Congratulations! Youve just tied the knot. You have a new spouse and a passel of in-laws. While you dont technically marry the whole family, a large portion of your marital happiness is determined by how well you get along with your mates clan. Below are 12 suggestions for making sure those relationships are healthy:
Do your best to fit in. Youre now part of a larger group that has pre-existed for generations before you arrived. In some ways, these people will be similar to you. In others, theyll be vastly different. There may even be areas on which you completely disagree. That doesnt matter. Your job is to blend into the mix and become one of them. You neednt give up your own identify, but you do need to be part of the team.
Accept your new in-laws. You chose your spouse. The in-laws are included in the deal. Each one is an integral part of your mates life. The easier you get along with them, the easier things are for your partner. Focus attention on their strengths and turn a blind eye to their foibles. Youre not going to change them dont even try. Instead, invite them into your psychic fold and love each one as best you can.
Recognize that its not about you. You are a small part of a much larger entity. The needs of the group will often supercede yours. This doesnt mean youre not important or that youre not top dog with your spouse. But when youre with other members of the family, the spotlight is apt to be elsewhere.
Be pleasant. Put on your best get-along smile at family gatherings. Engage in polite conversation. Dont bring up disagreeable subjects. Limit how much alcohol you drink. Others will quickly recognize that youre safe to be around.
Share your skills. Contribute to the family in any way that you can. Bake a cake for your father-in-laws retirement party. Fix the flat tire on your sister-in-laws bike. Eagerly volunteering your services is a surefire way to win hearts.
Develop a relationship with each member of the family. Select activities you can share with each member. Sometimes those activities are obvious. At other times youll need to search. Shared activities are fun and promote time together. They also tell family members that you care.
Be a good sport. Try all the foods that your in-laws cook. Join in their games, pastimes and rituals. Youll demonstrate a willingness to be one of them. Youll also broaden your horizons.
Dont be overly sensitive. Adding a new member to a family requires adjustment all around. Actions and words can be misinterpreted. Feelings are easily bruised. Unfortunately, hurts can persist for decades, contaminating relationships and causing rifts. Avoid problems by being kind and cordial. Allow perceived slights to roll off your back.
Dont hold grudges. If something is said thats thoughtless, get past it. Dont give it a life of its own. Assume the moral high ground. Make relationships work no matter what.
If your new spouse has children, tread lightly. Theyll need time to adapt. Even if theyre not living at home, theyll inevitably have feelings about their parents remarriage.
Dont make your mate choose. Were all entitled to have a close relationship with both our families and our mates. Forcing a spouse to pick one over the other is cruel and sets a bad precedent for other areas of the marriage.
Understand that youre the new kid on the block. Youve only just arrived. Be patient. Over time, youll become a fixture and claim a unique place in the clan.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit http://lindalewisgriffith.com .