I know what it's like to have difficult in-laws. Over the years, I've learned strategies to make things easier.
Do You Not Like Your In-Laws?
If you can't stand your in-laws, spending time with them is probably the last thing you want to do—and yet sometimes it's just unavoidable. Maybe your spouse is very, very close to his or her family, and it's just you who seems to have the problem. Or maybe your in-laws are genuinely awful people, and both you and your spouse would rather have root canals without anesthesia than sit in the same room with them for more than five minutes.
I'm going to assume, for the sake of this article, that you've given yourself enough time to honestly get to know your in-laws. You've given them ample opportunity to prove you wrong—and yet they demonstrate, time and time again, that they're never going to change.
3 Ways to Keep Your Cool
First of all, even if you have the only grandchildren in the family, there's no law that says you have to like your spouse's parents. However, for the sake of your marriage, you do at least need to be polite to them. This may be hard if they live nearby and wish to see the two of you on a regular basis. However, there are a few strategies you can employ to make these encounters more bearable.
1. Busy Yourself With Helpful Chores
This strategy works well if you're going over to your in-laws' home. Rather than suffer through the visit, find a project to do around the house that will help them out. Offer to clean the gutters, mow the lawn, or weed the garden. Chances are, they'll not only leave you alone with your onerous task, because God forbid you should ask them to pitch in, they'll even think better of you for your labors on their behalf.
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2. Find a Family Activity
Think of a family activity that will involve everyone—and distract your in-laws. My mother visited recently, and since neither my husband, Alex, nor I like her very much, mostly due to her constant stream of advice and/or cutting comments, I offered to go see the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with her. She and I are both Harry Potter fans, but neither my father nor Alex are—so this was the only way either my mother or I were going to get to see the movie. Three hours of together time with my mother that precluded talking! It doesn't get any more win-win than that.
3. Keep Mum (But Vent Later)
If your spouse is really close to his or her family, and you just can't stand them, you might want to seriously consider keeping the bulk of your opinion to yourself, for the sake of your relationship. Make sure your partner knows how you feel—and then drop it. If your in-laws live nearby and you can't always manage to fill the visit with chores or distracting family activities, stay nice. In fact, if your in-laws know how you feel about them—and they probably do—it will really piss them off if you're acting more civilized and more polite than they are! Plus, your spouse will love you for it.
Take what they dish out during the visit, but wait to vent until you get home (or until they go home). And your venting doesn't need to be verbal. In fact, it's probably more effective if it's not. Make a loaf of bread and pretend the dough you're vigorously kneading is your father-in-law's head. Get out the weed wacker and project your mother-in-law's face onto every weed you cut down.
For Better or for Worse
Unfortunately, when you marry your partner, on some level you marry their entire family—for better or for worse. This fact actually kept me from acting on my true feelings for Alex for years, since the thought of becoming his mom's daughter-in-law was more than a little romantically prohibitive! She is a formidable, opinionated woman, born and raised in Germany during World War II, and she does not suffer idiots gracefully. However, over time, I began to see that the fact that I really love her son (the last of her seven children to marry) earned me a lot of esteem in her eyes.
And when I produced a daughter that is the spitting image of her Oma and then started occasionally asking my mother-in-law for parenting advice, well, let's just say that at this point I am on her list of "favored" in-laws. I may not like the woman much, but I sure like being on her good side!
© 2007 Rhomylly