Ten Basic Rules for Dealing with In-Laws
Enforce the boundaries and limits.
Without being as inflexible as a teenager, stick to your guns. For example, if you don't want drop-in company, tell your in-laws that you'd prefer that they call before they show up at your doorstep. If they ignore you, don't answer the door the next time they just happen to drop-by. Even if they do have a lemon meringue pie.
Whenever possible, avoid communicating through a third party. Don't ask your spouse to talk to his sister about something she did that hurt your feelings. Talk to your sister-in-law directly.
If something bothers you, address it as soon as possible. Sometimes it's a genuine problem; other times, it might be a misunderstanding. Tori married into a family whose members had been born in Germany. Every time a family member went into the kitchen, he or she shut the door -- often leaving Tori out. For years, she stewed over the situation. Finally, she got up the courage to ask her mother-in-law why she closed the kitchen door. "Why, to keep in the heat," she answered. "We always did that in Germany." Closing the kitchen door had nothing to do with Tori. A cultural misunderstanding had caused years of distress for her -- which neither her in-laws nor she ever realized.
Shakespeare said it a zillion years ago, and the advice still holds today: Don't try to remake yourself into the person your in-laws want. For example, what if they're looking for little Susie Homemaker and you're a high-powered corporate attorney? You're under no obligation on your day off to bake Swedish rye bread and churn your own butter. Get a manicure and call for some take-out instead.
Get with the program.
Not every father-in-law lives to snake out your kitchen sink; not every mother-in-law dreams of baking cookies with her grandchildren. Put away the stereotypes and adjust your thinking to the reality of the situation. Don't expect what people can't deliver.
Think of your in-laws as a potential resource to expand your support network. You can accomplish this by approaching your in-laws the same way you would any potential friend. Respect them, be interested in them, and listen to them.
When the going gets tough, the tough often stay neutral. Even if the situation has gone Bosnian, try to be civil if you can't be silent. Switzerland has the right idea; patient restraint. No one held a caucus and made you the family spokesperson.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dealing with In-Laws © 1998 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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