By Dr. Jane Greer: Marriage & Family Therapist, Author, Radio Host & Shrink Wrap Celebrity Commentator
Dealing with in-laws can be very challenging. While one’s hope is that the parents of your spouse will be welcoming and happy to have you join the family, the reality is that they very often view you as an outsider and an intruder, and consequently can be unfriendly, nasty, and even cold. That sort of behavior makes navigating your relationship with them difficult, to say the least. Here are three tips to smooth out those wrinkles so you can hopefully reach a point of comfort and compatibility with them sooner rather than later.
Be Welcoming – They might not be, but you can. Extend an invitation to your in-laws on a steady basis so they can feel like they are wanted and a part of your lives. Look to include them rather than exclude them – at a birthday dinner or an office celebration. If you are going to a show or a concert you think they might like, give them a call. If possible, try to structure a regular get together with them – maybe a dinner out once a month, or a Sunday dinner at your place every other week. This way, they will feel valued and know you want them around, even if it feels like an effort at first, and they just might start to appreciate you for that.
Spend Individual Time With Them – Look to schedule time alone with them, whether it be a lunch with your mother-in-law or a trip to the hardware store with your father-in-law, or vice versa depending on their interests. If you are able to get to know them better, they will be able to get to know you better, too. You may find that as you do this they might begin to see you in a different light, maybe less as a threat who is taking their child away from them, and more as a gain. If you bring positive energy to the mix, and make them feel important, you stop being a negative and start being an asset, and might finally begin to be thought of as a family member instead of an interloper.
Show Interest In Them – If you know your in-laws have a particular hobby such as cooking, golfing, playing cards, scrapbooking, crocheting, or playing tennis, check it out and try to become familiar with it. That way you can initiate a knowledgeable conversation about something they care about. Better yet, ask if they can teach you how to do something. Maybe your mother-in-law is known for her strudel. Ask if she might spend an afternoon in the kitchen with you passing along her knowledge and wisdom. Or perhaps your father-in-law is a great card player. See if he might have an hour or so to begin to teach you his favorite game. Not only will this give you something to do together, it will allow your in-laws to know you see something special in them. The plus is that you’ll learn an enjoyable skill or hobby that you can keep in the family and perhaps pass on to your children, if and when you have them.
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