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Part 3 - All In The Family: Handling Your Spouse and His/Her Parents

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

While your initial inclination may be to get a (nice firm) grip around your spouse’s neck as well as the neck or his/her parents, there’s a much more practical solution and one that won’t land you in solitary confinement.

Experts impress upon newlyweds the importance of accepting not only each other but of each other’s family and the inherent shortcomings therein. They point out that though it’s the similarities that brought you together, the differences (that are guaranteed to rear their ugly heads) can tear you apart.

The key to a happy marriage is the same principle that applied to your grammar-school report card…. “plays well with others”. The professionals offer the following “In” tips for getting along with your In-laws.

1. Form A United Front: Remember a solid foundation makes a “home” virtually indestructible. And, as a couple that is what you must try to achieve. As a married couple you must stand strong and stand together and your first allegiance should be to each other and the life and family you (both) create.

2. Absence/Distance Makes The Heart Grow Fonder: Remember how you LONGED to cut the parental umbilical cord. Well, if you haven’t already done so, NOW’s the time. While you want your parents to remain a loving, involved part of your life, your relationship with them MUST change, so must your expectations of them and new confines and boundaries demand to be established and set.

3. Change Is Good: While you may feel guilty about “changing” the rules mid-way into the game, experts say DON’T. After all, the game itself may have very well changed. If you find your needs from you in-laws have changed you need to express that to them in a loving manner and stick together about enforcing your decision and making sure they respect it.

4. Speak Your Mind: Cares, concerns, limits and boundaries should never be a surprise. Always address issues and don’t allow them to linger for fear of hurting your parents’ feelings. Be kind, gentle and explain your reasoning and feelings, they are more than likely to understand.

5. Refrain From “Sloppy Seconds”: YOU should be first in your spouse’s life and at the top of his/her list. Do Not encourage or accept an unhealthy attachment to one or both of his/her parents, or a constant comparison to either one of them. Define YOUR relevance and boundaries in the relationship.

6. Set Aside Time For Discussion: If you would like your partner to respect your wishes or encourage his/her parents to do so, first they have to know what they are. Never presume that just because you’re married you partner possess your views. Tell your partner what’s on your mind and what type of relationship (perhaps with both sets of parents) is acceptable to you and why. Then, come to mutually acceptable resolution and understanding.

7. Maintain A POSITIVE Outlook: Refrain from belittling your partner’s experiences, interactions and relationship with his/her family. “Attacking” your spouse’s family will only cause more problems and draw your partner closer to them.

8. Stay With The (Marital) Lines: While trusted friends and family may provide a good venting outlet, it rarely recommended that you solicit advice for “private” marital issues. If it’s something basic that you can gain from someone else’s experience, then experts actually suggest confiding in a trusted source. Still, most recommend solving marital problems within the confines of the marriage and privately between you and your partner.

9. Remember That “Lose Lips Sink Ships”: While no one is telling you not to make a joke about every time he tries to do something for you he calls for help (at least 100 times) or how she has to get up 3 hours before work to get ready. What the experts ARE saying however is that the image others have of your spouse is one you significantly help create. What you say, how you say it, and often to whom may affect their perception of your partner and strain the relationship between him/her and your parents. Remember, all they know is what you express to them in the heat of venting, but rarely do they see or hear about moments of satisfaction and reconciliation.

Continue to Part 4: Blessed Are The Peace Makers >>

Long Island Family Life & Parenting Articles > Part 3 - All In The Family: Handling Your Spouse and His/Her Parents

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