Photo: Getty Images
Getting along with your sister-in-law may not come naturally. Why? As John Duffy, Ph.D., parenting expert and author of The Available Parent, explains, "sister-in-laws are very protective of their brothers, and often see their potential sister-in-law as a threat to his happiness." Eek. Not exactly the easiest of circumstances in which to establish a friendship. But it's not impossible either. With these tips, you can be BFF with your new sister-in-law in no time.
Protect time for your relationship with your new family member.
No friendship can thrive without serious QT. "Sisters-in-law are best off when they protect time for their relationship with one another, treating it much the way they would any other relationship they are nurturing with any other female friend," says Duffy. That means setting aside dedicated time to spend with your sister-in-law.
Talk about something other than the man in the middle.
Your husband brought you two together. But when you share a girls night out, Duffy recommends you steer the conversation clear of her brother. "These relationships work most effectively, and are most satisfying, when the man in the middle is not the sole topic of the connection," he says. "You should talk about and connect on other levels than simply the marriage."
Plan events together.
Work together to throw the big bash for a family member, or celebrate the summer with a co-hosted outdoor BBQ. "Sisters-in-law benefit from planning some events together," says Duffy. "In doing so, they create collaboration instead of conflict. The event can be as ordinary as a family outing on an ordinary weekend, or Christmas dinner. The point here is coordination, cooperation and collaboration."
Use your humor to your advantage.
When you and your sister-in-law butt heads, break out the jokes, Duffy suggests. "Injecting humor into any potentially-conflicted relationship is critical," he says. "With sisters-in-law, they can create humor and levity on a meta-level, joking about the fact that their relationship is supposed to be conflictual. Oddly, this can draw the two women closer together."
Learn to resolve conflict effectively.
Rather than letting any arguments fester and grow, talk it out. "Talking through their differences, coming up with points of agreement, and agreeing to disagree when they reach an impasse, are all important methods for conflict resolution [between sisters-in-law]," he says. "Focusing particularly on points of agreement is, I find, particularly effective in maintaining a healthy sister-in-law relationship."
Don't air your dirty laundry to the whole family.
When you do have a disagreement, try to keep it between you two, Duffy suggests.
"In the name of sustaining a relationship that does not become legendary within the family for it's conflictual nature, sisters-in-law should recognize that not every issue needs be broadcast to the entire family," he says. "Intra-family gossip can be so insidious, and can make small differences grow exponentially and unnecessarily. So, a bit of privacy between sisters-in-law can create a sense of intimacy between them, and avoid making emotional mountains out of momentary molehills."