I received an email from a woman who asked for advice on how to gain the love of her in-laws. Her boyfriend is planning on taking her to see his family for them to commence their marriage rites.
I appreciated the fact that she asked for advice on such a sensitive issue before taking that big step in her relationship.
When you are on the threshold of becoming part of a new family, the fear of acceptance is real, especially from prospective in-laws. We always approach the unknown with trepidation. Fretting over meeting in-laws is agonising because you will want them not just to welcome you but to accept you as part of the family.
Foremost, individuals differ and come with their unique baggage. So, there is no one-size-fits-all advice on how to have a perfect relationship with the in-laws. What works for one may not work for the other, but there is always a bottom line that you can change to suit your situation.
Everyone craves acceptance, especially with people you will spend the rest of your life with. However, know that acceptance is not an automatic ticket you will receive on arrival. It requires time and effort to earn it. Why? Differences. We are all born into different cultural, religious, geographic, or social backgrounds. These differences inhibit our relationships with others. These hurdles you have to overcome through interaction and friction. How you interact and handle the fall-out frictions with the in-laws is the yardstick for your acceptance or rejection in the family.
How To Relate With Your In-Laws
1. Talk with your partner!
If you are about to meet your in-laws for the first time, you need to be well informed on what to expect. This information you can get through your partner, who knows his family better than you.
Your familiarisation interrogations should start with him. Ask questions that will give you insights into their beliefs, attitudes and culture, if both of you are from different cultural backgrounds. You will not want to commit a cultural faux pas on your first encounter with your in-laws.
Checking with your spouse on what works and what will not work with his family is a step in the right direction. He is the best person to help allay your fear and shows you how to relate with his family. It is better you know them before you tie the knot to understand what you are walking into.
2. Do not put on a show
Never put up a show just to earn their approval. These are people you will spend the rest of your life with. Be open, show them your real self from the outset. This will help reduce friction and acrimony in the future. If you try to show off as something or someone you are not, it will only cause everyone problems down the line because you cannot keep on the pretence for long.
Also, do not remake yourself to fit into the wife mould your in-laws want for their son. Do not accept what you can not tolerate from them. Be yourself, your real self! To allow your in-laws to use you as a foot mat is not a guarantee they will love and accept you.
Be yourself. Show them how you want to be treated. And eventually, it will work out. Project to them who you are and not what you have.
Again, do not try to overplease them and fall into trouble. Show basic courtesy, be a good human being, respect them for what they are, and be helpful to them.
3. Listen and learn
Remember, your in-laws are an integral part of your spouse’s life. Understand they have loved your spouse much longer than you. They have been there throughout his life. To warm your way into their heart, make them a crucial part of your life as well.
Remember also, you are competing with his family for his affection and attention and he has a biological connection with them already. This is another source of friction you have to handle with wisdom because jealousy is invertible.
Fret not, all you need to do is listen, pay attention to their words and actions and you will learn how to deal with your partner’s family. Be open and ready to learn about the family dynamism and how to adjust to fit into the family. Share who you are with them, and this will help develop your relationship with them.
Do not be confrontational with them until you establish a good rapport with them, which will increase your understanding of some actions. Before then, confrontation often spoils relationships that are tender and yet to have a strong root.
4. Give it time
Every relationship takes time to build. It is a gradual process, a journey of discoveries. There will be fights, arguments, but that does not mean they don’t like you. You are different, with your own set of principles and ideology, so are they too. It will take time and effort to understand and accept another’s viewpoint with love and, since they don’t know you well yet, they would be judgmental.
Don’t give up. Always be kind. Give it time. You don’t need to rush the process. To make this work, learn to give in to their opinion to lessen the friction. It will show them you care about their opinions, and you are ready to accept them as a family, too.
Every relationship is like a plant that needs special attention and care in the nurturing stage. Give your best to your partner’s family, knowing you are in it for the long haul.
5. Understand your in-laws
Understanding your in-laws will give you leverage on how to relate to them in the future. If you get to know them well, you will set limits and boundaries on how to interact with them. But no matter how they are, try to show them love and respect for raising the man you found worthy to spend your life with.
Often, you hear wives complaining, “my parents will not treat me the way my in-laws are treating me. Is it because I married their son?”
Your parents’ love comes with your birth package. But your in-laws are not your parents, so don’t expect them to love you wholly. No matter how much you desire their love and affection, don’t expect it to be the same as your parents. Though there are exceptions.
Don’t expect your new family to treat you exactly the way your family treats you. Love is earned. Try as much as possible to earn their love, trust and respect.
6. Build a friendship
Love them, show them you care. Build a friendly relationship with them and include them in your life as part of your family. Chances are, they are just as nervous about connecting with you as you are about connecting with them.
Love them, respect them and let them know your best side. It will increase family dynamism and reduce friction if you can get along with your in-laws.
Remember, your partner is equally special to them, as your relationship with him is to you. Whatever the case may be, you must respect them, even if you don’t like them. Engage with them, work towards establishing a cordial relationship with them.
As human beings, we can’t do without relationships, and so learn to maintain a good relationship with our in-laws. Building relationships is difficult, attempt to spend valuable time with your in-laws, be kind, and generous towards them. The return you get on your effort will last the rest of your married life.
7. Communication is key
Communication is a key ingredient in every successful relationship. Learn how to communicate with your in-laws. If something bothers you, address it as soon as possible to clear any misunderstanding that may arise and smear your relationship with them or your partner.
Don’t bottle up anger, it leads to resentment in the future. Resentment is poisonous and toxic. It eats away the core of a relationship. Resentment also erodes trust, reliability, affection, commitment and replaces them with negative emotions like disappointment, bitterness, and hard feelings.
Learn to be expressive without being insulting to your in-laws.
As a new member of the family, open communication is the only way you can break barriers and insert yourself into the family.
8. Treat them like family
Your in-laws may not be blood-related, but because of marriage, they are now extended family members. They cannot replace your parents or family, but you have become an addition to the family. Working to integrate yourself into the family is not always easy, but no matter what, work on your relationship with them. They will only drop their guards when they see you.
Love them and treat them like family. Remember, they are part of your spouse’s life before your entrance; they come with the marriage package. Treat them like family.
Respect and common courtesy go along to make you part of the family. Even if your spouse has parents from hell or you consider his mother as a “monster-in-law”, you owe them respect and tolerance.
Understand your partner has a bond with his parents and siblings. Try not to bring strife into their relationship. Rather, maintain a good relationship with your in-laws, and be at peace with them.
9. Drop all conceived stereotypes
Purge yourself of the stereotypes that all mothers-in-law are monsters or that there is no way you can please an in-law, no matter what you do. Try to be open-minded, adjust your thinking and adapt to the reality of the situation you meet on the ground. Yes, there will be contestation and conflict, handle it with maturity. Some people are genuinely difficult to please or love. It’s in their DNA. Accept that and find a way around them.
See your partner’s parents as humans, imperfect, with strengths and weaknesses, good side and bad side. Treat them as you will want your future daughter-in-law to treat you.
It may not be easy to get total acceptance from every member of your partner’s family, try to live in harmony with all where possible. Your effort will probably pay off in the long run.
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