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How to Break the Ice with Your In-laws

Cheryl Mascarenhas
A marriage in all measures, is not the coming together of two souls as was previously believed, but a perfect union of two families, which become a part of your very own. Establishing a genuine bond with in-laws is a prerequisite for a stress-free married life.

"Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."
― 1 Corinthians 13:7 (New Living Translation)

Meeting in-laws, for the very first time is akin to exploring an unknown realm and is often brewed up with anxiety, and dished out with stress.

Yet, the ultimate truth lies embedded, your spouse's family is now your extended family, and molding your life around them is imperative. Movies like Monster-in-Law and Meet the Parents, are definitely good pointers on how to deal with in-laws; but not everyone's case is the same.

How to Get Along with Your In-laws

It is hard for a young bride, to adjust to her relatively new home, however, we should not forget, the groom too has his share of difficulties adjusting to his newly acquired family. Living up to be the ideal son-in-law/daughter-in-law is difficult but these pointers will help make things easier.

Meeting Your In-laws for the First Time

It's a whole new life and an entirely new experience, for a young couple, meeting their in-laws for the very first time. It can be daunting enough to have people look at you as an outsider, when you first step into the house. 
To top it all, your wild thoughts drift to Charlotte from Monster-in-Law, trying her best to impress her mother-in-law, or to Greg from Meet the Parents struggling to make an impression. But hey, you may not always feel like an outsider, your in-laws may be pretty welcoming too.
Meeting with in-laws can be scary, but it really doesn't have to be so. The impending meeting can surely give you mild anxiety attacks to nausea depending on your temperament.

Be Curious

Most of you must be well acquainted with the saying, "Curiosity Kills the Cat", but in this case, being curious enough, to know more about your in-laws, takes you a step closer to being acquainted with them. Ask your spouse or partner about their family, inquire about their likes and dislikes, their hobbies and interests.
Make a mental note about their respective preferences, it will help you, when you actually meet them face to face, or help you decide on some gift ideas.
Having a base knowledge of their philosophy of life and their approach, aids you in deciding your approach to them. Prevent the foot-in-mouth syndrome by being aware of their tastes, their passions and their preferences.

Create a Good First Impression

First impressions are most often the last impression, and getting people change their impression about you is a rather slow and tedious process. When you first step into their house or they step into yours, impress them by being yourself. Your spouse fell in love with you for who you are and there is quite a possibility that his/her parents will follow suit.
Being yourself is the best way to create a lasting impression on your in-laws. Being fake is always a major put off and can result in rubbing your intentions the bad way. Needless to say, you should dress appropriately, avoid any type of skin show, and yes, do not forget to put on your best behavior.

Project Interest

Imagine how it feels, to be a fish out of the water, struggling to hang on to your dear life; you can avoid such sticky situations by showing interest in the conversation going on around you. Get to know your in-laws by starting conversations with them on topics that interest them.
Like I mentioned earlier, research will help you, know their likes and dislikes that'll aid you in your conversations. It is best to discuss a few topics with your spouse before you meet up with your in-laws.

Show interest in conversations that deal with their family history, their experiences and childhood memories. Listen empathetically to what they are saying, and be a part (not apart) of their conversation.

Be Accommodating

Be open to suggestions, opinions, views, and thoughts of your in-laws. Keeping your ego aside and welcoming them into your life is a great achievement by itself. Do not expect to build an instant bond with all of your spouse's family but it is worth giving it a try, and making them feel at ease.
If it is stressful enough for you, to be meeting them for the first time, it helps in knowing that they may also be stressed out and as nervous as you are when trying to impress them.
If you are visiting your in-laws; the golden rule to be remembered is to let them have their way, don't go about bringing changes from the very first day. Compliments work wonders to strengthen bonds, be generous in complimenting them, but do not go overboard with your compliments to avoid sounding phony.

Mind Over Manners

Remember the pearls of wisdom your Gran gave you when you were a kid. One of the foremost things you must have learned is to be polite, humble and never interrupt when another is talking. These little things may affect your relationship with your in-laws, if you do not bother to keep your manners in check.
Kindness is a virtue you should cultivate, for being kind and gentle in your ways will do you good than harm. Have a respectful relationship with your in-laws from the very beginning and remember that they are your spouse's parents and have every reason to have a say in some matters.
Just like your old Gran, who would listen to all that you had to say, you should do the same to your in-laws. Do not judge your in-laws and remember nobody is perfect.

Be Thoughtful

Gifts can be a good way to start conversations, besides personalized gifts like, a gardening hamper for your father-in-law who enjoys gardening, or a bunch of flowers of your mother in-law's preference, can portray you as being caring. Gifting your in-laws something will make them feel special and will certainly put you in a good stead with your in-laws. 
Besides who doesn't like receiving personalized gifts! Other than gifts, you can also contribute in small ways, you can offer to prepare a dish or even help in baking a pie or a cake. Be creative and think of innovative ways to put a smile on the face of each extended family member. You can also offer help, to set up the dinner table.

Tread With Caution

Avoid getting on the wrong foot with your in-laws, by avoiding small goof ups. Firstly, avoid a casual approach, remember they are your extended family and they might not appreciate a casual outlook to life. Besides, you should also avoid swearing in front of your in-laws. Using slang words while conversing with your in-laws is not recommended. 
By all means avoid controversial topics, and most certainly avoid taking sides in family matters. Boasting about yourself is a complete no-no. The golden rule here is to avoid picking up petty fights and/or criticizing your spouse in front of your in-laws. They might not tolerate you offending their son/daughter.
All this apart, if you have somehow got on the wrong foot with your extended family, you need to find a way and bury the hatchet. Such times are even more stressful and turn out to be agonizing as well. It is always recommended that you find means of making amends and fending feuds. After all, you wouldn't want tension brewing between you and your spouse over family affairs. Here are some tips to bail you out of sticky situations.

Tips to Deal With Your In-laws

  • The best way to go about setting things right, is by accepting your fault. Your value doesn't diminish, if you beg for forgiveness from your family.
  • Let bygones be just that, don't ruminate over matters that have occurred in the past. Forgive and make peace with your in-laws.
  • Maintain cordial relations with your sister-in-law/brother-in-law. They may be able to help you sort out problems with your parents.
  • Be prepared to face the consequences of your actions. You may not always be right in your ways and means.
  • Be someone they can approach easily while keeping your individuality intact. Avoid being rude.
  • Enforce rules and regulations right from the beginning, and adhere to them, ensure the rules apply to everyone including you.
  • Confront the person who wrongs you directly, and do not involve others in your battle. Remember no one likes to clean another's mess.
  • Accept the fact that differences in opinions, thoughts and views will prevail. Learn to live with differences, and do not impose your views on others.
Marriages are made in heaven, but families are made of relationships and relationships need a mature adult to understand the minute details that go into keeping everyone happy.
To conclude, I must say, in-laws can be tough maintenance but they are definitely worth giving an understanding ear and sympathetic heart, for someday, you might be sailing in the same boat.