Relationship consultant Susan Preston shares her philosophy on how best to get along with your in-laws, as well as how to ease any tension between you and your new family members. As Preston attests, working toward a positive relationship with your in-laws can only benefit the future of your immediate family.
1. How to handle pushy parenting advice
Try to realize that your in-laws most likely have your family's best interest at heart -- and this is especially true if you have children. It's not uncommon for in-laws to weigh in on how you are raising their grandchildren. If your mother-in-law persistently gives you unsolicited child-rearing advice, it's best to pick your battles, says Preston. "Nod and say thank you, and realize that just because she suggests something, it doesn't mean you need to heed her advice," says Preston. Once you get home, it is up to you how you wish to parent your children.
2. Don't take sides
If your in-laws are venting about another family member to you, be attentive and listen to their concerns, but resist indulging in negative talk or taking sides -- it can backfire on you. This is especially true if your husband's parents are no longer married and they tend to complain a lot about each other (or even more awkward, their ex's new partner). Try not to get involved. They might just be venting, so instead of allowing their words to get you worked up, just listen and let be, says Preston.
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3. Be clear
Many women beat around the bush with their in-laws to avoid offending them. But by dodging their questions and ignoring their calls or emails, you're only provoking a situation. Preston suggests being clear and specific in a gentle way so there is less of a grey area.
For example, if your mother-in-law wants to spend Christmas with you and you know you aren't able to, don't say: "We'll see" or "I'll let you know." Instead say: "We would love to, but we spent Christmas with you last year, so this year we're going to spend it with my parents. But will you be home on Christmas Eve so we can share some holiday time then?" This offers a solution, but lets her know your intentions. "Don't say yes if you have no intention of following through. It just creates more negativity," says Preston.
4. Show gratitude
Instead of dwelling on the things your in-laws do that annoy you, be grateful and aware of the little things they do that are good and positive. "Gratitude is so important because it will diffuse any negativity," says Preston. When your in-laws make an effort to invite you and your family over for dinner, for instance, be sure to say thank you.
"Men aren't always the best at communicating gratitude, so by extending a gracious thank you and encouraging your husband to do the same, it can help keep things positive," Preston says. Extending a simple thank you is always a good idea; it ensures that no one feels like they're being taken advantage of and keeps feelings of resentment at bay.
5. Interact regularly
Every relationship requires effort, and the relationship with your in-laws is no exception. Little things can go a long way to promote positivity between you and your in-laws. For instance, try emailing them regularly with updates and pictures of your children, or invite them to help decorate your Christmas tree. By interacting regularly via email, phone or personal visits, you are naturally maintaining a relationship. Preston says that this will also help create and foster a close relationship between your children and their grandparents.
If you follow this blueprint to a successful relationship with your in-laws, you will end up in a win-win situation. Keeping the peace and fostering positivity will lead to an all-around healthy and happy family life.
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