How to Be a Better In-Law

Marriage party group photoConflicts with in-laws are one of the most common sources of stress, and a bad relationship with in-laws can even destroy a marriage. Most people want to get along with their in-laws, and few in-laws want to match the stereotype of a crazy in-law. But all too often, emotions and the stress of daily life get in the way of the best intentions, leading to ongoing problems. If your child is getting married and you want to be a great in-law, or if you’ve been an in-law for a while and just want to be better at it, here are a few simple things you can do.

Support the Marriage
At the core of most in-law problems is lacking support for the married couple. In some cases, in-laws make it explicitly clear that they dislike their child’s choice for a mate and wish to break up the marriage. More commonly, however, in-laws feel a bit jealous, irritated by the fact that their family traditions have changed or confused about how to get along with a new child-in-law. In either case, making it clear that you support your child’s marriage is key. Do this by never bad-mouthing your child-in-law and by treating her like a member of your family. Thank her for your contributions and encourage your child to prioritize his marriage over all other relationships. Never force him to choose between you and his spouse. In a healthy relationship, you will lose every time, and you’ll look unreasonable in the process.

Talk Directly to Your Son or Daughter-in-Law
In-laws often get themselves into trouble when they express frustration to their child and expect the child to resolve the conflict. You’ll do much better if you talk to your daughter or son-in-law directly about problems. Don’t point fingers or assign blame. Instead, frame the question as, “I feel like we’re not doing a good job at this. What can we do better?” Then allow your in-law to explain her issues before you explain yours. You’ll come to a better understanding of one another and be much less likely to get into fights.

Compromise
It can be difficult to adjust to a change in schedules and holiday traditions when your child gets married, but compromising will serve you well for the rest of your child’s married life. Don’t expect your child and their spouse to make multiple trips to multiple parents’ houses every holiday. Instead, consider alternating holidays every year or going to your child’s house. Similarly, it’s important to be flexible regarding family traditions. If, for example, everyone has always spent Christmas Eve at your house, consider making it easier for your child and their spouse by asking everyone to come over Christmas morning instead.

Have Reasonable Expectations
When you gain an in-law, you’re gaining a new member of your family. Unlike most family members, you don’t have the luxury of living with them for years or watching them grow from a child to an adult. This means some of their behavior may seem strange or even offensive. It’s important to expect some difficulty adjustment and not to anticipate that everything will be smooth sailing. Calmly address bumps in the road along the way without pointing fingers, and remember that adjusting to a new family can take time and practice. With enough time spent together, you’ll soon begin cherishing your child’s new spouse.

Sources:

  1. Chapman, G. D. (2008). In-law relationships: The Chapman guide to becoming friends with your in-laws. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House.
  2. Miller, R. S. (2012). Intimate relationships. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Related articles:

Help! I Don’t Love My In-Laws

 

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  • Shirley Dill

    Shirley Dill

    May 4th, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    When my son first told us that he was getting married, I was so excited. I loved the girl he was marrying, and seeing that I had 4 boys, I was excited to be getting a daughter. Boy did that ever go bad in a hurry. We went from having a very friendly relationship to this gorl to one where she now acts like she can’t even stand to be in the same room with me. I have often wondered what I did to turn her away like that, but then I have gotten to the point to where I don’t even care. I don’t want to be around her either. It makes me mad because now I know when they have children I won’t really be allowed to be a part of their lives, and my son seems content to go along with whatever she wants.

  • Granger

    Granger

    May 4th, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    I happen to have a wonderful relationship with my in-laws, maybe even better than the one that I have with my own parents. I am so thankful for the wonderful woman that they raised who is now my wife, and for the love and support that they have always extended to us. Maybe it helps that we don’t live that close to them and never have, but we always talk and email a lot and that keeps us all close. I would never trade this relationship, and I am sorry for those readers who have not had the chance to experience what kind of closeness this can be.

  • pace faris

    pace faris

    May 5th, 2012 at 4:34 AM

    The in law relationship is kind of all hype anyway.
    When you marry it should be about who you love and what you are looking for in a mate and not what mom or dad want.
    I think that too many people are on the lookout to marry either a cookie cutter to make them really happy or on the opposite end they think of this as their way of rebelling and intentionally choose a partner that they know mom and dad won’t approve of.
    Picking a marriage partner should only be strategic for what makes you happy and content and no one else.

  • Jimmy

    Jimmy

    May 5th, 2012 at 10:56 AM

    The in laws are all right, I guess, but I have never connected with them in a way that makes me think that either we would really get along or not. My thoughts are that I married their daughter and not them, so who cares? I try to be a good husband and father, so what could they fault me for other than that? They don’t butt in to our lives and we don’t into theirs and all is well.

  • Beth

    Beth

    May 6th, 2012 at 5:23 AM

    How to be a good inlaw?
    Simply be a good person and treat them the way that you yourself want to be treated.
    Isn’t that the universal rule of life anyway?

  • emma c

    emma c

    May 6th, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    I agree with the section that sometimes it is hard with these people only because their ways my seem a little peculiar to you because you have not been around them all your life.

    They may do things a little differently than you do, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, just different. Try to Look at it as a chance to do something or learn something new.

  • Art

    Art

    May 7th, 2012 at 4:19 AM

    I hate to have to say this, but I think that there have been times and people that I know who intentioanlly play up that conflict with their in-laws because that is what they think they are supposed to do. It is what makes for good conversation, so why not? Didn’t these people meet before they got married to the family? Didn’t they realize that when you get married you are marrying more than your partner but the whole fanily? I know there are some people who don’t believe that but I do, and I really do think that it’s true. Get to know them for who they are before you tie then knot, and try to love them warts and all, and they will do the same for you. (we hope)

  • Joseph

    Joseph

    May 7th, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    My mom and my wife are not the best of friends. . . all I ask is that they try to keep me out of the middle of it

  • Dylan

    Dylan

    May 7th, 2012 at 11:54 PM

    People with a difference in age, a different family to have grown up in and a general feeling of newness could have problems, they are not expected to get along with each other like buddies but a little work can and will make it a smooth relationship.And as older people, I think it is the responsibility of the elders to give a little leeway and offer a few compromises when it comes to your relationship with your son-in-law or daughter-in-law.

  • Lulu Aran

    Lulu Aran

    May 12th, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    To young married couples: remember that YOU will be a parent one day. To in-laws: remember how you hated meddling in-laws when newly marriedmarried. It all results in a peaceful relationship.

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