Recently Ashley and I had two fantastic weekends with our parents: one weekend with my parents, one weekend with her parents. For our weekend with my parents, we were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. We met them in the central California coast area and spent the weekend sightseeing, wine tasting, and eating some good food. For our weekend with Ashley’s parents, they came out to visit, and we spent the weekend sightseeing in Hollywood, running around Newport Beach, and eating at some great restaurants. They were two incredible weekends with our families that we will always remember.
After Ashley’s parents left she was a bit sad from their departure. She turned to me and said, “Thank you for loving my parents; it’s one of the best things you can do for me.” It was another reminder of how important it is to truly care for your spouse’s family.
Everyone has varying opinions about their in-laws. Some people have had great experiences with those relationships while others have had disastrous encounters. While everyone’s spouse/in-law relationship is different, one constant remains: it is important to love and care for your spouse’s family.
The general consensus of in-laws seems to be negative. It’s an intriguing phenomenon. Your spouse, the most important person in your life and the one that you love the most, was likely most heavily influenced by their parents. Many of the things you love about them and most of the traits you married them for came directly from their parents and family. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not a carbon copy of their parents/family. I’m sure not everything came directly from them; however, a large portion of the core of who your spouse is came from their family of origin. Why then is the general consensus about in-laws so negative?
Perhaps the reason lies in that it’s easier to see and be frustrated with flaws that came from his/her parents. You know your spouse better than anyone which includes being intimately aware of their flaws. Maybe it’s for that reason it is just easier to sweep all the good stuff under the rug and focus on the bad. Possibly you’ve had a run-in with one of your spouse’s parents or family members, and that struggle has left a bitter taste in your mouth. Then again, it could be that every family does things differently.
Our upbringing is so naturally ingrained in us that we feel like our reality is “the” reality and anything outside of that seems wrong. Therefore, we interpret different parenting as incorrect. I stand amazed at the simplest of house chores that Ash and I handle entirely differently. “Why don’t you just do it like this?” I say, as if there is no other logical way on the planet it can be done. Maybe those differences create a vortex of frustrations that leave you with negative feelings about your in-laws. It’s very easy to get swept away in the ocean of differences and before you know it, the in-laws are in the crosshairs of your intense frustrations.
To add to all of that, there are many complex and difficult in-law/family issues out there. Some in-laws are overly-involved, some are under-involved, some are extremely dysfunctional, some are tremendously needy, some have anger issues, financial issues, health issues, political issues, differing personalities … on and on it goes. I guess when you think about it, it’s not difficult to understand why the relationship with your spouse’s loved ones is such a hot button topic.
Yet through all that consider this: your in-laws are people too. They have their own hurts, frustrations, failures, and letdowns. They don’t always know the right thing to do. Just as much as you are wrestling with your relationship with them, they may be wrestling with their relationship with you. You may be convinced that your in-laws sole purpose in life is to make you miserable, manipulate you, or hurt you. Regardless, you are in control of your own actions and can choose to love your spouse through loving their family. The point is to get beyond your comfort zone, express love to them, and appreciate them for their positive traits.
Boundaries play an important role in creating a successful relationship with your spouse’s family. You and your spouse must come up with a system that works for both of you, and make sure that you are on the same page. You must have difficult, honest, and sometimes emotional conversations with your spouse about your family. Don’t be afraid to discuss your family’s weaknesses. In fact, this creates intimacy between you and your spouse. After thoroughly discussing your family (actually, it’s more of an ongoing topic), come to a compromise and set boundaries together, and then work within those boundaries to express love to your spouse’s family.
Your in-laws have played a significant role in developing the person you love. They have had a direct and lasting impact on your spouse’s life and, therefore, on your life. They’re not perfect, but they do love their child and they do love you. Work to see the positive in them. Don’t get whisked away by negativity and frustration. Get outside your comfort area and love your spouse’s family like you love your own family. After all, they are your own family.
The weekend celebrating my parents’ 40th anniversary on the central California coast was fantastic. Some of my favorite memories are of Ash laughing with, loving, and enjoying spending time with my mom and dad. She expressed love to them and that’s one of the best ways she can love me.