The 10 Commandments of In-Laws Weather any storm the in-laws bring to your marriage with these commandments. BY DIANE GOTTSMAN
Your in-laws are family not enemies.
In-laws—everyone has them, and there are numerous stories and jokes about how terrible they can be. But, that doesn’t mean it has to come between you and your spouse. Follow these steps and see why you and the in-laws don’t have to be enemies.
1. Don't automatically consider your in-laws competition. Get rid of the stereotype of the meddling mother (or father) in-law. Consider the in-law that is giving advice or offering help may be doing it because she wants to help rather than "meddle" in your personal affairs. In-laws can be a great source of knowledge and assistance.
2. Don't compare your relationship with your family to your spouse’s relationship with theirs. Accept that all relationships differ, and comparing is not fair or healthy. Learn to love and respect what each family brings to the table and stay away from "who does more" or less.
3. Let your spouse handle their prospective family when an in-law family dispute arises. If there is a problem that needs to be addressed or boundaries that need to be set, discuss it with your family and let him/her discuss it with theirs. You may do it together but only one of you needs to be the "spokesperson" for your own family.
4. Make your own family rituals and be clear with your in-laws with what they can and cannot expect from you. If you are interested in having your own time together during the holidays, for example, let the in-laws know well in advance so they will not have hurt feelings or unexpected let downs.
5. Don't try and compete with former spouses. If your spouse has been married before and your in-laws still keep in contact with the ex, for whatever reason, don't make an issue of it. Build your own relationship with your in-laws and refrain from badmouthing the former spouse.
6. Stay out of family politics. If there is a family dispute among siblings or extended family, make every effort not to get involved unless it directly affects you and your family. Don't gossip or take sides—rather, stay neutral. The sister in-law you sided with about your mother in-law today may suddenly become offended when the family squabble with her mother is resolved and all she remembers is all of the ugly things you said about her mother.
7. Don't complain about your spouse to his or her family. You will never convince your mother in-law that her son does not hang the moon or light the sun, or a father-in-law that his daughter is anything other than perfect.
8. Don't criticize the way they care for your children. If you ask them to babysit, understand they are doing you a favor. Much to your surprise, many grandparents would rather be hiking or boating or spending time with friends, rather than chasing around a toddler for a weekend. If they happened to feed your child white bread and you prefer them to have wheat, don't complain or threaten never to bring the child back again. They might oblige you!
9. Give your relationship with your in-laws time to develop and take shape over time. Don't expect miracles immediately. It takes time and effort to build a trusting relationship.
10. Learn how to forgive. Eventually, your in-laws are going to do something that hurts your feelings. Don't harbor ill will, rather bring it to their attention gently by saying "I know you probably didn't mean anything by this, but when you said 'my turkey tasted like old shoe leather,' it hurt my feelings." Your in-laws will appreciate your sincerity and candor in trying to resolve minor issues that may have easily been misinterpreted.
Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert, is the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in etiquette training for corporations, universities and individuals, striving to polish their interpersonal skills. You can reach Diane at 877-490-1077 or www.protocolschooloftexas.com.