While you always hope that the parents of your fiancé will be welcoming and happy to have you join the family, the reality is that very often they view you as an outsider and an intruder and, consequently, can be unfriendly, nasty, and even cold. That sort of behavior makes navigating your relationship with them difficult, to say the least. Here are three tips to help smooth out those wrinkles so that, hopefully, you can reach a point of comfort and compatibility with them sooner rather than later.
They might not be the picture of warmth, but you can be! Extend an invitation to your in-laws on a steady basis so they can feel like they are wanted and a part of your lives. Look to include them rather than exclude them—at a birthday dinner or any weekend events. If you are going to a show or a concert you think they might like, give them a call. If possible, try to structure a regular get-together with them—maybe a dinner out once a month or a Sunday dinner at your place every other week. This way, they will feel valued and know you want them around, and even if it feels like extra effort at first, they just might start to appreciate you for that.
Spend Individual Time With Them
Look to schedule time alone with them, whether it be a lunch with your mother-in-law or a trip to the hardware store with your father-in-law, or vice versa depending on their interests. If you are able to get to know them better, they will be able to get to know you better too, and they may begin to see you in a different light—maybe less as a threat who is taking their child away from them and more as a gain. If you bring positive energy to the mix and make them feel important, their perspective is more likely to change. They might finally begin to think of you as a family member instead of an interloper.
Show Interest in Them
If you know your in-laws have a particular hobby, such as cooking, golfing, playing cards, scrapbooking, crocheting, or playing tennis, try to learn a bit about it. That way you can initiate a knowledgeable conversation about something they care about. Better yet, ask if they can teach you how to do something. Maybe your mother-in-law is known for her strudel. Ask if she might spend an afternoon in the kitchen with you, passing along her knowledge and wisdom. Or perhaps your father-in-law is a great card player. See if he might have an hour or so to begin to teach you his favorite game. Not only will this give you something to do together, it will allow your in-laws to know you see something special in them. There's even a chance that you’ll pick up an enjoyable skill or hobby that you can keep in the family and eventually perhaps pass on to your children, if and when you have them.
Dr. Jane Greer is a New York–based relationship expert and radio host and the author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. Connect with Dr. Jane Greer on Facebook and follow @DrJaneGreer on Twitter for her latest insights on love, relationships, sex, and intimacy.