Once you get hitched, you get more than a new spouse. Along with your significant other comes their whole family, and although you may not see yourself being besties with your partner's parents, there are ways to improve your relationship with your in-laws. Whether it's a close knit bond you desire or just an amicable relationship that gets you through the holiday, putting an effort into making the most of your interactions with your in-laws shows that you care. These gestures will not only show your spouse that you are trying, but may just help you form a meaningful relationship with your in-law family.
Dynamics between family members can be delicate, to say the least — especially when it's not your parents who have pushed you over the edge. Blowing up at your mother-in-law for spilling red wine on your new rug not only hurts your relationship with her, but puts a strain on things between you and your partner. Your SO is trapped between two people they care about, and most likely would rather not choose sides. So when you make a conscious effort to build up an in-law relationship, it can strengthen your marriage as well.
To make the most of family time, consider practicing some of these 11 ways to improve your relationship with your in-laws so you don't go over the edge at every birthday party.
1. Show Interest In Them
Getting to know your in-laws better may help you to find some common ground to build on. Try to engage in conversation with them at times other than holidays, when stress can tend to be heightened, as the website for CNN pointed out. You never know, you could learn that your mother-in-law shares your love of reality television and watches the same shows as you.
2. Choose When To Be Flexible
Sometimes the in-laws don't want to follow your rules, particularly when those in-laws are also grandparents. As Parenting magazine reported, you'll save yourself a lot of headaches by only being firm on select rules with the kids. Grandparents like to spoil, so that popsicle before bed may not be as big of a deal as you think, if it only happens twice a year when the grandparents come to visit.
3. Keep An Open Mind
All families operate differently, and there's no instruction manual on the "right" way to do things. As Reader's Digest suggested, don't expect your spouse's family to do everything the same as your family. Staying open to new traditions and family dynamics will help you better understand your in-laws.
4. Hang Out More
If you already don't love quality time with the in-laws, the thought of more might send you over the edge. But consider what's known as "the mere exposure effect." According to Psychology Today, "repeated exposure makes people like music, faces — even nonsense syllables —better," and can work on in-laws as well.
5. Don't Double Dip
To keep clear boundaries in in-law relationships, don't ask them to choose sides during squabbles. Try to solve issues with other family members (such as your spouse and their siblings) without involving your in-laws, according to Women's Day magazine.
6. Look For The Good
A simple trick I use when I struggle to get along with someone, is to look for at least one good thing in that person. This can work for in-laws as well. Try to find one or more good things about your father-in-law and focus on those redeeming qualities when you feel your nerves being worked.
7. Don't Take It Personal
A night with the in-laws have you feeling on edge? Try not to take every negative interaction personally, as Pysch Central suggested. In-laws are humans too, and something their going to do and say the wrong things.
8. Be Strict When You Must
Just like being flexible with some rules can help to keep the peace, you also need to make sure you don't feel like your toes are being stepped on. As the website for Mind Body Green pointed out, be clear on which rules are non-negotiable when your in-laws are babysitting, and follow up to make sure they're respecting your requests.
9. Set Appropriate Boundaries
Not everyone is comfortable with an open door policy when it comes to family. To avoid the friendly neighborhood pop-in, talk with your in-laws about calling first before they drop in unannounced, as the Wall Street Journal suggested.
10. Be Kind Behind Their Back
It's hard to make any relationship work if you constantly say mean things about someone when they're not around. If you want to improve things between you and your in-laws, try saying and thinking kind things about them, even when they're not around.
11. Take It In Doses
If working on your in-law relationship is wearing you down, try to take it in doses. Break your family time into bite sized pieces, and opt for going to dinner out versus hanging at your place for hours while you barbecue, as Reader's Digest suggested. This way, if things go south, you know it will be over as soon as the check comes.