You don’t need to look far for stories and jokes about horrific in-laws. Mother-in-law jokes are so commonplace they’re tiring, not to mention horribly sexist and demeaning. It’s so cliché that I feel guilty admitting to it… but I am having issues getting along with the in-laws.
We didn’t have the wedding that my mother in-law wanted us to have — it was quick, cheap, fun, and fast. In other words everything that we wanted it to be, but not everything that my conservative, traditional mother-in-law was either expecting or desiring.
I took as much of this as I could within my good graces, deflecting her suggestions with as much kindness as I could muster. All of this with the hope that she would settle down after the wedding, and we could then begin to develop a normal adult relationship — one that wasn’t based on attack and defense. Needless to say, this didn’t happen.
This is hardly a unique situation; many people struggle to form cohesive, happy relationships with their in-laws. My husband is hardly best buddies with my own mother. But where he has been blessed with an easy-going personality and the ability to make small talk with everyone he meets, my own social skills leave a lot to be desired and I find family gatherings much more challenging than he does. I need to continually bite my tongue, through fear of saying something that I might regret later, and for me it seems to take more and more effort to remain unprovoked.
My husband being an only child contributes to this, of course — she is very clingy and protective of him. It took me too long to realize that she feels she’s lost part of her son to me. I needed to be more sympathetic to the fact that they are no longer as close as she would like them to be, and I obviously have played a role in that.
Whether I like it or not, these people are now members of my family, and family is important to me. I needed to learn techniques to help me deal with her in a kind and considerate manner, without exploding with internalized stress. For me, the following things have helped:
- Be aware that you might not be the in-law they were expecting either. My mother-in-law buys Christmas presents for the daughter-in-law she wishes she had. Instead of getting upset, have the patience to thank her kindly for thinking of you.
- Don’t let the little things wind you up. It irritates me when she paws at my husband’s appearance, but it is his job to tell her to stop it if he wants, not mine.
- Don’t be a pushover, but don’t be rude either. Try and find the middle road between the two. Shut down the insidious remarks firmly, but be open to friendly suggestions which might get lost or misinterpreted along the way.
- Find common ground. Talking about my husband works for us — after all he is the thing that has brought us together. Which is something I can hope we can bond over in the future.
Nothing would make me happier than eventually considering my mother-in-law as a friend, as well as my husband’s mother. And it’s up to me to keep working on developing the relationship. I’ve only been married a year, there are miles to go… and we’ll all be happier in the long run if we can just get along.
Any further techniques or ideas that you all use to get along with your in-laws?