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The clichéd presentation of in-laws as either obnoxiously boorish or overly protective has been used as a comic device in movies, books and television for years and years. In reality, many in-laws do make sincere efforts to bond with new additions to their family, even if that bonding process may appear to move glacially at times. Still, learning to get along with in-laws is often an skill acquired over years, not weeks or months after the wedding. There are some important things to keep in mind while working on building up a good relationship with your in-laws.
First of all, you must remember your role in your spouse's family dynamics. You may have dated this person exclusively for several years and believe you share an intimate relationship, but you weren't there for his or her birth. You didn't attend his or her first school play, and you weren't the first one on the scene when he or she fell off a bike. There are family members who did experience all of these things first-hand, and it can be difficult for them to let others into that circle. If you want to develop a good relationship with in-laws, never assume you are the sole outside expert when it comes to your spouse's history. Demonstrate a willingness to let others share their own stories.
Another tricky area when dealing with in-laws is discovering common interest. Oftentimes certain vocations run in families, so many of their life experiences are filtered through their occupations. A family populated with coaches, for example, may have difficulty relating to a new spouse with a background in the arts. It's not that the in-laws are not educated or appreciative of the creative arts field, but their own life experiences put them on a football field or a basketball court, not a stage or studio. When lifestyles or vocations appear to collide, it may be good to find a neutral area of interest shared by both you and your in-laws. You could also find ways to incorporate your interests into their comfort zone, such as creating sports-related artwork.
You should remember that in-laws were people long before they became your relatives by marriage. Much like any other interpersonal relationships, there are bound to be certain individuals who simply don't mesh well together. In order to get along with the majority of your new in-laws, you may have to recognize this conflict early and concentrate your efforts on those in-laws with whom you can build up a healthy rapport. Some in-laws honestly embrace new additions within months of the marriage, but there may be some who remain distant for years. You may be able to determine the source of their displeasure over time, but forging an agreement to disagree may be just as acceptable for the sake of interfamilial harmony.
While it may prove to be a challenge to ingratiate yourself with all of your in-laws, it is certainly preferable to living your entire married life on the outside looking in. Always keep in mind that you and your own family are also in-laws now, so the same rules of engagement should apply. Criticizing your in-laws in front of your spouse or not accepting honest criticism of your own relatives' actions can only lead to bigger problems. You may be your spouse's romantic partner, but he or she also has siblings and parents who listen very carefully and remember everything. If you want to maintain a good relationship with your in-laws, start by maintaining an even better relationship with your spouse.
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