Have you ever heard of the saying “When you marry someone,you’re marrying the entire family”? It may be said as a joke, but there is some truth in that, because when you get married to your spouse, you are also joining the other family as a new member.

While it may be romantic to envision a future that belongs to just you and your spouse, the reality is that your married life will inevitably include the in-laws in some capacity. After all, your spouse does not lose his or her identity as a son or daughter, sibling, or cousin after getting married.

Navigating these new relationships as an in-law is an often-overlooked element of your marriage, but important nonetheless. If you’re wondering where to start, here are four solid tips to begin your married life as a newly-minted member of your in-laws’ family on the right note or improve your relationship with your in-laws!

PS: If you want to prepare yourself even before any conflict can rear its ugly head, you can consider attending one of the various Marriage Preparation Programmes in the Community, some of which touch on in-law relationships as part of the programme.

1.Keep an open mind

It’s easy to be offended if you are already on-guard about your new family. Any little thing done or said can rub you the wrong way, especially if the family culture is very different from yours. It’s therefore crucial to refrain from judging your in-laws, and to keep an open mind to what they say and do. For example, perhaps they effusively share information about their relatives with the intention to help you assimilate more quickly, but you might end up feeling irked that they are bragging. Viewing their actions through a neutral lens will help you understand them better, preventing knee-jerk responses.

2.Be very patient

Just as it took time for you to get to know your partner well enough to want to marry him or her, it will also take time for you to get to know your in-laws well enough to feel comfortable around them, and vice versa. Don’t feel pressured to fit into your new family within a set timeframe–there isn’t. It may take months, or even years, and conflicts will be a given even as you seek to minimise them. You can also remind your in-laws respectfully that just as you are trying your best to understand them, that you hope they will also be patient with you. This will help improve the relationship both ways as your in-laws will see your efforts and appreciate you better for it.

3.Accept the differences

In a perfect world, both you and your new in-law family would get along wonderfully. This rarely happens in reality, because just as you are your own person, your in-laws are also their own people shaped by their own family culture. Some differences are here to stay, so you will need to be prepared to accept that. The differences may be big, such as spending habits or meal preferences; or smaller, such as a preferred way of doing the laundry or even whether they prefer to eat at home or out more regularly. Accepting that you and your in-laws will inevitably have differences and respecting these differences will go a long way in keeping the relationship warm.

4.Be united in setting clear boundaries

This may be hard to do, but so important: setting clear and united boundaries together with your partner. That's not to say you decisively cut your spouse off from his or her family when you get married; rather, you must put up a united front together with both your own and your in-law families as you start your new life as husband and wife. Things like when and how often you will visit, and that they should not drop by your place unannounced no matter what their reasons, should be firmly and kindly communicated. This will help greatly if and when children arrive!