Ah, the dreaded in-laws. If you’re lucky, you get along well with them and you’ve practically become one of their own children. Unfortunately, many of us have far more difficult in-laws (though they insist you’re the difficult one).
No matter what you think of them personally, you may be wondering how to get along with them better. After all, they’re your spouse’s parents and your kids’ grandparents — tension with your in-laws can put strain on your whole family.
Here are some ways you might be unknowingly creating extra friction with your in-laws.
1) Making your spouse choose
Do you find yourself unconsciously jostling with your in-laws for your spouse’s attention? This can be especially intense if you live in the same house.
To be fair, you may be responding to certain behaviours on your in-laws’ part. Once the most important people in your spouse’s life, your in-laws may feel they have been ‘usurped’ by you.
While there’s no surefire way to resolve this without the agreement of all four of you, you can try compromising with family in place of couple activities. Getting along won’t seem so difficult when you realise what you have in common: love for your spouse!
2) Making the children choose
Like all fond grandparents, your in-laws may mean well when they spoil your kids with treats and toys. Understandably, however, you might see this as interference with your parenting rules. The result? A mini power struggle, with your kids caught squarely in the crossfire.
To refrain from escalating such situations, you may want to avoid telling your kids things like “don’t listen to your grandparents”. Instead, come to an agreement with your in-laws when the kids aren’t around. Your little ones definitely deserve to enjoy the love of their parents and grandparents!
3) Seeing them as less important
You might not see them as a crucial part of your kids’ lives, but your in-laws hail from a time where multiple generations usually lived under one roof. Fair or not, they likely expect a more important role than you, as a modern parent, want to give them.
It’s worth making the effort to get them involved in tasks like babysitting, especially if it lightens your load as parents. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child.
4) Keeping them out of the loop
We’ve all heard stories of couples who don’t tell the in-laws about their shift to a new flat till the last minute (if at all). Thankfully, most of our in-law situations aren’t that extreme! However, we might be guilty of little everyday brush-offs, like giving vague answers when they ask after the kids.
You absolutely have the right to keep certain things between you and your spouse. Just remember that your ‘nosy’ in-laws probably ask because they genuinely care about how you’re doing, and it hurts to be kept out of the loop.
5) Viewing them as the enemy
You’re probably not to blame. If you went into marriage braced for battle with in-laws from hell, that’s because hearsay and years of bad Mediacorp family dramas have prepped you for this.
Unfortunately, selective perception is an insidious thing. Expecting your in-laws to be against you can cause you to perceive them as such. Suddenly, their friendliness seems snide and those family inside jokes are clearly meant to snub you.
Inevitably, your inner aversion will leak into your words and behaviour. If they didn’t hate you at first, they sure might now!
6) Not showing them respect
First things first, a disclaimer: you’re definitely not obliged to let your in-laws walk all over you. Showing respect doesn’t mean letting them play the iron-fisted matriarch or patriarch of olden-day families. Instead, it’s all about knowing what respect (and disrespect) looks like in their book.
For example, say your in-laws expect you to keep to the traditional forms of address at all times. They may adore you and you may feel 100% comfortable with them, but affectionately calling them by “oi” or their first names may signal disrespect to them.
7) Not eating (enough of) their food
After all, food is serious business in Singapore! That’s why the first thing our parents and grandparents greet us with isn’t “hello” but “have you eaten?”
If you’re constantly rejecting their home-cooked food when you go over to visit (or worse, poorly masking your nausea when you choke down mouthfuls), this may not go down well with your in-laws. No matter how yucky their food is, be sure to show your appreciation!
ALSO READ: 3 rules to make getting along with in-laws easier