Anyone who is involved in a serious relationship has likely come to realize there is some truth in the statement that you don’t just marry your partner, but you marry their family as well. In-law relationships can be rewarding, but also very complex and sometimes challenging. There are several different dynamics that come into play that can influence in-law relationships, including different family traditions, perceived meddling, and trouble letting go of their child.
Every person has their own unique experiences and perception of family dynamics which can be highlighted in in-law relationships. It is easy to get caught in thinking ‘my family does it this way, so every family must be like this.’ This can make welcoming and adapting to different traditions challenging. Keep in mind that no family will be exactly like yours (sometimes this is a good thing) and it doesn’t mean one family is better than the other, just different. Try to approach your in-laws with an open mind and curiosity to learn about their family values and traditions.
In laws (and parents in general) have a wealth of knowledge and different experiences that they may be all too eager to share. In many instances sharing (or possibly meddling) is done with the best of intentions and is meant to helpful, not hurtful. If you find yourself in this type of relationship, try to maintain strong boundaries that you and your partner can agree upon. Keep in mind that just because advice is given, doesn’t mean it has to be taken. Know that you have to forge your own path, but sometimes in-law advice can be worth considering.
It can be tough to form a positive relationship with your in-laws when they view you as “taking” their child from them. Know that this is not about you personally, but about your in-laws having a tough time letting go. Keep an open conversation with your partner about how you’re feeling and let your partner take the lead in navigating conversations with their parents. Try to keep a united front with your partner and do what you can to participate in family gathers and visiting. Hopefully over time they will get to know you and will see you as an addition to the family rather than their child as leaving the family.
There are lots of complexities involved in in-law relationships and really in family relationships in general. I have yet to meet a family (including my own) that isn’t a little nutty. Stay tuned for additional posts on in-laws as well as families in general.