Managing your in-laws isn't exactly easy. I'm extremely lucky, because I absolutely adore Heather's mother and father to no end and she adores mine. Of course, there are also brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts-in-law, and grandfathers-in-law to consider. Remember, whether your mother-in-law rubs you the wrong way or you can't get along with your sister-in-law to save your life, managing your in-laws takes all forms. The thing is, these people are your family now. You don't have to be besties, but you want things to be cordial. If you ever have any in-law issues, hopefully these tips will help.
1. Be Cordial but Don't Kiss up
If you know for a fact that you don't, won't, and simply can't get along with your in-laws, that's actually okay. Like I mentioned, you never have to be BFFs. That being said, when you're thrown together for special events, holidays, family occasions, and similar get-togethers, keep things cordial but never, ever kiss up in an attempt to get a difficult in-law to like you. That just casts shade on your integrity, and it's not worth it. You'll seem disingenuous and insincere, you'll feel dirty, and your in-law will probably know you don't really feel so saccharine. The secret to managing your in-laws is striking a balancing act. If you're polite and courteous, you're being the bigger person.
2. Vent to Your Spouse (but Don't Talk Smack)
There are some exceptions to this rule, but let me preface this by saying that you should never rant to your spouse or partner about how his mom's a bitch or her dad's a jerk. For the most part, parents are off-limits, because talking crap is just disrespectful. If they do something that really annoys you, feel free to vent, but keep it respectful by remembering that your spouse likely loves his or her parents and doesn't need to be placed in the middle of a family feud. That's just not fair! But the exception? If your spouse dislikes his sister's husband or your partner doesn't like her brother's girlfriend and you feel the same, vent together. Just make sure you keep it private.
3. Avoid Controversial Situations
There are certain situations you can't avoid, like holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions. If you know that there's some tension, however, during some casual Sunday dinner or a barbecue, feel free to take a pass. You can even send your spouse in your stead, that way he or she gets to spend time with the family but you won't be adding to any stressful situations.
4. Stay Smart on Social Media
Social media can be the bane of your existence when it comes to delicate family matters. You might have a sister-in-law who takes everything you say personally, even if it's not about her, or an in-law who likes to bait you with Facebook posts or generally cause drama. Just stay out of it and don't play into it. You don't need to censor yourself either, although you should never air your dirty laundry either directly or indirectly in such a public forum. If you have to, take advantage of those handy privacy settings and friends lists, to keep a troublesome in-law from seeing certain posts.
5. Set Beneficial Boundaries
While you don't want to have some big, dramatic confrontation, you need to feel free to set boundaries. For instance, if you have to let your father-in-law know that you don't need financial advice or tell a brother-in-law that you aren't comfortable with him stopping by your house all the time or pulling you into drama with his wife, do so. Sometimes you have to put your foot down, even if it makes you uncomfortable.
6. Have a Direct Conversation
One of the best ways to set boundaries and to clear the air is to have a direct conversation. Notice I said conversation, not confrontation. If you have an in-law who disrespects you, treats you badly, or oversteps his or her boundaries, you have to talk to them about it. However, while doing so, stay calm and courteous – even if your in-law doesn't. Cooler heads prevail, and if things get incendiary, it won't be due to your behavior.
7. Strike a Balance between Honesty and Tact
Sometimes there really is a fine line between total honesty and tact. You have to find the balance and keep it at all costs. Just because you think your brother-in-law runs his mouth way too much or your mother-in-law tries to have too much input into how you raise your children doesn't mean that you should unleash your uncensored opinion. However, you can let your BIL know that you aren't going to discuss certain things or tell your MIL that you appreciate her advice and that you'll absolutely ask her for help when you need it.
8. Know when to Keep Things Superficial
Unfortunately, sometimes none of these tactics work. Sometimes you're faced with an in-law who simply does not want to get along with you either, but isn't willing to meet you halfway. When that happens, know when it give it up as a loss and keep things superficial. A generic Christmas card, a happy birthday wish on Facebook, a casual family dinner when you're in town, and that's it. You're done. You don't have to be friends, you don't have to share secrets, and you don't have to go out of your way, as long as you keep it polite on your end and walk away when you simply can't be courteous any longer.
Sometimes, in finding the love of your life, you wind up related to people with whom you just can't get along. You can still make the best of a not so great situation without having to kowtow or avoid your new family. Stand strong, set boundaries, and be cordial even when you can't exactly be friendly. Do you have any in-law stories you'd like to share? Vent about your brother-in-law's wife or rave about your amazing mother-in-law, we'd love to hear it all!