Everyone has heard of stories of conflicts with in-laws. We have seen television dramatize these relationships—turning them into comedies or sardonic films. Remember Michelle Yeoh’s character in Crazy Rich Asians or Robert De Niro’s in Meet the Fockers?

When couples marry, they make a pledge to stand by each other through thick and thin. For example, when you quarrelled with someone, you would want your spouse to understand your frustrations and empathise with you. And the last thing you want is your spouse taking the side of the other party.

For some couples, such frustrations may involve their in-laws. And when your spouse is caught in such conflicts, it is difficult for him/her to choose ‘sides’.

Here are some tips on how to make peace with in-laws:

The 1st rule (and the bedrock) of managing relationships with your in-laws is to get on the same team with your spouse. Ultimately, your marriage will depend on your relationship with your spouse.

You will need to have an open discussion on the roles parents should play in your married life. Discuss how involved you hope or want them to be. Your spouse is also a key person to help you better understand your in-laws and clear up misunderstandings.

This applies particularly to interracial marriages, where what is normal in your home may be a cultural taboo in your in-laws’ home. Learn about their ways, show some understanding and by accepting them as they are, you can foster good a relationships with them and help them accept you for who you are as well.

Be kind. Showing a little tolerance can go a long way in keeping the peace. Keep in mind that no matter how they treat you, your in-laws are still your spouse’s parents.

If you share differing opinions, it helps to share your opinions with your spouse and with your in-laws. Sometimes the conflict could just be a misunderstanding. In most cases, the rationale behind their actions is simply out of concern for you, your spouse or their grandchildren.

Some older folks may need time to adjust to a new way of doing things. You may need to be patient with them in seeing your point of view.

Set boundaries. If you find that your in-laws continuously do not respect your marriage and continues to interfere with your decisions, you may need to set certain boundaries with them. Have a discussion with your spouse first and agree on such boundaries together as a couple before making them clear to your in-laws and enforcing them together.

For example, boundaries could be set around issues such as values on parenting or a specific behaviour towards you or your children.

Talk to in-laws directly. If you are hoping to resolve a conflict with your in-laws that only involves you and them, it may help to talk to them directly instead of having your spouse “pass the message”, which may put your spouse in a tight spot.

Be the grown-up. Sometimes, despite trying out all the tips and following all the rules, some people are still going to be judgemental and may continue to pass comments to hurt your feelings or continue to do things that upset you. No matter how you try to accommodate them, your in-laws may refuse to change. In such scenarios, remember that you can’t control other people but you can still control how you react to them.

One way is to ignore their comments or actions. Or you could just laugh it off. Sometimes it could just be a one-off remark or behaviour and your anger will pass in time.

In scenarios where you find that you always end up in a heated argument, you could consider (in agreement with your spouse) to reduce your interactions with them.

Let go of your expectations. Some conflicts with in-laws could stem from your own expectations of them. Forcing your expectations on them is unfair to them, for example, expecting them to look after your children regularly, despite them having other commitments.

Building good relationships with in-laws take time and does not happen overnight. Just remember to team up with your spouse to make it work.