The vast majority of us have in-laws. They’re the people who are added to the family circle via our own marriage or the marriages of our children or siblings.
Some of us score in the in-law department. I count my sisters-in-law among my dearest friends. I couldn’t be closer to my daughter-in-law and her parents and sister.
But other folks aren’t as lucky. They have in-laws who are pushy, hypercritical, argumentative or disapproving. Or they’re locked in a not-so-subtle power struggle over who has more power in the family.
Such discord creates unnecessary pain and conflict in their marriages. Loved ones feel torn between loyalty toward their families of origin and needing to appease their spouses. They hate hearing disparaging words about their siblings or parents. Yet they don’t want to appear unsupportive.
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Plus, attacking in-laws is unfair and cruel. None of us selects our parents. Nor do we have any control over how they behave. Taking potshots at them makes us feel powerless; it’s a battle we’re unable to win.
In-laws also have their personal assets. No one is incorrigibly bad. After all, they raised the person we now love.
So, unless our in-laws pose a physical threat, it’s imperative to make peace and play nice. Ongoing angst about them saps precious energy. And it seldom makes anything better. We don’t have to be best friends. But we do need to get along.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit www.lindalewisgriffith.com.
How to get along with your in-laws:
- Accept your in-laws. They are an inherent part of your life. Quit wishing otherwise.
- Don’t speak poorly about them. Never repeat aggravating incidences to your friends, family or co-workers. Nobody else wants to hear them. And they focus your thoughts in a negative direction. Break that habit.
- Find common interests. Explore ways that you are compatible. Then make opportunities for those events to happen frequently.
- Identify safe topics. These are subjects that are pleasing to your in-laws and can be counted on to start an extended, cordial conversation. Revert to these topics whenever necessary.
- Avoid politics at all cost. They’re inherently adversarial and can quickly sabotage a family gathering. Never bring them up. Politely dismiss yourself from the room if others insist on debating.
- Listen to their stories. Your in-laws know lots of history about your loved one. Be a willing, appreciative audience, even if you’ve heard them before. You’ll learn a lot about the family while strengthening your relationship.
- Don’t take the bait. If your in-laws ask leading questions for the purpose of inciting a disagreement, sweetly make a benign comment or change the subject. Never engage in a heated argument.
- Set limits on your time together. Being with your in-laws can be draining. Decide ahead of time how long you’ll visit. Consider staying in a hotel if your stay will span several days.
- Be willing to compromise. Your family may have different values that you feel need defending when you’re with your in-laws. Let go of trying to prove anything. Instead, focus on having a successful visit.