling never goes away, even when your kid gets older.
- Take a breath and let things go. Daughters- and sons-in-law need to be polite and show respect. Mothers- and fathers-in-law need to be more secure in their own skin. Remember parents - you are older and more experienced, and if you think back to your 20s, you know it was a different story. You were insecure and took things much too personally too quickly because that's just the stage of development you were in at the time. Sometimes our sons- and daughters-in-law can say or do dumb and thoughtless things, but they are simply not as well-schooled in the universe as you are. So cut them a little slack.