The word 'in-laws' evokes a stereotypical image of a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law in front of our eyes. We often forget that the bride-groom too has in-laws and it's equally important for him to build a bond with them.
Families of origin influence a couple's belief system and shape their expectations about marriage, each other and family as a whole.
Hence, both partners should learn the intricacies of each other's family of origin. The societal norms expect the daughter-in-law to blend in the new family. However, if a son-in-law too fulfils this expectation, it will truly be a happy family all the way.
In my workshop on 'marriage and wellbeing', I found that providing emotional support to one's parents was the topmost expectation spouses had from each other. Here are some tips for the sons-in-laws to help fulfil their part of the expectations better.
Tricks of the trade
Start with emotionally accepting the responsibility of parents-in-law as being your own. This acceptance may be the vital foundation on which the relationship will be built. This becomes all the more important if your wife is the only daughter. Assure them that they have a support to rely upon. Find ways of displaying your acceptance of them as your family members—this in itself is rewarding for the parents-in-law.
Find out from your wife about her family dynamics in the context of getting to know her parent's personalities, hobbies and interests. Later, plan collective activities keeping their likes and dislikes in mind to strengthen your bond. Respecting the bond that your wife has been sharing with her parents for all these years is essential, especially in the initial days of marriage when it would be a tough transition for her and her parents.
If you become a support system for both the parties involved, it would be a peaceful shift for them as well as for you to establish trust in your relationship. The initial days of marriage are crucial where you may initiate visiting your in-laws more often, calling and enquiring about their wellbeing or offering help in various routine activities of life. Your consistent empathic attitude is required.Expressing your concern for them through such actions without intruding too much in their private space would further deepen the emotional ties.
Family of the bride
Daughters are very special to their parents. They have taught them ways of living and of becoming successful in life. After having contributed immensely, parents want to know that their son-in-law is treating their daughter gently, respecting her opinion, providing a sense of security and loving her unconditionally. A love and respect-studded marital relationship is definitely going to earn you compliments from your in-laws as they can be sure that their daughter is in safe company.
If the wife's family is planning a get-together, make sure you attend it. Family get-together is also an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your in-laws, as it becomes a shared experience and memory for both. If you cannot make it for some reason, explain it to them, rather than assuming that they would understand. Offer to help with the preparations even if you can't make it to the function. If non-attendance may become a regular feature without valid reason for the same, your parents-in-law may worry that something is wrong in your marriage.
Open communication goes a long way in preventing misunderstandings from creeping in. How well you connect with your wife's sibblings is also important to your relationship with the in-laws and even your wife. Or else, it will be emotionally difficult for her to manage the rift.
It's not always possible for you all to see eye-to-eye on everything and conflict may result. Discuss the line of action with your wife as she knows her parents better than you. Having built trust in your relationship, you may seek direct communication with your in-laws if there are certain issues that need to be conveyed.
There could be certain personal issues which you may want to share only with your wife. You must set boundaries by mutually talking with your wife regarding issues or decisions that shall not involve the in-laws. Choose what information should or should not be passed on to them and the amount of time that would be spent with them.
Also, sometimes what her parents may feel as their involvement in your life, could seem like an unneeded interference for you. Check if the in-laws [yours and hers] are taking up most of your time, which you could spend with each other to enrich your marital relationship. Your spouse should be your top priority. You may also have certain well-set and communicated boundaries for caring and disciplining your children or other household issues where your in-laws would not interfere.
Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree in some situations, politely telling them that you appreciate their suggestions, but you and your spouse make the final decisions. Try and be considerate, controlling your emotions and temper as much as possible and using words wisely without hurting anyone.
Moral of the story
As a son-in-law, you have all the right to receive love and adoration from your in-laws. But you also have a responsibility to build a great relationship with them. Learning to become a part of your wife's family and to maintain a balance between the demands of your family and your wife's family would help both families to enjoy the goodness of relationships. This will also fortify your relationship with your wife and your children's relationship with their grandparents.
Your goal should be to build a strong family fabric that includes parents from both families. This will give you more love and resources to fight the stresses of daily life.
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