By Nadia Shah
In 2014, SouthAsianinlaws conducted a poll asking if you would live with your in-laws. 65.85% said “No, I don’t want to,” while 21.95% said “yes, if the circumstances require me to do so.” There was 2.44% who said “yes, I would prefer to,” and then the rest weren’t sure.
As you know, a cultural value shared by most of us is caring for family members, including in-laws. Despite what one “wants,” circumstances sometimes require living with in-laws or vice-versa.
If you do find yourself living with in-laws, here are some tips to make the experience a little easier and more pleasant:
Everyone that will be living together should sit down prior to moving in (if possible) and communicate clearly about expectations. Of course it’s unrealistic to think that all of them will be met, but by communicating from the beginning, everyone will hopefully have a better understanding of each other.
Talk about responsibilities in the house. Figure out who’ll be responsible for cooking, cleaning, getting groceries, and so on. And be patient with everyone, including yourself, in getting used to the new routine and responsibilities.
Arrange for privacy. Naturally, once your new living arrangements are established, your privacy could decrease substantially. Make sure you and your spouse schedule private time. If you can afford to, take a weekend trip every once in awhile so it’s just you and your spouse. If that isn’t feasible, then spend time in your bedroom with your spouse. And if you feel comfortable doing so, request that your in-laws allow you some scheduled private time. Building a strong relationship with your in-laws is important but keeping your marriage strong is more important.
Pick your battles. Although open communication is important, try not to “fix” everything that’s “wrong.” It’s easy to want to correct someone’s mistakes, but you must remember that the relationship with your in-laws is a sensitive one, especially in the beginning. You’ll be wiser to overlook some behaviors that bother you.
Vent, but carefully. Be careful in how you vent to your spouse about his or her family. Regardless of if he or she disagrees or agrees with your frustrations, he or she may naturally become defensive. Express your feelings but try to be as logical and respectful as possible. If possible, find an external outlet to vent, such as a friend.
Schedule family meetings if you notice tensions arising in the household. Not everyone practices open communication and many traditional South Asians have a tendency toward passive-aggressiveness. Don’t wait until tensions rise to the point of aggression; try to decrease it by encouraging dialogue. The concept of family meetings may be uncomfortable for you or for your in-laws, but with time, it may become an effective way to communicate feelings and needs.
Set boundaries when needed. If, for example, your in-laws are interfering with you and your spouse’s parenting, be clear. Your duty is to protect your kids, but make sure to be gentle while being direct with your in-laws. However, before you talk to your in-laws, make sure you and your spouse are in agreement about the problems that exist.
Get help. If conflict worsens within the household, don’t hesitate to seek help. Whether that’s mediation by a family member or a professional therapist, everyone can benefit from a safe place to express feelings and receive guidance.
Try to stay as mindful and insightful as possible. Be aware of your in-laws’ feelings. If you show that you care, they will hopefully be more inclined to be in tune with your feelings.
Be realistic. The living situation may not be ideal but there can be benefits of living with in-laws. At the very least, try to accept the situation as it is, hope that it improves, and take notice of the other positives in your life.
Not all living situations will be ideal even after practicing all these steps, but there’s no harm in trying these techniques. You want your home to be peaceful and comforting, not difficult and unnerving. Remember to stay positive.
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