5 Tips for Winning Over Your In-Laws

Create positive relationships with your in-laws.

Posted Apr 07, 2013

Relationships with in-laws can be fraught. Here are five conversation topics that can help create positive relationships.

1. Ask your in-laws to tell you stories about when your partner was little.

Find out about things like when you mother-in-law found out she was pregnant, your partner's first words, any special interests or favorite foods your partner had as a child etc.

Why: Conveys love and interest.

2. Ask your in-laws for advice.

Almost everyone likes to be asked for advice and feel their opinion is valued.

Ask for advice about topics that feel neutral to you rather than potential battle ground topics.

Overdoing asking for advice can cause boundry problems so do this in small doses. 

Why: Shows you repect their intelligence.

3. Do you share any interests with your in-laws that their children don't share?

For example, you're really interested in investing and your father in-law is interested in investing but none of his children are.

Often parents are quietly (or loudly) disappointed when none of their children share one of their passionate interests. If you genuinely share one of these interests it can really help create a positive bond.

4. Teach them something.

Show your in-laws how to do something that is helpful to them e.g., provide some tech support.

Aim for things they've always wanted to know how to do but have had no one to ask.

5. Show an interest in their lives, friends, and hobbies.

When you see your in-laws ask a few basic questions about their lives, friends, hobbies etc.

For example, "How did you go at your Bridge game this week?"

Why: Shows you're a thoughtful person.

General Tips for Reducing Tension with In-Laws

- If tension between you and your in-laws is high, start small e.g., find a reason to to send them the occasional email independent of your partner, and chat on the phone for a minute or two when they ring . 

- Allow developing a good relationship with your in-laws to take as long as it takes. It can take years for all parties to gradually develop mutual respect, trust, and acceptance.

- Don't personalize their initial lack of acceptance of you. Their reactions to you are mostly about them, not you.

- Keep good boundaries e.g., your partner and you should make major decisions together rather than your in-laws weighing in on everything (however expect your in-laws to have an opinion about your decisions if you are borrowing money from them or utilizing them for other forms of support, such as childcare). 

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