Everyone wants to have a good relationship with their in-laws. Yet early encounters with in-laws are often greeted with trepidation and concern. Unlike most of the other relationships which we establish in life, many of us approach our in-laws with the belief that we are unlikely to find any common ground and that there will be a distinct possibility of conflict in our relationship.
Whilst circumstances do differ, if you can try to approach your new relationship with your in-laws positively, you stand a good chance of winning them over in the long run. After all, you share a common love for your spouse, and your in-laws would have played a big role in helping your spouse grow into the person that you love today.
1. Be Realistic and Give Them Time to Warm Up to You
Even though you are now related and part of the family, you need to remember that unless you grew up knowing them, your in-laws are just getting to know you too. They don’t know what you are like, how you might react to them and whether or not you want to build a positive and close relationship with them.
So, as with all new friendships, be realistic and give them some time to find a way to connect with you. It may take several months and interactions before you feel that “aha” moment and know that somehow you have managed to “click” on a personal level and not just because it’s the dutiful thing to do.
2. Show an Interest in Them as Individuals
Approach them as you would a new friend or acquaintance. Step back from seeing them only in their roles as your in-laws. Try to get to know them as individuals. Understand their likes and dislikes and be sensitive to their personality types. If your mother-in-law is an introvert, give her space to express herself. If your father-in-law is an active volunteer, understand why the cause he has taken up is important to him. Paying attention to them as individuals will give you the keys to relating to them as friends and family members.
3. Listen to Them
When your in-laws do open up and talk to you, listen to them. Try not to project your biases, assumptions and insecurities into the conversation. Just listen to them and open yourself up to what they have to say. Even if they decide to give you some unsolicited advice, it doesn’t hurt to hear them out and consider it. You should always of course make joint decisions with your spouse, but don’t write your in-laws views off automatically, they may have some valuable insights and points which you might not have considered before.
4. Work on Shared Interests
If you have shared interests, find the opportunity to pursue them together. If you share a love of gardening, find the time to help out in their garden, exchange plants and ask for advice. Doing something you like together, will give you an opportunity to work together and grow closer.
5. Help Them to Learn Something New
If your in-laws are struggling to get their new smart phones to work or are not sure about how to book their holiday online, help them out. Patiently teach them and be there to support them. They will appreciate your understanding and sensitivity and will likely reciprocate these qualities in their future interactions with you.
6. Respect Their Traditions
It’s hard to grow older and feel that traditions which you’ve always cherished and thought of as important might be abandoned. Be aware that deciding to ignore a family tradition might be very hurtful to them and might cause them to feel insecure about their place in the family. Respect their traditions even as you begin to build new ones with your spouse and your own family. Some flexibility and an ability to accommodate old and new traditions can lead to a stronger family.
7. Be There During Tough Times Too
When trouble strikes, don’t hesitate to show your concern and willingness to help them. That is the true essence of being a family. When you are willing to make the effort to see them through their difficulties, you will have crossed over from being an outsider to becoming a core and important family member.