Having a harmonious relationship with your in-laws may seem impossible to some. However, there are some tried and tested formulas that can help build your relationship with the difficult ones.
As if trying to convince your partner that you loved them was not hard enough, now you have to convince their family that you are what is best for them. For some, that is an easy fit. They walk into their in-law’s lives and everything works out as perfectly as it can be.
For others, it is an uphill tasked based on the idea that you need to prove that you are worth their child. Meeting the in-laws for the first time can be sometimes extremely distressing. So what can you do to ensure that the meeting goes as seamlessly as possible?
This rivalry occurs when either or both women decide to be in competition with the other for the affection and attention of the man in question. It is a game of testing and seeing who the man responds to first or the most. It is also about who is more important to him and thus, most entitled to his love, care and attention.
Let them know that their child is cherished.
This is the number one rule. A parent’s greatest fear is for their child to live a life of misery. It does not matter whether you are from the moon.
The assurance that they want is that their child will be loved, honored, adored, nurtured and taken care of.
Let them know and see that you love their child and that it is in your interest to take care of their son or daughter.
A mother expects her son to take care of her when he is grown and working. Likewise, a wife expects her husband to take care of her and their family. The problem usually arises when one feels more entitled to that care than the other. But who really should be the man’s main prerogative? Should he pick one over the other or should he create a balance?
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Get to really know them. You do not go there and start introducing things from wherever you come from. Build trust.
Know their values, their beliefs, what they stand for, their culture, and if possible, learn even their language.
Learn to speak a few words, such as greetings, for hospitality and so on.
3. Define boundaries
The boundaries I’m talking about are the legal and moral responsibilities of the parties involved.
Only a mother would understand how much a parent sacrifices just so her child can have a good life. It is every mother’s hope that she raises her children in such a way that one day they would, in turn, take care of her.
Even though a child never asked the parents to give birth to them, they naturally expect their parents to love and take care of them until they can stand on their own.
It is normal for a mother to expect the same kind of Iove and care from her child when he grows up. Unfortunately, whereas the mother is legally and morally compelled to provide that care, the son is not held to those responsibilities. Well, maybe not completely or explicitly. A son is and should morally be compelled to take care of his parents when they are obviously not able to do so by themselves.
Hit the ground running
There is no time to start lamenting that, “Oh, even when I was getting married they had said I’m from another tribe, some of them did not even come for the wedding…”It is not time to lament.
Once you are in, immediately begin to make and form relationships. Communicate often. Communicate to them and with them.
Find a channel of being able to do this so that you have a direct relationship beyond their son or daughter.
4. Be compassionate
A husband being ‘one’ with his wife does not mean that the wife is more important than the mother. Neither does it absolve the son from taking care of his mother or parents.
It simply means that his priorities have shifted. This also does not mean that the wife should demand priority over the mother-in-law even in situations where stepping aside for the mother would not bring marital complications.
Marriage is about communication, compromise and understanding. Any good wife should discern when to demand or expect preferential treatment from her husband and when to step aside and allow others to be taken care of instead.
A wife that allows the mistreatment of her in-laws by her own husband probably does not love him sincerely. If she loves him, she will love his family as well.
Realize that it is not a contest
Sometimes women feel like they are in a contest with their in-laws or their mother-in-law, but that is not the case.
You cannot give what a mother-in-law can give, and vice versa. You both have different things to offer.
Do not belittle the place of the mother. A mother is the one who carried your spouse in the womb for nine months, bore him and nurtured him until they became old enough to find a partner.
Therefore, it is very important that you give the parents the respect that should be accorded to them as the people who raised someone worthy of your notice. Somebody said that you cannot eat a fruit from a tree which you do not like. Their child is a fruit from the tree of your in-laws. Does it make sense?
5. Set your boundaries
You have started a new life with their son or daughter, so will she be coming to cook them breakfast? Check whether dinner is cooked? Massage them? Absolutely not. Some women complain that their mother-in-law even goes to their bedroom when the son is not feeling well and they feel very violated.
It is very important that you set boundaries with your in-laws, but treat them with a lot of respect while letting them know the rules of the house.
The Bottom Line
The very first thing you should do is desire to have an enriched relationship. Get mentorship from older people who have walked the journey. If you do not have them, seek professionals. If it is threatening your marriage, do not be embarrassed about what the problem is. People generally go through the same things, so there is nothing to be ashamed of. Do not wait for your relationship to be irreparable. Talk to a relationship coach. If family opinions always override what you and your spouse agree on, that is a dysfunctional relationship.
You can seek opinions outside of the family, but this should be just to enrich whatever decisions you want to make. Depending on where the partner comes from, the parents can have a lot of influence, particularly if they are supporting them financially. If someone is supporting you financially, you are always a slave to the lender. You can never get away from it until you are able to be financially free. You have to endure, even suck up, but it is only for a while, because if you do not have the money (and money is power), you can’t assert your opinion.