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The family of your partner is a very special part of his/ her life. As such, they become special parts of your life as well. It is not to say that you need to perfectly balance your family’s needs with that of others, especially those of which just came into your life. Creating a harmonious atmosphere with them, however, is very much possible and very much necessary.
Doing this is no easy task. It’s like making an entirely new bridge in order to connect to them. Sometimes you have to restore burnt bridges. But the good thing is, trying to connect or reconnect with them is a good way to pass the time. Also, this is a very good investment, and once successful, expect plentiful worthy rewards. Here is how you can achieve this:
1. Work with your spouse.
This is the most important. As my wife has reminded me many times before, you cannot effectively deal with in-laws unless you work with your partner, because your partner knows them better. You have to understand that this is an effort that requires you working together as a team.
Never put your partner in a scenario where he or she has to choose between your side or his/her relative’s side. This is causing him/ her great discomfort. What you need to do is understand the relationship that he/she has with her parents, grandparents, and siblings. Even if it is difficult, you have to support that established relationship. Even if you find his/her parents highly annoying, they are still his/her parents.
2. Set boundaries and limits.
Decide with your wife the rules that you need to establish for your family and your children. You two have to agree which is important and which is less important so that you can prioritise. For example, kids like to eat sweets. This is not usually a problem. But when eaten just before mealtime, the child will not want to eat the healthier food. So as heads of the family, you establish rules regarding this. When you make rules, make sure that they are kept and abided to by everyone at all times. This works well for the children, and at the same time it also projects a clear picture to your in laws: your house is a house of rules.
More importantly, do not make a promise that you cannot keep. An example of this would be an historical event that shaped the world as we know it. Neville Chamberlain, the prime minister of the UK just before the Second World War, gave Poland to Germany in order to appease Hitler and stop a possible war. But the war still happened. How? Germany, knowing that the UK will just give them anything that they ask for, kept asking for more. That, of course, the UK cannot do. The lesson here is that, pleasing others in order to create harmony does not work in the long run, especially if you have the parents-in-law from hell.
3. Enforce the boundaries and limits.
Just like mentioned before, once you make laws in your house, make sure that they strictly abided to. If you say studying time is at 7PM, then there should be no more TV or computer games at 7. Again, doing so sends a clear message to the in-laws. This will make them think that you are one serious person and that they have to treat you and your house with respect.
4. Communicate directly.
If something needs to be said, do not do so through another person. If want to say something to an in-law, do not ask your wife to do it. You have to do the task directly.
If a specific incident makes you uncomfortable, you have to deal with it at the soonest possible time. The said incident may be a sign of a big crisis, but most of the time it may be just an ordinary misunderstanding. If it is not confronted, however small the case might be, the problem will be overlooked, and the small issue becomes big. Confrontation clears misunderstandings, and, if ever it is a real problem, then you will know as soon as possible.
5. Know yourself.
Shakespeare, in his prime (which was always, even in his death) once said, “Do not remake yourself to please others.” If you are a businesswoman, and you’re in-laws wish you’d be more of a housewife who always makes sure the house is kept clean, you are under no obligation to leave your business to follow their qualms. You are who you are.
6. Get with the program.
The bottom line here is do not expect too much. We usually see on TV things that in-laws do when they visit our homes: fixing broken things and playing with grandchildren. This, more often than not, is not true. Others just don’t give a damn. For your peace of mind, remove the stereotypes from your mind and understand reality as it is.
7. Learn to cool off.
Do not get too cocky. Being highly irritable will do you and your family a no good. Exercise patience, even in the most uncomfortable times. Sometimes it is better to do nothing, and let nature take its course. Remember, time heals many wounds.
While you’re at that point, play nicely. Do not utter bad words and expressions and other insults. Remember well that once foul language aimed at someone comes out of your mouth, it will do permanent damage. You cannot undo it.
8. Be mature.
Sure your parents love you. After all they are your parents. But your wife’s parents are under no duty to do the same. They will not follow that rule. As mentioned, do not expect too much. If they are passive and indifferent to you, that is probably normal. You are not their son, after all.
Put yourself in the shoes of your in-laws. Look at things the way they do so you can have a bit of an understanding about the things that they want and why they want it that way. In this manner, you can please them more easily. Do not get me wrong, though. This does not mean that empathising with them would get rid of conflicts. No, conflicts will always be there. But when you know and understand the psyche of your in-laws, dealing with these conflicts will be a whole lot easier.
9. Be kind.
When you’re at a point of exploding, say nice things. If you have nothing good to say, just smile and close your mouth. If you cannot seriously smile, then pretend to smile by showing you fangs.
10. Keep your sense of humour.
A sense of humour always does magic. It makes the atmosphere between you and your in-laws interestingly light and carefree. Be careful with your jokes, though. Some people can be sensitive; especially tyrant in-laws who do not want to see any fun on your face. But tyrants are not so common nowadays. You can do well with jokes. But if you are not much of a joker, then do not fake it. It will make you look lousy. Remember, do not change who you are.