Obnoxious. Over-bearing. Meddling. Invasive. Annoying. Rude.
Would you use these words to describe your in-laws?
If so, you’re not alone—Many people struggle with their relationship with their in-laws. Of course, it’s most often mother-in-law vs. daughter-in-law conflict, but the men aren’t always exactly best buds either. Sometimes it’s just a personality issue—you rub each other the wrong way. Other times the conflict goes much deeper and is about control, insecurity, or philosophical and lifestyle differences.
But, wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy spending time with your in-laws, or at least find some peace and balance in your relationship? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to use words to describe your in-laws like “fun,” “pleasant” and “involved?”
After all, your in-laws are your spouse’s parents and are your children’s grandparents. Surely, you would agree that this is a very important relationship that is worth investing time and effort in improving.
If you are ready to move forward in your relationship with your in-laws, here are some practical suggestions:
Your in-laws are entitled to have their own personalities, lifestyle, interests, communication style, and schedules. Don’t expect that your in-laws are going to change who they are, and don’t ask them to. It really isn’t fair. Unrealistic expectations aren’t going to help you move in a positive direction in your relationship with them.
Maybe you have the potential to develop your relationship with your in-laws into a close mother-daughter or father-son type relationship. More likely, it’s realistic to try to develop a friendship where you can at least enjoy your time together. Every situation is different. Try to identify a relationship goal that is realistic. Then accept that as reality and move forward towards that goal.
Sometimes we get caught up thinking about “how it should be” or stuck on the “if only’s.” It can be difficult to move forward in relationships when we are always standing up for our principles rather than working towards compromise and solutions. Being pragmatic means recognizing the problem and accepting the simplest, common-sense solution.
Your mother-in-law always commandeers your kid’s birthday parties—why not plan a kids only party this year? Your father-in-law is inappropriate and obnoxious at recitals—don’t invite him. Your in-laws buy your kids too much candy and you are constantly asking them not to—let your kids take the candy and then just donate it to the classroom treasure box at their school, or have them share with their friends in the neighborhood.
Intentionally set up situations that can be fun for everyone to start building those positive memories and feelings. When doing this, it’s really important to select an activity everyone will enjoy—it has to work for everyone. You might choose something like fishing, mini-golf, going to the beach, a children’s museum or restaurant. Usually picking a neutral location works best and be sure to avoid activities where you know there will be potential for conflict.
Giving thoughtful gifts—especially on important holidays—is also an excellent way to build those relationships. Even if you have children, make sure you still give your own personal gift to your in-laws on these holidays. For Mother’s day ideas, consider buying a beautiful bouquet of flowers and including a thoughtful card. For Father’s Day give your father-in-law a great book or some new golf balls. A thoughtful gift goes a long way.