Having a beautiful relationship with in-laws has enormous benefits. But an in-law relationship that goes wrong has the ability to break or mar a marriage if a couple allows it. As a result, it is imperative for married couples to understand the dynamics behind the management of in-law relationship to allow a smooth marital sailing.
Before I proceed into my write-up and on a lighter note…..please allow me to salute my in-laws 🙂 . As a Naija (Nigeria) wife who has heard dramatic stories about in-laws, I commend mine for their love and support over the years. Honestly, I have the best set of in-laws a wife can ever ask for……..Sorry I had to quickly throw that in….I don’t want to get phone calls after this write-up 😉 …just kidding………but then, it’s a blessing to have in-laws that make life easy for you. Thanks to all of them.
Okay now down to business…..
Do you watch the comedy “Everybody loves Raymond” 🙂 ? This is the story of a couple Raymond (Ray) and Deborah (Debra) who live just across the street from Ray’s family. Now Ray’s mother is no ordinary mother in-law. She is the matriarch of the Barone family. She is called Queen Marie. Always in everybody’s business, bossy and constantly criticizes Deb’s parenting, cooking and housekeeping styles. Ray almost never stands up to his mother to defend Debra and this gets frustrating for Debra and as a result she occasionally takes it upon herself to set boundaries for Marie. You should watch it…….very funny 🙂 🙂 🙂 Here is a short scene from “Everybody loves Raymond”
The above summarized story is someone’s true life experience and most of the time, it is worse especially in an African setting. This is my perception and you will permit me to say that women most of the time get the brunt of it.
So how do we manage in-laws so that we get the best out of our relationships with them? How do we ensure that they don’t impose their ideologies on us?
A lot of the responsibility falls on the couple. You dictate the tone of your marriage. Your in-laws only go as far as you allow them.
#1. Discuss with your spouse the roles you want your in-laws to play in your marriage- This is one of the basics you learn in foundations of marriage counseling 101. It is actually healthier and easier to discuss this before marriage (i.e. for intending couples) or in the early years of marriage. This can also be discussed in matured marriages but the older a union is the more complicated it is to discuss so you want to tackle it in the infant stage of your marriage. Also, don’t assume, ensure you are both on the same page on how close you want in-laws to be. Questions like, “would in-laws live with us in our marriage?” “Who will do the babysitting after childbirth” (my advice- wife’s mother should do this. It is easier and better for the wife)?” etc. These are questions you need to iron out before or inside marriage.
#2. Strictly for women- Do not have too close a relationship with your in-laws. It might back fire someday. When you confide in your sister in-law or mother in-law, you give them access to your feelings and marriage. You make yourself vulnerable and your in-law would think he/she has the right to meddle in your business and if per adventure you confront someone like your mother in-law over an issue (which is a taboo in Yoruba (Nigerian tribe) land), you will be labelled as disrespectful and may get the wrath of your husband and worse the extended family so why not save yourself the headache……….don’t confide at all. Period!
Single women– If in courtship and your man must go run a decision by his mum or sister almost all the time, please re-examine the relationship. This might be a red flag.
Strictly for men- Women don’t like it when you take sides with your mother on issues especially when they are wrong. You are supposed to have your wife’s back day-in-day-out. Protect your wife’s interest when her name comes up in family. Correct your family if they try to bring your wife down in your presence. The more you condone your family speaking negatively of your wife in your presence, the easier it is for them to disrespect her to her face and once this occurs, your marriage is heading for a crash because someday your wife will reach her tipping point when she will rebel and confront the situation.
#3. Keep your disagreements/challenges to yourselves- I know couples whose relationships have been jeopardized and some ended up in divorce as a result of bringing in-laws into their marriage. Do not lament to your in-laws. Even to your own parents, do not speak ill of your marriage to them. I speak to women mostly on this. We are in the habit of confiding in our mothers and sisters on every matter in our lives. Yes they’ve known you for longer periods but you are not married to them. There is a huge difference. You can still maintain the closeness but separate your marriage from it. Remember, when you run to them to complain about the mishaps in your marriage, most of the time you don’t run back to let them know that you and your spouse made up therefore long after you have moved on with your lives, they will still hold on to the memory of your disagreement with your spouse. I will suggest that you reduce their knowledge of your marriage to the barest minimum. Keep your relationship to yourself.
#4. Set boundaries- This should be done in a subtle manner. For instance if as a man, your mother happens to know a challenge you and your wife are going through and she volunteers her service or opinion, kindly decline it and let her know that you and your wife will deal with it in your own way. If she does this once, twice, thrice, after a while, she will get the hint that her opinion is not needed. The same goes for the lady.
When there is a misunderstanding between spouse and in-laws
For instance, if there is a misunderstanding between a woman and her in-laws, it is the responsibility of the husband to resolve this with his family. The woman should not be exposed to this and the man should do everything possible to re-assure the woman that all will be well. A kind gesture towards the woman at this time will be most appropriate. The same goes go for the lady. At all times, both parties should try to put in good words for their spouse.
Do you have any in-law relationship advice? You can share with us in the comment box.
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