Fitting into a new family is difficult at best and impossible at worst. But you and your spouse are in the same boat. As newlyweds, you’re both trying to figure out how to endear yourself to a whole new set of people. But marriage is a team sport, and this is one of those times where spouses must give each other an assist. Here are some suggestions on what you can do for your spouse (or he or she can do for you) to help you both fit in better with your new families:
Share Family Secrets
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Skeletons in the closet – Aunt Joanna used to be Uncle Joe or Cousin Bruce cheats on his wife – don’t necessarily have to come up. But warn your husband or wife about any quirks he or she might encounter, especially those that could potentially affect him or her. For example, if dad is a die-hard Republican and your spouse is a Democrat, warn your spouse to avoid conversations about politics. If mom is particularly sensitive about a birth mark she has on her hand, tell your spouse not to bring it up.
Spark ConversationFill in your spouse on the family’s talents and hobbies, too, so he or she can start up interesting conversations that will be appealing. Let your partner know if your little sister is into ballet or grandpa John is known for his pizza making. Your spouse is sure to win points for getting people to talk about the things for which they are passionate.
Take a Trip Down Memory LaneBefore a family visit, go through your photo albums as a couple, tell funny stories, and share memories you have of your loved ones. This activity’s usefulness is twofold. It is a way to continue to get to know each other and to gain insight into your spouse’s family. This activity can help you get closer to one another.
Talk Up Your Spouse to the FamilyLet your parents and relatives know why you chose to marry this man or woman, what you find appealing about him or her, and why he or she is a great addition to your family. You’re one of them and they probably trust your judgment. Give them some insight into what kind of person you married, what your spouse does for fun, and what his or her goals are. You can also share sweet stories about the flowers he sent you for no reason or the poem she wrote and sent to you on your wedding day. Parents, many of whom are hoping their children find a special person to adore them, will appreciate these details. And the spouse’s good deeds will not go unnoticed.
Keep Private Matters PrivateMany people confide in their family members about the arguments they have with their spouse. This is a big mistake that many a new bride or groom has committed. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially if you’re close with a parent or relative. But your loved ones love you first and foremost. They’re likely to side with you and take the position that your spouse has screwed up. You will forgive and forget your spouse yelling at you about failing to put the cap back on the toothpaste, but your relative may never let it go. The bigger the issue, the longer the grudge your family will hold. That’s not fair to your spouse, your family, or you. It's usually best to keep quiet about your squabbles.
Be InclusiveWhen you and your spouse are with your family, check up on him or her every once in a while. Introduce him or her to relatives who didn’t make it to the wedding or might not have met your spouse yet. Bring your spouse into the mix when everyone gathers to play football or Bingo or whatever tradition your family has. If your cultures or religions are different, explain rituals before or as they happen, and do your best to make your spouse be a part of the action. Making your spouse even just observe your rituals will help him or her better understand you and your people. That’s what marriage is all about – finding unity in pairs and creating entirely new families within already existing ones.