By: Roo Ciambriello
You love the person you married, but his or her family? Well, that’s another story. The question is, will the relationship always be tense or can you actually become “one big happy family?” In hopes of the latter, here are some ways to strengthen your relationship with your in-laws.
1. Bond Over the Person Who Brings You Together
He’s your husband. He’s their son. Your sweet little kids are their sweet little grandkids. You love the same people, so there’s your starting point. Celebrating your husband’s birthday? Invite them over for a birthday brunch. Kids are excited about the soccer season? Ask them to join you on the sidelines during a practice. The focus will be off you (and them) and on the people you both love.
2. Utilize Technology to Your Advantage
Maybe lengthy phone calls aren’t your thing. But using a video chat to let the whole family have some face time or shooting over quick photos via email or text are a nice, thoughtful way to keep in touch with extended family.
Texting and email removes some of the awkward moments that real-time conversation may have, so you might be more inclined to use them when chatting up your in-laws.
3. Break Some Bread
People bond over food and people are happy when they eat — which makes sharing a meal a great way to spend time with your in-laws. Meet at a favorite local restaurant to avoid the “Is my bathroom clean enough for my mother-in-law?” panic or the “I’m on their turf and I feel weird,” anxiety. Not sure what to say? Take another bite of food and ask your father-in-law how he likes his Chicken Francaise.
4. Give Them Thoughtful Gifts
Look for clues to what your in-laws are into. Does your father-in-law love golf? Get him a gift certificate for a few rounds at the driving range for Father’s Day. Does your mother-in-law have a favorite flower? Have them sent to her house on her birthday. Appealing to someone’s preferences as opposed to just scooping up a generic gift off a shelf shows him or her that you care. Just listen during conversations and observe the types of things around the house if your spouse can’t think of anything.
5. Tap Into Their Knowledge
Are your in-laws amazing gardeners? Call them up and ask them which plants work best in your partially shady front lawn. Is your mother-in-law known for her baking prowess? Ask if she’d mind sharing her secret on what makes her bread so fluffy. It’s a nice way to let them know that you’re aware of and respect their knowledge and experience. You can also begin to fold yourself into the group — the sharing of family secrets, rituals or knowledge shows both trust and that your in-laws are warming up to the idea of having you on the family tree.
In the end, relationships are two-way streets. If the in-laws seem disinterested in making you a part of your lives (After all, you only, happened to marry their beloved child), then relax in knowing that you did your best. Be as nice as you can, but focus on the relationship with your spouse and children.
Roo is a freelance writer, creator of the humor blog Nice Girl Notes and lover of DIY crafting and style. She has worked on social media campaigns for brands ranging from Lego to Disney Baby.