Marrying the love of your life is one of life’s finest moments. You get to live with someone you love for the rest of your life. Most of us wish there was a way we could get just that person, without the baggage of their friends and family. Unfortunately we can’t – it’s either all or none. Some come with great friends and awesome family but then there’s always that one person in their life we can’t stand.
Dealing with in-laws is a murky affair. It is like navigating a mine field, you have to be extra careful not to step on anyone’s toes or rub someone the wrong way. Even the most innocent statements can be taken as offensive. A couple of days ago we talked about getting along with your mother-in-law. Today, we’ll build on that by looking at DON’TS of dealing with in-laws. By in-laws here I mean your spouse’s parents and even siblings.
Never complain to them about your spouse and vice versa. Regardless of how close you are with your in-laws you can never discuss your spouse’s flaws with them. The worst thing you can do is tell his mother “Please talk to your son and tell him to…” That is a no-no. Same goes for his siblings. If you need to complain about your wife, her family is a no go zone.
Also, don’t always be complaining to your husband about his mother, or that snoopy sister of his. It is tiring for your wife to constantly hear you speak ill of her mother. Part of loving your spouse is getting along with their loved ones. If you are always whining about their family members they will feel unloved.
Never bring them in on your problems – they are not neutral. This point goes to emphasize the one above. In the event of a fight never involve your family members. Why? Because family members are not neutral or objective. They will always take sides. And they will take the side of “their person”. If you absolutely need someone to speak to, look for a friend who can offer an unbiased opinion.
Steer clear of potential arguments – stay away from hot topics like politics, religion or anything you and other people feel strongly about. The likelihood of being involved in a shouting match is high when your emotions are in the mix. If you are in a group, maybe in a family function, and a sensitive discussion begins, listen keenly but avoid voicing strong opinions. If you have to contribute, keep calm and speak without being personal or hurtful. If you notice the tensions are high, leave the discussion. Your relationship with your new family is more important than being right.
With regards to Christianity, we are called to preach the gospel to all men. But wisdom is important here – compassion will work better than arguments (2 Timothy 2:23). The only thing you will achieve if you go around calling your spouse’s family sinners is alienation. Think in the long term –build relationships. When people let you into their lives it is easier to convince them of your position. Then you can speak to them about the love of Christ.
Don’t take sides in the family. You will most definitely have favourites in your partner’s family. It maybe your husband’s sister who has always made you feel so loved and welcome. It may be your wife’s brother who has become a great friend – you guys even hang out together. And as usual, there is that one person in the family you never seem to get along with. That being said, regardless of how you feel about particular people in that family, never take sides with anyone. That family has a way of resolving their issues. They probably argue out but eventually make up and go back to loving each other. When you take sides, they will make up and you will find yourself in the middle. Share advice, call someone aside if you have to but don’t take a clear side of these people against those ones.
Conversations about inheritance should be between your husband, his siblings and his parents, not you. This one is for the wives. How your husband’s family deals with their property is their business. Don’t go asking about inheritance. This is especially if you are newly married – people who have been married 10+ years are entrenched in the family and participate in decision making. Even then, the originator of the discussion should be your husband, not you. This is a sensitive issue, you risk coming off as a greedy person so be cautious.
My husband being an only child means that it is wise for us to be involved in his parent’s projects so that in the event they are not there we can follow up on those projects. That being said, I never raise those issues with them, he does.
Whether you are dating or married, you need to learn how to get along with your partner’s family. They are different from yours but if you play your cards right, you can grow to love them. Tread carefully though.