In-laws can be a great source of support in marriage, but their good intentions can sometimes come across as meddlesome. How do you find that delicate balance between your independence and their involvement? Here are five tips on how you can love and honour your spouse’s parents while safeguarding your own marriage.
Carve your own family values, while respecting theirs.
No two families are alike, or do things exactly the same way. Unless these differences are contrary to your beliefs, what you learn about your spouse’s family can add a rich dimension to your marriage. Focus on the positive qualities of your respective family backgrounds. How can you build on those qualities?By contrast, some differences can be unsettling if one of you came from a dysfunctional or abusive background. Talk honestly with your spouse about patterns you don’t want to continue. By doing this, you can gain better control over your reactions and interactions with your in-laws.
Communicate your plans but listen to their perspective.
In-laws very often just want to share from their own experience or see that you don’t make the same mistakes they did. While the advice may not always be applicable for your situation, sharing the decisions you’ve made as a couple makes them feel valued and honoured. Where you will live, when you plan to have kids, how you want to raise them, etc. You don’t have to share every detail, but just letting them in on some of your plans can build trust and respect in the relationship.
We’ve all heard horror stories about when in-laws drop in unannounced. These incidents can be embarrassing and intrude on a couple’s privacy. To avoid this, ask your in-laws to phone before coming and do the same for them. Physical boundaries should also be mirrored by emotional boundaries. Agree to not involve your parents when private couple issues need to be worked out. Without boundaries in place, well-meaning advice from parents could undermine your independence as a new family unit and affect the marriage.
Spend time intentionally.
What can warm the hearts of parents more than knowing you care about them? By initiating ‘family time’ with your in-laws, you’re telling them that they are valuable to you.
Festive occasions offer great potential for hurt because both sides of the family expect you to spend time with them. Parents wonder, Will they be coming to my house – and on which day? Before emotions get bruised, seek a compromise that seems fair to both families. But always remind them that what truly counts is that the family is together.
Be there for them during tough times.
How we respond to accidents, financial crises, illness or death often determines whether we grow together as families.
No matter how hard you try, you may never reach the place where your in-law relationships are ideal. Though you’ve done your best, you may need to extend forgiveness and keep trying. But you’ll find great blessing in fostering a good relationship with them.
Do you have any other tips on getting along well with in-laws? We’d love to hear from you!
Used with permission from Focus on the Family Singapore. For more information on family life resources and workshops, visit www.family.org.sg.
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