Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Surviving your In-laws 101

photo credits: yeo kheng ping

An oft brought up topic during girl talk at this stage of my life is that of in-laws. Yes, I’m there. From boy-haters to boy-crushes, from hair to nails, we have progressed (?) to in-laws and children. Yikes.

Point is, there are so many marriages that rock due to disagreements with the other half’s extended family. In fact, one of the main reasons for quarrels to arise in a marriage is none other than mother-in-laws. 

Here are my thoughts on surviving your in-laws –

One The mother-in-law

She loves and adores her son. By marrying you, he is essentially declaring he loves you more than her. And he should! But the point is, emotionally that takes time for her to accept. While it doesn’t happen to everyone, I know a sprinkling of daughter-in-laws who bear the brunt of this separation anxiety.

The good news is, both of you (mother / daughter-in-law) have that in common, that is you love the same man (wrong as it may sound). But in most cases, finding even one common ground is tough. So remembering this one point helps.

You might differ in your tastes of kitchenware, toilet tiles and the diet of your children, but one thing remains – both of you have the same taste in men. If she brought up her son in such a way that he became the love of your life, how bad can she be really?

Two Grandparents for the win

A sure way to spoil your child is to leave them with their grandparents 24/7. But this isn’t the point here. The thing is, grandparents always have a soft spot for their grandchildren no matter how much of a grouch they are with you. I’ve seen stoic, very traditional stern Asian grandfathers laugh with delight when their grandchild flashes their first smile. As well as the angst mother-in-law(s) who transforms into this animated cartoon character when she holds her grandchild.

Want to quickly win over your in-laws? You have your children as tribute.

Disclaimer: Do take this point with a pinch of salt.  Parents should still have the upper hand when it comes to the upbringing of their children. 

Three Worst case scenario

In the worst case, you really REALLY can’t get along for whatever reason, remember this – never enter the battle on your own.

I’ve witnessed an ugly showdown between a mother / daughter-in-law arguing about what this little toddler ought to have for dinner in a food court. It escalated to a point they were shouting and pointing fingers whilst other patrons bent down their heads in sheer embarrassment and awkwardness.

Never attempt to take on your mother-in-law on your own, because you will surely lose. You will lose your dignity, you will lose the respect of your children and maybe even the affection of your husband. You may have won the argument that day, but the losses far outweigh that singular ‘win’.

She is his mother, he would know her quirks best as well as how to win her over. How do you think he get his allowance raised every year? Or managed to play the computer for six over hours on a holiday as a teen? He knows the cheat code behind her constant nagging and angry gaze.

Let him intervene on your behalf. If things are so bad to the point you feel no mediation is possible, go for the next best thing – being able to tolerate one another at meal times. That’s essentially the most time you’ll have to spend face-to-face. Let the man, your husband, her son, intervene in the way he knows best. Be it talking to her in private, addressing the topic in a roundabout manner or joking about it over dinner. Trust him. After all, you married him no?

Final Your new family

The very thought that you have to ‘survive’ them makes the whole deal intolerable. You have to struggle for survival on a deserted island, you also do all you can to survive when a natural disaster is about to hit your homeland, but you don’t have to fight to survive the people who have become your new family members. Don’t conceive the matter as something you have to ‘survive’.

Truth be told, we have friction with our own family members all the time as well. Growing up we fought with our siblings over toys. In our teenage years we stormed out of the house countless of times, shouted at our parents in hormonal rage. But because they were family, we knew these would pass. Family would always be family.

We can likewise apply the same mindset with our in-laws. Don’t think of them as distant, disapproving folk. Instead remember the names of their children and address each of them by their name and title, the same way your spouse does, after all they are now family.


You may think I must have it easy in order to have written all these things. 

That’s where you’re wrong. J.G.'s dad and mum have nine / ten siblings respectively, meaning a family gathering of his ‘immediate’ family equates fifty people not including the children. That’s a whole lot of new family members to get along with. While I love and respect them, there are still things I have to learn to accept just as how they are learning to accept me. And I'm grateful.

And more grateful,

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