I hate to remind you about this, but the end of the year is near. You know what means? Thanksgiving and, yes, even that bugger called Christmas, are just around the corner. And if you’re in a heavy-duty relationship or marriage, then you also know this means you’ll be spending more time with your in-laws (or future in-laws).
Cue the sympathetic eye roll, right? There’s a reason why the tagline for TLC’s reality show Surviving the In-Laws is: “Marriage has many benefits, but in-laws aren’t always one of them.”
However, some nifty research begs to differ. A U.S. study found that when a man reported having a close relationship with his wife’s parents, the couple’s risk of divorce decreased by 20%.
It seems that if you want to hold onto your woman, you best get along with her ‘rents. But how exactly does one do that? Here’s what you need to know.
Get to Know Them
What do they like? Who are their friends? Take an interest. If your father-in-law’s religion is to play golf with his old college pals, ask how that all came to be. Heck, he might even invite you along one time (say yes). Your in-laws aren’t just scary people who have been sent from beyond to judge and torture you. They’re interesting humans who have hobbies and inside jokes and favourite foods. You might find that you have more in common with them than just their offspring. I’m not asking you to become BFFs, but really, who would it hurt if you tried?
Laugh At Their Jokes
Your father-in-law might not be Louis C.K., but guess what, bro? Neither are you, so deal. I know—men typically use humour to compete with other men, however, when it comes to getting down with her family, you automatically forfeit the pissing contest. You’ve got the bigger picture (your wife/girlfriend) to worry about. Laughing at his dumb joke is the ultimate sign of respect, so take one for the team, and guffaw. It’s not going to kill you. Besides, you might actually start finding his wacky sense of humour endearing.
When your mother-in-law tears up and she says, “Don’t worry about me,” don’t roll your eyes and think, “There she goes again.” Instead, hug her. Invite her over to dinner, even. Sure, sometimes she pulls the Guilt Trip card twice too many, but people are people. They feel pain, rejection and humiliation. Showing kindness is the easiest way to connect with someone. Intending to view someone with kindness will not only transform your perspective on the relationship, but you’ll also feel better about yourself. Bonus!
Refrain From Sex Talk
This one should be obvious. No father wants to hear how much of a sex goddess his daughter is in the sack. And don’t kid yourself—this also goes for the times you’ll be “trying” to have a kid. Telling your in-laws that you’re “trying” is good enough. You don’t have to get into all the gory details about positions and ovulating and all that other good stuff. Refrain from dirty jokes, too. And I also think it goes without saying that no nookie on her childhood bed, either.
Communication is the simplest way to get everything you want out of life. Well, not counting winning the lottery. Anyway. Let’s say that you hate how your in-laws feed your kids ice cream when you have a “no sugar policy” (you, loon). Or maybe you don’t like how they insist upon hosting Thanksgiving each year. Well, guess what? They’re not mind readers, so you’re gonna have to speak up and voice your concerns because festering anger is never a good scene. Having an open dialogue with your in-laws will not only lessen resentment, but it will also encourage a friendly, respectful connection. One which, hopefully, will last for many years.
Brianne Hogan is a freelance writer based in Toronto, something of a humorist, and considers herself more Bridget Jones than Samantha Jones. Though she won’t reveal which parts, she will admit to liking emotionally unavailable men and drinking lots of wine. You can follow her on Twitter @briannehogan.