The Art of Appreciating Your In-Laws
By Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin
All Rights Reserved
How do you appreciate your in-laws?
When I think of my in-laws, I truly count my blessings. They have been caring and supportive through my 12 years of marriage.
They recognize boundaries and realize when, and when not, to intrude.
Appreciating in-laws, who become members of your family, is a necessary, fine art for the survival of marriage and families.
Parents-in-law, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law have to practice it.
While doing so, set boundaries so that you and your in-laws know when not to step into each other’s lives.
Why we must appreciate our in-laws
In the midst of managing stressful relations, I used to ask myself why I should appreciate my spouse's parents.
The obligations were tiring. Yet, making a conscious decision to accept has proven to pay off.
If this is not convincing, here are a few other reasons why you should strive to interact well with them.
1. They are a part of the family.
By virtue of marriage, our in-laws become our second set of parents. Getting married means assuming responsibilities for them.
Though fairness is not clear at times. we must always be civil.
2. Relations with them have a rippling effect.
Married folks will agree that our relationships with our in-laws have a rippling effect on the ones we have with our spouses and children.
Your In-laws are the grandparents of your children, and any tension with them will ultimately affect relationships.
3. They have influence over your spouse.
No matter how difficult they are, they are the parents of your spouse. Like it or not, he or she is accountable to them.
Respecting them strengthens your communication with your partner.
4. You cannot avoid interacting with them.
I come from an English-speaking family. My husband, in contrast, has a Mandarin-speaking background. Initial interactions with my in-laws was trying. Sadly, I avoided visiting them though they were, and still are, the nicest of people.
After more than a decade, I am glad to report that we communicate comfortably.
Meeting in-laws is a tough necessity.
5. Practice mutual respect.
Practicing a little mutual respect goes a long way. Your in-laws are more inclined to show you respect if you extend it to them.
Practice the art of appreciating your in-laws.
Whether you are parents-in-law or a spouse trying to negotiate relationships, practice the fine, yet simple art of appreciating your in-laws.
It's hard to lose your way if you do.
1. Attend special occasions.
Make the effort to attend birthday parties or social occasions that are important to your in-laws. Your presence indicates that you regard them as indispensable members of the family and that you are one yourself.
2. Take note of modern versus traditional conventions.
Your parents-in-law may find Facebook unfamiliar or the contractions we use when we send messages unusual. Conversely, you may have doubts about certain traditions and customs.
Take a leaf from each other's books.
3. Help them with errands.
Pitch in and give your father-in-law a hand with mowing the lawn or wash the dishes after dinner. Everyone loves a helping hand.
Help your long-sighted mother-in-law read her mail or simply go with her to the doctor if she needs help with deciphering medical jargon.
4. Call them occasionally.
Call occasionally to express your concern for their well-being. It reminds them that they have not been forgotten.
5. Listen to their advice.
I must confess that I find accepting advice from those other than my parents difficult. For that matter, accepting advice from my own parents is not easy for me either.
But archaic as their words of wisdom seem, we can always learn from them. If you are parents-in-law, remember that your child and his spouse can teach you a few things as well.
6. Let your children spend time with them.
Unless there are mitigating circumstances such as distance, try not to exclude your in-laws from your child's activities. In fact, it is always beneficial to get your in-laws involved in their lives.
7. Invite them for dinner.
Whenever you can, organize a dinner and invite your in-laws over. It is a certain way of improving communication.
8. Remember your own needs.
There is no need to compromise your needs in favor of your in-laws. For example, you may not do well in the loud, social settings that your in-laws enjoy. You are not obliged to force yourself to relish them the way they do.
You do, however, have to get along. A good solution would be to leave the gathering earlier or arrive later, as it is winding down.
9. Overlook little transgressions.
Everyone has a few bad habits, including you. Learn to overlook trivial misdemeanors
such as your father-in-law talking to loudly or your daughter-in-law not hanging up the laundry.
Tolerance goes a long way.
10. Avoid negative conversations.
It is tempting to jump on the "let's-rail-at-our-in-laws" bandwagon, but try not to. Negative conversation only breeds more negativity.
It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whatever displeases you manifests itself in greater amounts if you are negative.
Replace it with positive actions of your own instead. This is true whether you are a parent-in-law or a spouse.
Appreciating Your In-Laws
How to set boundaries
While we try our hardest to get along, there will be times when in-laws come across as imposing. Jumping over that hurdle is always possible, though this takes a few tries.
1. Practice Open Communication.
If you find your parents-in-law imposing too often, have an open dialogue with your spouse about the issue.
If you are a parent-in-law who has suggestions to make, find a time to speak with your child.
2. Decide what is in everyone's best interests.
Decide, reasonably, what is in everyone's best interests. Take all feelings into account.
3. Find a time to respectfully enforce your boundaries.
Enforce your boundaries reasonably, fairly and respectfully. Listen to what your in-law has to say about the matter.
4. Exercise patience.
Exercise patience. No one changes habits straightaway.
Managing in-law relationships is a delicate art, but it does not need to cause a muddle.