Building relationships, whether they’re with friends, coworkers, or family, usually takes effort, patience, and reciprocity. And there are few instances where these elements are more critical than with in-law relationships.
Naturally, you want your in-laws to love you; however it’s extremely important to remember that this usually doesn’t happen automatically. You should expect the need to put in extra effort with your spouse’s family, just as he or she should expect to do the same with yours.
And even with all the effort, some in-laws may still take years just to accept you, let alone form a strong relationship with you. Whichever type of in-laws you have (besides abusive in-laws, which are not healthy or safe, and are an entirely different story), be hopeful and persistent. In time there’s a very high probability that your relationship with them will improve and become rewarding and fulfilling.
Unfortunately, we can’t really control how others will act or react. The only thing we can control is how we act and how we conduct ourselves. And even though it may seem like significant progress with your in-laws may never come, try not to give up. This is your spouse’s family, after all. And just as you would anticipate the need to put in extra effort in a new job or with a new social group, take it upon yourself to put in the extra effort needed to build a positive, healthy relationship.
It will help to figure out your in-laws’ family dynamics so you can adjust some of your efforts to fit their style. Below are just a few suggestions on building/strengthening your in-law relationships. I’d encourage all of you to pick a few and try them, no matter how hard it may be. At the very least, your spouse will appreciate your efforts.
1) If they are text-savvy, send them a text message once in awhile. It can be as simple as saying hi and asking how they’re doing. This is one of the easiest things you can do, but it also probably has the best upside. It lets your in-laws know you’re thinking about them, and it can instantly bring you closer together. It’s definitely worth a try!
2) Call just to see how they are, not for any other purpose. Phone calls on special occasions, like birthdays, are wonderful. But a random, unexpected call can make someone feel special.
3) Give small gifts, even randomly. They don’t have to be expensive or lavish. A simple candy bar or small trinket can do wonders. And don’t always wait for a birthday. If you see something your mother-in-law may like, for example, considering getting it for her prior to her special occasion.
4) Cook something special and send it to their house. Of course this will depend on your geographical proximity, but the gesture can build tremendous goodwill. Is there a specific food item or cuisine your in-laws love or have mentioned wanting to try?
Maybe you made a little extra food one night and know that your mother-in-law would enjoy it? Whatever it is, remember South Asians do tend to bond over food so your efforts will almost certainly be appreciated.
5) Not all of us are lucky enough to have in-laws living close by (or unlucky, depending on your perspective). If they live elsewhere, set up a video chat session with them on a regular basis. This may take some patience since some elderly in-laws may not be as tech-savvy. And if you have children, the experience for your in-laws will be that much more enjoyable.
6) Encourage your kids to build a relationship with your in-laws (their grandparents). Have them send pictures, drawings, etc. every so often so their grandparents feel more connected and special.
7) Try to express appreciation for small acts of kindness. You don’t have to send a thank you card every time one of your in-laws does something nice for you, but you can send a message or call them to express your gratitude. When positive behaviors get acknowledged, it usually results in more positive behaviors.
8) Invite your in-laws out for coffee, a movie, or something else that’s fun. And you don’t always have to take your spouse with you to see his/her parents. Spending one on one time with your in-laws can be immensely rewarding, but it’s obviously something that you may need to work up to. At the very least, try to set this as a future goal.
Lets add to this list! What are some other actions you can do to build and strengthen relationship with in-laws?
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