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How to Deal With In-Laws That Ignore You
The ignored zone
Relationships with in laws are seldom simple. It seems as if at every corner, there is misunderstanding lurking. You may be in the unlucky boat of being the one person that in laws have chosen to ignore. This is especially common when you are newly wed, although even older couples deal with this issue.You do not understand why your new marriage is not greeted enthusiastically by the in laws. It seems as if at every point, they want to treat you as if you are part of the furniture. All along, you just crave being accepted as a worthy family member. You still want to maintain your dignity as you work things out. Fear not, there are some things that you can do to begin a healthy journey of relating with your in laws and free yourself from the tag of being the one that in laws ignore.
You still have the power
Fear not, there are some things that you can do to begin a healthy journey of relating with your in laws and free yourself from the tag of being the one that in laws ignore.
Show up and talk
It sounds simple but many people do not do it. Just showing up and having a conversation, no matter how awkward is a small but important step in breaking the ice. You certainly do not want to keep off simply because the in laws have been ignoring you. Doing that will only increase the distance. Pick a good time and place to talk, preferably during a happy occasion. For example, in some cultures, there are religious ceremonies when celebrations are taking place, the mood is happy and people are more welcoming. That is a good time to engage with the in laws. Volunteer to help the sister in law with her troublesome kid and form a connection. This will help you talk to your sister in law later. The snobbish brother in law may be a more affable character after one or two beers. Perhaps it would be a good time to chat with him. Whatever the case, make sure the in laws know that you are around for a long time, you plan to be around and you are not going to be ignored.
Maintain a welcoming mood
It is difficult to keep being cordial, nice and welcoming when in laws, at every opportunity, ignore you. It is almost as if you are being placed in a situation where you have to be a saint and it is downright frustrating. However, remember, to resolve the impasse, you have to be the bigger person. Resist the temptation to snob those who snob you - paying tit for tat never got anybody anywhere. Maintain a welcoming composure to your in laws even when you feel they do not deserve it. That will give you some chance of working things out. There is no need locking them out of your life simply because they have not acted right in some instances - that will only harden positions.
Understand their interests and values
Families normally have long standing traditions, values and interests. It is just the way it is. You marry into a setting that has solidified over decades, if not centuries. There is a feeling of “this is how we have always done things here”. If you do not tap into that set way, you will find yourself excluded as the lone outsider. You do not have to agree with everything that your in laws hold dear but if you hope to be part of their grouping, you will need to be a keen observer. If for example they are deeply religious and you are not, it does not hurt to treat their religious occasions with some respect. You do not have to believe in what they believe, but take some time to understand it and to conduct yourself in a way that shows awareness. Some in laws are bound to notice this and they will ignore you less, perhaps even include you in their activities. You are looking for that small step that begins the journey to acceptance and respect.
Your spouse, your ambassador to your in laws
Your spouse has the benefit of understanding two sides - your side and the side of the in laws. There is no reason he/she cannot be a good representative, helping you to come to engage with the in laws. To do this, you must first communicate your feelings and challenges clearly. Do not be embarrassed to say that things are no going well with your in laws. Make sure the spouse understands that you want to be part of the family fully, you should be treated with respect and being ignored makes you feel excluded. With the “inside knowledge” that your spouse has, you may find that there are certain things that he/she can recommend to thaw the situation.
Set boundaries with your in laws
This may sound as if it stands in opposition to the advice we gave earlier, “Maintain a welcoming mood”. However, there are limits to how far you can go in welcoming people and this should be clear in your mind. It is one thing welcoming your snobbish mother-in-law who proceeds to give you silent treatment. It is a very different matter allowing her to shout at you with your children as audience.There can be no excuse for that type of behaviour and you should definitely communicate to her that it is simply not acceptable. The fact that you wish to resolve the difficult relationship does not mean that you have forfeited your rights as a human being. Mutual respect must still be maintained.
It is possible to work things out with your in laws. Try the above tips and you may just find that you are no longer being ignored by in laws. You will be on your way to a healthy and fulfilling relationship as a member of the family.