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Personal Interests & Expectations

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In-laws in Marriage - Friends or Foes?

Answer the following questions with your partner regarding the relationship each of you has with your in-laws. These questions will help you determine whether you think of your in-laws more as friends or as foes. If your relationship with your in-laws is not good, some ideas to improve in-law relationships are offered.

  1. Rank the following people as to their likelihood of being problematic in your relationship with your partner.
    ___ Father in-law
    ___ Mother in-law
    ___ Sister in-law
    ___ Brother in-law
  2. Which in-law is most likely to take the brunt of most in-law jokes?
  3. Who usually tells the in-law jokes?
  4. Which mother-in-law is most likely to be problematic?
  5. Which father-in-law is most likely to be problematic?
  6. What title do you address your in-laws by?
  7. Are you satisfied with your in-law relationships? Why or why not?
  8. Who is the most critical of the other generation, you and your partner or your parents/in-laws?
  9. Which set of in-laws are most likely to give you aid or any kind of help?
  10. Which "mother" is most likely to be asked for child rearing advice?
  11. Which "mother" is most likely to give child rearing advice?
  12. What would your reaction be if part of the marriage ceremony contained the words, "I take this woman/man to be my lawful daughter-in-law/son-in-law/mother-in-law/father-in-law to honor and cherish, until death do us part?
  13. In the later years of life, are you likely to become caregivers of your parents/in-laws? If so, what will that be like for your relationship?
  14. If an elderly parent/in-law needs to live with your family, which of your elderly parents/in-laws would likely be the least stressful to have living with you?

Tips for Building a Healthy Relationship with Your In-laws

  • Seek Approval . If you aren't yet married, seek the approval of your parents and your partner's parents for your marriage. If you have their approval, you're also more likely to have their long-term support.
  • Know What to Call Them . Ask your in-laws what they would like you to call them. Some might prefer that you call them "Mom and Dad" but others might prefer you call them by their first name. Finding this out will help you feel more comfortable with one another.
  • Get Your Own Place . Some couples, for one reason or another, decide to start their married lives together by living with one set of parents or the other. This rarely works out well. It will be difficult for you and the parents with whom you are living. Having your own place is a crucial step towards independence and marital happiness.
  • Be Independent Together . Many religious leaders and religious texts teach that when a man and a woman marry it is good for them to "cleave unto one another and none else." Although this may primarily be in reference to avoiding relationships that could lead to infidelity, I think it also has reference to the parent-child relationship as well. You and your partner should make your own decisions regarding schooling, finances, children, employment, etc. Asking your parents or in-laws for advice is okay, but make sure you and your partner make the final decision together.
  • Set Boundaries Together . When you get married it is a good idea for you and your partner to set boundaries so that both sets of in-laws are clear about your time and privacy limits. This may involve a discussion of how often and how long you visit each others family, whether it is okay for them to drop by your home unannounced, whether weekly family dinners together are too much, etc. Politely letting your parents and in-laws know how you feel will help them to know when and how often they are welcome in your new home.
  • Share Some Activities . Identify some social and/or recreational activities that both you and your in-laws enjoy. Doing some things with your in-laws will help you to get to know them better and feel more comfortable with them.
  • Serve and Thank Them . We usually grow to like people that we serve and they grow to like us. Do something to serve your in-laws and be sure to thank them for anything they do for you, including being the parents of the partner you love.
  • Avoid Financial Puppetry . Remember that financial support from in-laws often has some strings attached and you may end up feeling like they're using those strings to manipulate you. Know what strings, if any, are attached to their support and abide by those expectations or don't accept the money to begin with.
  • Don't Try to Change Them . Remember that you cannot change your in-laws (or your new partner for that matter). Try to learn to live with them as they are and look for their positive attributes.
  • Don't Tell In-law Jokes . Putting your in-laws down will not help strengthen your relationship with them (or your partner) in any way and the things you say may get back to them. Refer to your in-laws in positive ways.

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, December 06). Personal Interests & Expectations. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License