How to get along with your in-laws

Special to The TribuneSeptember 17, 2013 


Congratulations! You’ve just tied the knot. You have a new spouse and a passel of in-laws. While you don’t technically marry the whole family, a large portion of your marital happiness is determined by how well you get along with your mate’s clan. Below are 12 suggestions for making sure those relationships are healthy:

• Do your best to fit in. You’re 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, they’ll be vastly different. There may even be areas on which you completely disagree. That doesn’t matter. Your job is to blend into the mix and become one of them. You needn’t 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 mate’s 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. You’re not going to change them — don’t even try. Instead, invite them into your psychic fold and love each one as best you can.

• Recognize that it’s not about you. You are a small part of a much larger entity. The needs of the group will often supercede yours. This doesn’t mean you’re not important or that you’re not top dog with your spouse. But when you’re 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. Don’t bring up disagreeable subjects. Limit how much alcohol you drink. Others will quickly recognize that you’re safe to be around.

• Share your skills. Contribute to the family in any way that you can. Bake a cake for your father-in-law’s retirement party. Fix the flat tire on your sister-in-law’s 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 you’ll 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. You’ll demonstrate a willingness to be one of them. You’ll also broaden your horizons.

• Don’t 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.

• Don’t hold grudges. If something is said that’s thoughtless, get past it. Don’t 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. They’ll need time to adapt. Even if they’re not living at home, they’ll inevitably have feelings about their parent’s remarriage.

• Don’t make your mate choose. We’re 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 you’re the new kid on the block. You’ve only just arrived. Be patient. Over time, you’ll 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 .

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