5 Struggles in Being the New In-Law
A new family!
If you've just entered the a new family circle, it's sometimes easy to feel like the odd one out.
Everyone has known each other for years, they tell jokes you don't know, they interact in ways you're not familiar with...
It can be scary and exciting all at once. But even if they all accept you right away and thing seem great - there are always challenges in the coming months and years.
But Don't let the Mask fool you...
Many issues can arise as you immerse yourself into a new family. These changes are to be expected and are completely normal, but you may want to prepare yourself: The fusion will likely be one of the most uncomfortable and frustrating things you have to go through on behalf of your relationship.
Because let's face it: You didn't come here looking for a family.
You fell in love with your other half, and are now faced with accepting - and being accepted by - the rest of their puzzle pieces!
At first everyone is all smiles, but soon the insecurities are pricked and the claws can come out. Here's my advice, though:
1) Don't Worry: It's not you.
When you clash for the first time with your love's closest siblings or a parent, you may be tempted to think that deep down, they really don't like you. But it's not that at all.
The issue is rarely that they have a problem with you, but rather that you being there made them feel angry, bitter, second-best or otherwise insecure in some way. Siblings could be jealous of the attention you receive from their family member, and take it out on you. Or, a parent could feel overly protective of their child and feel like they have to put some distance between you and your significant other until they can come to term with their emotions.
Now, none of those reactions are really adult or mature - but when was the last time you saw either one of those behaviors displayed anywhere? People are terribly under-developed in their interpersonal relationships, so when you are faced with this kind of childish nonsense, try and rise above it.
My Advice? Calmly tell them that you're sorry they're frustrated, but that it's none of your business and has nothing to do with you. It's also a good idea to explain to your partner that you feel bad for them because they must be just struggling to find the 'new normal' in your being there.
Definitely talk it out, and be prepared to be the calm one in the room when your partner's family member has some sort of meltdown.
2) Don't get Emotionally involved.
When someone is having an argument and then suddenly points at you and says that "things were great before you showed up!" it can be easy to lash back in kind.
This happened to me at multiple occasions with the same new in-law, claiming that I had somehow taken their family away from her. Both on their Birthday and Thanksgiving they had blow-ups, and I was targeted because I stood up to them.
What I learned from it all was that 'A': they weren't being rational on either occasions, and 'B': they would have attacked me just the same, even if I was their best friend in the whole world.
Because it wasn't about me. It was about them. So, I learned to not let this person reach me on an Emotional Level. When they start having issues and try to say it's because I've changed everything -
I ignore them. I don't let it bother me.
I keep my emotions separate from theirs.
3) Don't Compare Families. Just Don't.
At times, you and your significant other may be at odds because of the tension caused within and around their family. don't worry: this is completely natural.
They love their family, and it'll be hard for them to reconcile their bad behavior - or even just odd behavior - because instinctively it will feel like taking sides against them.
It's important to talk to your partner about the 'sides' issue. Try to make them understand that there are no sides, just a bunch of somewhat-grown people who are trying to adjust to one another = Bumps are to be expected and should not be very concerning.
If tempers flare, it's tempting for both parties to start pointing fingers at the extended family and quit pulling punches. If you hit a nerve, don't be surprised when the next words out of their mouth are "well, your family..."
...and if that happens, DO NOT rise to the bait: Stay calm. Stay on topic. Try to explain that this isn't about placing blame, but about understanding the issue and moving forward through it.
Try hard not to let family mud-slinging start, because it's hard to quit once you're in too deep...
4) Always remember that this is simply a transition.
Commit with your partner that this is a phase; a transition. Promise one another that you will pull through it as time makes you a full member of the family and years of shared experiences fold you in with the rest of them! This kind of tension does dissipate!
As months and years go by, these rough patches will melt away and be all but forgotten. Try not to let them cause a wedge between you and your other half now, or ever!