Keeping a healthy in-law relationship
Learn some tips on how you can strengthen your relationship with your in-laws.
A marriage doesn’t just include two people but also their families as well. In building a strong marriage, it is important that all parties invest in having a healthy relationship. This also includes you with your daughter/son-in-law.
Things can go awry so Ageless Online speaks to TOUCH Marriage Support to find out how you can build and strengthen your relationship with your in-laws, which could also lead to a better relationship with your own children:
Could you share five common conflicts between a mother- or father-in-law and his or her children’s spouses?
There are five common reasons for conflict between in-laws:
1) Children – Preferences in parenting and upbringing styles in relation to developmental needs, disciplinary methods, as well as what works and what does not may be viewed differently by both you and your daughter/son-in-law.
2) Differences in perspectives – Your views on certain issues may differ vastly from that of your daughter/son-in-law due to the different life stages and the different experiences that both of you have gone through. For example, your child and his/her spouse may feel that absolute candour and voicing out disagreements on a regular basis helps with open communication and is a way to strengthen their marriage. However, you may disagree and encourage both of them to give in to each other to avoid any arguments which may harm their marriage in the long run.
3) Level of connectedness of family of origin (FOO) – People from families that are more connected and close-knit tend to value family routines which allow them to spend time and do things together. For example, you may enjoy speaking to your child and his/her spouse over the phone every other day and insist on family dinners every weekend to spend time together as a family.
On the other hand, people from families which aren’t as close-knit may observe more flexibility when it comes to family gatherings or spending time together. Depending on your daughter/son-in-law’s personal preference, he/she may find such practices and demands excessive. The difference in what is valued and emphasised in different families may give rise to conflicts.
4) Family traditions & practices – For some people, celebrating special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries and milestones in life, is a way to build relationship significance. Others may be less enthusiastic about these events and just view them as tasks or duties that need to be fulfilled. The unmatched significance given to such events by in-laws may potentially turn into a point of contention.
5) Inability to adapt & to manage conflicts – Everyone is different. We have different expectations, personal preferences and approaches to certain issues. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Sometimes it is about how flexible you are about the issue. Greater flexibility can lead to more connectedness, while less flexibility can result in lesser closeness.
What advice would you give to manage each of these conflicts?
The below advice can be applied across various types of conflicts. The key is to be understanding, try to see things from the other party’s perspective, and be respectful.
• Have reasonable expectations – Remember that your daughter/son in-law is from a different family of origin (FOO), so they will have a different set of values and way of life. Despite your differences, learn to love and accept them for who they are. It may be helpful to lower your expectations of them, so that you are less likely to become stressed out.
• Seek to understand their perspective – There are no right or wrong perspectives. They are simply a point of view affected by different values and life experiences, shaping our opinions and actions. By putting yourself in your daughter/son in-law’s shoes, you may realise the reason they feel a certain way about situations. For example, you may want to visit your child and your daughter/son in-law every weekend because you miss your child. However, from your daughter/son in-law’s perspective, fixed weekly visits may mean that they have less flexibility when making plans for the weekend especially after a busy week at work.
• Try to reach a compromise – After gaining insight on their perspectives, your different opinions may converge, becoming pathways towards reaching a compromise. It is important to voice out and discuss possible actions that both parties can take. With reference to the previous example, you may work out a schedule with your child and daughter/son in-law, such as having visits on alternate weekends, or you and your spouse could go over to their house for dinners more often on weekdays. While communicating, remember to always remain polite to show that you truly respect them. It is also generally easier to talk about your concerns with your own child instead of together with your daughter/son-in-law.
What are some other tips one can do to have a healthy in-law relationship?
Spending quality time together or finding common topics of interest to talk about. Take an interest in activities that your daughter/son-in-law enjoys such as cooking or watching television shows. If you do not have much in common, you could propose casual activities such as evening walks at the park or spending a day at the beach. Spending quality time together not only strengthens bonds, but also creates beautiful memories.
(** PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash/Ashwini Chaudhary)