Post by Heather K. Thein; WedPics Blogger | About Heather
The age-old cliché about troublesome in-laws always comes in the form of the dreaded, six-headed Mother-in-Law: the woman who scrutinizes your every move, doesn’t think you’re good enough, and is open about telling you that. Lovers on the verge of marriage like to think that this stuff doesn’t really happen—that it’s just an exaggeration that filmmakers like to employ in movies to get a laugh.
Unfortunately, in many family units, the “us and them” mentality rears its ugly head: you are the Usurper–the woman who stole Mama’s baby boy, or the twisted degenerate pervert who defiled Daddy’s (30-year-old) little girl, or the person who screwed up the BFF sibling pact. This can present some real problems in a marriage: you want them to like you, but somehow you’ve screwed up just by being his or her new main priority.
Paving Out the Road Ahead
When dealing with difficult in-laws, there are a few things you can do before the wedding to make sure everyone knows what the score is:
• The United Front: Whether it’s making plans for the holidays, or dealing with troublesome in-laws, the solutions you come up with are crafted together from the day you put the engagement ring on. If your in-laws start tossing insults at your intended, it’s your responsibility to stand with your fiance. If you feel like you can’t do that, you might want to reconsider who you’re marrying!
• Clear and Concrete Boundaries: I read a true, horrifying story on a forum not too long ago: one day, Mom and Dad called their son and his wife to let them know they were on their way—for a ten-day stay! With no forewarning! Setting boundaries before the wedding is crucial, and they are individual to each couple. It might be telling the in-laws they need to call before they come over, because hey, you might be dangling naked from a chandelier, doing that funky newlywed voodoo you do. Whatever it is—however much space you need—you have to say it outright, and be firm about it from the beginning.
• The Difference Between Love and Toleration: In an ideal world, women would go on gleeful all-day shopping sprees with our mother-in-laws. Men would go on weekend fishing trips with their father-in-laws, trading war stories, and Dad would return to you and say, “You have a fine fella there”. In reality, sometimes the best we can muster is cordiality: going through the motions without any genuine affection behind them. In the long run, you have to admit that doing so is better than a fist fight.
In the end, you might never be your in-laws’ favorite person. Conversely, they might not be yours. As I wrote in a card to my mother-in-law (who I actually do get along with) before my wedding, “No matter how we may disagree in the future, I will always treat you with respect”. The implied message there was: “And I expect you to do the same”. The bottom line is, don’t keep your mouth shut when it comes to living the life you want to: be respectful, be open, and most importantly–stick together.
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