1. People & Relationships

How to Get Along with Your In-Laws

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Finding your place in a new family is probably one of the hardest parts of marriage. In-laws can be intimidating at first. They have their own values, beliefs, and traditions. They feel they've loved your husband or wife longer than you have and know what's best for him or her. And you're the new kid on the block. Sometimes, in-laws are loving and welcoming. Sometimes, in-laws are defensive because they feel like you're crowding their territory. Often, they are both. But there is hope for your relationship with your in-laws. Here's a guide on how to get along with your in-laws -

Step One - Get to know your in-laws.

When you decide to seriously date and then marry a person, you must make it a point to open your heart and mind to his or her family. When invited to the home of your in-laws, you must talk to your hosts. Make conversation. Ask questions about the family history. Offer to help set the table. Join in the fun if someone is playing a game. Be friendly without being pushy. It's a fine line, but it will help you score points and get to know your new family.

Step Two - Find your niche in the family.

Once you know everyone, and everyone knows you, you must find your niche in the family. That means you need to determine where you fit in and what you can contribute. No one wants to be the black sheep. Your husband or wife can help you get along with his or her family. Your spouse, for instance, can introduce you to cousin Stella, who enjoys knitting as much as you do. Or your husband can encourage his mom to invite you to the annual girls day at the spa that she has with her daughters and nieces. Your spouse can also smooth things over if you're ever misunderstood by the in-laws. All these things go a long way to helping you find your place and determine the kind of relationship you'll have with your in-laws.

Step Three - Establish relationships with your in-laws.

Often, people tip-toe around issues rather than coming out and saying what is on their minds. Instead of assuming that your in-laws would like this type or that type of relationship with you, you should just come out and ask them. Discuss the particulars of your relationship, such as whether you'd be comfortable calling them mom and dad or the limits you'd like to set when it comes to family visits and advice about housekeeping and parenting. If you discuss these issues up front, then they should be less of a problem for everyone down the road.

Step Four - Stop the meddling mother-in-law.

Pushy mothers-in-law are the subject of many jokes, but they are also a reality for many families. Not everyone has to deal with this step. But a meddling mother-in-law can wreak havoc on a couple's relationship. They can cause arguments between husband and wife, make their in-laws feel like outsiders or as though they're being judged, and they can try to steal center stage. Most of the time, their intentions are good. They think they are helping the couple. Or they feel left out of their child's new married life. Fear of losing a child can drive a mother to do crazy things. Patience and understanding can get you all through this difficult transitional phase.

Step Five - Resolve in-law problems.

Families breed love, but they also breed problems. There are growing pains whenever someone new enters the family dynamic. Then, there are also other problems, ones you often start to face when you're planning your wedding -- from divorced parents who put their kid (your spouse) in the middle of their arguments to parents who never thought anyone, not even you, was good enough for their son or daughter. Besides these problems, there are issues that arise everyday about things, such as how you're raising your kids or where you'll spend the holidays. All of these problems require a resolution. To solve problems, you have to be able to communicate openly and diplomatically.
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