Thankfully, you are marrying the love of your life, not his parents. But life will be easier if there is limited friction between you and your in-laws-to-be.
The first step is to understand the reason(s) being around them does not give you the warm fuzzies.
Sometimes it's a matter of values that don't mesh. *Kathy, married two years to her husband recalls, "My now in-laws live in Vietnam. The first time I met them was a month before the wedding when they came to the states."
The language barrier made Kathy feel uncomfortable, especially when her fiancé and his parents laughed and talked for what felt like hours while scarcely looking at her. Happily, after privately sharing her feelings with her guy, he made an effort to translate the conversations.
A tougher divide was her future mother-in-law's insistence that Kathy's role in the wedding should primarily be to defer to her future husband's wishes. "The cultural differences were staggering," Kathy recalls. "It caused tension in my relationship — he really felt caught in the middle. Ultimately he was able to gently but firmly tell his mother that while she was beloved by him, the wishes of his bride came first ... Whew!"
The key point is that Kathy's man was quickly able to realize the importance of setting boundaries with his mother; his primary loyalty was to his partner. Another key point was his parents were flying back to Vietnam after the wedding!
If the reason for your distaste is that his parents see you as an interloper who will never be good enough for their adored son and treat you accordingly, two things are essential:
1. Keep your partner's feelings in mind. He loves his parents. Criticizing them harshly can upset him and push him away from you. Save the rants for friends.
2. You must share your needs with your fiancé or your feelings will fester and the relationship will eventually suffer. So be honest but in as sensitive a manner as possible: "Honey I don't want to come between you and your folks. They love you and I certainly understand why. You're a fabulous human being. Overall they're good people. But I don't feel like they treat me with respect — remember when your mother stared daggers at me and said she thought I had the table manners of a goat, was that how I was going to raise my children? Those kind of comments aren't fun to listen to."
Best-case scenario: He will have a private talking to with his folks and no more goat comments will be forthcoming.
If they can't be totally stifled — hopefully you and your guy can make compromises. Sometimes while he visits, take in a movie or have girl time with your besties. And the times you do accompany him (with a smile on your face), he has warned them beforehand that if they aren't on their best behavior he won't be coming around either.
When your man has your back and you have his — nothing, not even his less-than- lovable parents — can drive you apart!
Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW is a New York City-based marriage therapist and author.