The In-Law Game

In-laws can be some of the most beautiful people you have ever met.  Then there those that make you reconsider marrying the love of your life.  Regardless of what side you are on, respect can make the difference to whether a situation can be workable or not.

This weekend my husband’s family came for a visit.  They actually and technically didn’t stay at our house but they are still visiting.  I don’t care where you are in your relationship, the very sound of in-laws can make you run.  I am a person who doesn’t like the unknowns and change for me can be difficult if I feel like I’m not in charge. Since I have learned to take big steps back, this was going to be no different.  Now with the holidays, I got several text messages from others who were in my same boat. How to deal with in-laws was the topic.  I have written about this very topic plenty of times.  In-laws aren’t the enemy.  It’s the level of relationship or lack thereof that makes or breaks the interactions. My husband’s family is also from another country which plays a big part in how they view me.  I have had nothing but good vibes since I met them a few years ago, but my nerves are on edge anytime its time for a reunion with them. This weekend once we embraced my level of anxiety went away and my flow with them was natural.  They are some really awesome people.

However for those who have less stellar than mine, you will need to think of the bigger picture.  One is that you must remain respectful at all times.  Let’s keep this real, in-laws are people and you may or may not get along with all people all the time.  Respect may look differently to some.  You may greet them and not have much to say because of the level of disrespect that comes from them.  You may be in a position where the in-laws haven’t accepted you 4 kids in and 10 years later. Trust and believe this happens a lot more often than the movies want to portray.  You have to remember to honor your mate and yourself with how you respond.  I would never allow myself to get into a heated debate with my in-laws where I would call them out of their name.  However in the nature of honesty I have gotten into debates with my mother in law on various topics. Sometimes they were good and sometimes they were bad.  I don’t condone name calling, threats, and physical altercations.  The reason is you can be mad, you can express yourself but as an adult if I have to hit below the belt and hit you, threaten you, or call you out of your name then one of two things need to happen.  One option is an immediate retreat.  I will leave you in a place arguing with yourself.  I am the type of person who can be aggressive so I know my limits.  If I feel like I’m losing my cool, I will walk away.  The reason is I come from a home that taught me to speak up for myself.  I would rather have you talk about how I backed down then to do something I may or may not regret later.

The second thing is to avoid conversations that I know are going to be too intense.  If you try that and it doesn’t work, then go to option number 1 and leave.  It’s that simple.  I have been on both sides of the in-laws.  Some in-laws you flow with and there isn’t an ounce of issues.  It’s almost like an extension of your own family.  Then there are times, when things have gotten out of control that staying in your own lane helps everyone involved. Can things work out?  Absolutely but it takes both sides to be willing to do get it right.  We all know what’s it like coming into someone’s family.  I think that in-laws lose sight of that.  Some in-laws feel threatened by the new relationship that they don’t even embrace it.  Word of advice even if you don’t like your new in-law, acting out of character, rude, or mean will NOT make the situation any better.  You can point fingers all day but YOU are responsible for YOU.

Here are some things that can help:

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Take control of the emotional circus.  This can be done by being positive and really putting yourself to the side.  I KNOW for a fact even in the most horrible of in-law situation it works.
  3. Change your expectation.  Sometimes you want the best outcome but you have to factor in that people are people and you can’t change them.  Instead of trying to mend the fences, try to get through an outing at a time.
  4. Get out.  Yup I said it.  There has to be a room, your car or somewhere you can go to regroup and come back or leave if its gotten out of hand.

If you are the in-law that is knowingly causing issues, do better.  You know within yourself that your actions are less stellar.  Especially if you are an elder.  Nothing irks me to no end to see someone who you expect to have it together and they act childish. Trust me age and stage can only get you but so far.  The minute you act like you have sense and treat your new family with dignity and respect which is what you want in return your relationship can have a chance to grow.  You may not like your son or your new daughter in-law.  That’s your choice, but just like if you work with the public and many of them you do not like but you have to do what’s right, than do it with them.  If you have grandchildren that are in the midst or a potential for some to be in the midst, do better by them too. Do NOT think they can’t pick up on things.  I have seen family members talk down on a parent and the child innocently hear it and it breaks them.  You don’t think you will reap what you sow? You don’t think there’s a greater stone over your head for hurting a child due to your adult actions?  There are.  We need not forget that.  Also while we are talking about kids.  If you don’t forge a real working relationship, the parents can stop you from having interactions or have only limited interactions due to bad behavior and it isn’t worth it in the long run.

If all fails do NOT be afraid to grab a bottle of wine and smile.  Everything can be pushed through with a bottle of Moscato.  If I can have a descent relationship with my in-laws who I have gotten into things with, where bad things have been said, where hurt feelings had prevailed, you can too or you can at least be respectfully removed from them as well. You do not have to interact with your in-laws at the same level as their natural-born family, but you can have a working relationship and often times it’s at your discretion to make.  Be kind.  Remember that you may have an opportunity to be someone’s in-law and have to remember how you were treated so you can treat others better.

Like I have always said, keep in-laws out of your business.  If you want things to be better it may be wise not to tell them every little detail of your relationship.  Often times you think you are venting but I’ve said it before you will get over something a lot quicker than your family or friends will.  You can make things worst before it even begins if you do not have checks and balances on the level of relationship from the very beginning. Do not allow them to drive a wedge in your marriage and do not drive a wedge in their relationships either.  You don’t have to like his mom, but deal with the situations like you would want your husband to deal with your mom.  If you wouldn’t out right disrespect your mom do the same for him.  If that means staying away, or retreating, or even having less interactions than make it work.  It doesn’t serve with a husband or wife is between parent or spouse.  Don’t make them choose.  The relationship is different for each respectfully. Establish the lines of respect in the dating phase.  It can be done and everyone can have the opportunity to get along even if they choose not to.  In-laws can be tricky relationships but if you know where you stand and keep respect in the forefront you can at least make it to the next function.

Lastly on this topic, if you are the son or daughter, cousin, or whatever relationship of the one whose family has disrespected the spouse in some way, do not try to act like it didn’t happen.  I know you think by doing that it will make it better but it won’t.  Own it. You know how your family member is and you know they can be some of the rudest folks that you even know.  Do NOT make your mate feel like they are wrong for not accepting their bad behavior.  I know that makes you second guess everything you have been taught.  You know what bad behavior looks and feels like.  Just because Aunt so and so always is like that, doesn’t mean others have to put up with her.  Stop giving your mom, dad, aunt, brother, sister, whomever passes.  Acknowledge it and YOU not your spouse needs to sit down and talk with them.  Often times the family who has acted out don’t even realize it or sometimes don’t even care because “that how they do.”  You can be who you want except disrespectful.  You the spouse of the offending family member needs to be in the forefront of making change.  Do not put the responsibility on your spouse.

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