Your father-in-law ceaselessly complains about the Democrats or Republicans—whichever party you like, he doesn’t. Your mother-in-law can only talk about her aches and pains—her ailments and her friends’ ailments—which drives you to tears of boredom. How will you ever survive?
People say that when you marry, you also marry a whole family. Your partner’s family becomes yours and you need to learn how to get along. Here are some ideas:
Go to school with your spouse. Since your partner has been dealing with these people all his life, let him teach you how to cope. Chances are he’s found a way to steer the conversation to the more neutral ground when his father rants about politics. Maybe he’s discovered that a good dose of sympathy for his mother’s health problems helps her enough that it’s worth the trouble. Take a tip from the French. They call their mother-in-law “Belle Mère,” meaning Beautiful Mother. At the least, it’s a good way to signal your good intentions.
Maintain a unified front. You’ve got to stand by your man and he’s got to stand by you. It’s easy to slide into being the man in the middle, but don’t let it happen. If your sister-in-law criticizes your child-rearing techniques, your partner should stand up for you, telling her, “I know you mean well, but we have discussed how we raise our kids and we’re both very comfortable with how we’re managing.” Of course, you have to stick up for him, too. In any conflict between your spouse and your family, you’ve got to support your spouse. Otherwise, your partner will feel thrown under the bus and betrayed. The fundamental trust required for a solid marriage will be at risk. You must put your partner first.
Take insults with a grain of salt. People can say hurtful things unintentionally. Especially when you’re just getting to know your in-laws, they may not understand that they are touching on a subject that’s sensitive to you. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Most people are not intentionally mean—remember they are in a stressful situation, too, getting used to a new person in the family. Be as understanding as you can without being a doormat.
Speak your mind calmly and directly. If your in-laws hurt your feelings and you can’t overlook it, let them know. It’s much better, to be honest than to hold a grudge, be sullen and pout, or put up with bad behavior. If you don’t stand up for yourself, sooner or later you’ll blow up or get fed up. Do your in-laws the courtesy of telling them without hostility that your feelings are hurt. You may want to talk to your spouse first. Let him know how you feel and that you’d like his support. He may even take part in the conversation. Let people know what bothers you. It beats playing the martyr.
Limit your exposure. When all else fails, talk to your partner about those weekly Sunday dinners. Is it really necessary to sit down with his parents every Sunday? Perhaps you can compromise to once every two weeks. Or maybe sometimes he can visit them without you. Find a way to reduce the number of times or the length of time you see them. And remember. These are the people who raised the wonderful human being you love. They can’t be all bad.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact