” I am marrying you not your family.” This phrase must rank high in the list of famous final words. Anyone who is married knows that you married your spouse and his or her family. In-laws do not go away after the wedding. In many cases, they become much more prominent.
It is all but impossible to deal with potential in-law problems before the wedding without canceling the wedding. After the “I dos,” you have to learn how to make the best of what you have. Any relationship can be made better with some effort and with some guidelines to assist you.
Avoid threats and ultimatums.
If you have anger issues, you may need to deal with your own demons before you take on the in-laws. Every relationship problem has at least two sides. Do not automatically assume that your in-laws do not view you as an in-law problem. Threatening people with unpleasant outcomes or backing them into a corner does not create a hospitable environment for community building. Leave some space for negotiating and options for future adjustments for both sides. Be willing to listen to their side of the situation when it presented.
Involve your spouse in the problem.
In-law problems are made worse if your spouse refuses to step up. Your loving spouse knows his or her parents and siblings far better than you do. It will be a lot easier for them to recognize patterns of behaviors and address long standing problems than it will be for you to do it. It can lessen tension a great deal if the spouse attached to that set of parents can handle the problems that pertain to them. It automatically fires up the conflict if a perceived stranger (non-blood relative) tries to interfere in their lives.
Reduce the flow of information.
One source of many in-law problems comes from a spouse complaining to his or her parents about how bad it is being married. Parents tend to go into protection mode and want to defend their baby from that evil person that their child has married. Suddenly, the fight is on, and you may not even have a clue why your in-laws seem to hate you. Make an agreement with your spouse from the beginning of the marriage that what happens between you will stay between you unless it involves physical danger or slavery.
Find ways to bond with your in-laws.
Every relationship needs work from time to time. When you get married, you are starting what should be a lifelong relationship with your in-laws. The relationship can only be as good as the effort that you put into it. Learn your in-laws likes and dislikes. Find things that you have in common and work to build on them.
You will find over time that unless you really do have monsters for in-laws, they will become more tolerable and possibly even good friends. You and your spouse may have to overcome baggage left between your spouse and his or her parents before you can make progress. So, give it some time to work out before giving up.
If all else fails, negotiate relationship rules and set boundaries.
Not every relationship works. There are people in the world whose personalities are such that you can never be good friends. Frankly, it is not likely that you will be attracted to someone whose parents both fit this mold. If this is your case, you must find a way to get along permanently. This means that you have to agree to disagree on some things and avoid those topics or situations.
Especially with the interaction between your kids and their grandparents, you may have to set some boundaries regarding what is acceptable and unacceptable. Accomplishing these two goals will require some honest face-to-face discussions. Your spouse should be front and center when these talks are happening.