To hell with hurtful in-laws

by Sunday News Online | Sunday, Mar 11, 2018 | 400 views

in-laws

Nhlalwenhle Ncube

IT has always been said that when you fall in love with someone and get married, you are left with no option but to love all his family members including dogs and cats!

It has proved not to be an easy thing to do and if not handled carefully you find some people having to divorce their partners because of sour relations they have with other family members, especially their spouse’s parents.

Some have suffered heartbreaks, not that they were disappointed by their partners, but the hurtful in-laws who choose to make the ‘‘new’’ family member’s life to be hell on earth. This does not only apply to women only, but even men have had the same challenges especially when they are not that much financially stable.

You find out that no matter how hard one tries, he/she always gets negative comments and even when they go an extra mile in just trying to please the family, nothing changes.

The heart then closes them out and when that happens it gets to affect the marriage. Unfortunately when all this is happening, the other party is always positive that one day things will get to be fine as only a few can sacrifice their family relations for a partner.

It then begins to strain the relationship and when it has taken away your happiness, walking out becomes the only option.

I have always believed in what Shakespeare said thousands of years ago as his advice still holds today: “Don’t try to remake yourself into the person your in-laws want.” In every family there are different characters, so the minute you try to change, you will be sacrificing your happiness and you will never be able to meet everyone’s expectations. At the end of the day you will find yourself with different names in the family as you will be referred to as a chameleon and a person without principles.

I have realised that those who have won the battle with their in-laws are those ones who never changed their characters and only stuck to what they believed in. After many years, that becomes a compliment. As long as you have good habits, no need to change, but they are the ones who are supposed to adapt and reform.

The thing is that a tense relationship with in-laws is a tense relationship. Only you know the reality of your feelings. Even when you tell your partner, he/she is bound not to understand. While your spouse can work as a diplomat to smooth things over between you, he or she can’t dictate how your in-laws’ actions or words make you feel.

If your in-laws hate you or you just don’t feel that close to them or there is lingering bad blood from arguments from now and again, never give up on your marriage, but keeping them at arm’s length could be the best thing to do.

The biggest challenge when it comes to having a good relationship with in-laws is creating it, because the relationship you have already established with your significant other, who is their child, gets in the way.

That’s because from an in-law’s perspective, there are things that need to be challenged. Yes, that means your in-laws are testing you. And you feel it.

From a parent-in-law’s perspective, they must ask questions such as, “Will this person love and support and care for my son or daughter in the right way? Will my own status in the family be threatened or will my relationship with my own child have to change?” With such questions, some in-laws get to lose it, generally becoming bitter.

So the relationship suddenly feels like a competition and any chance of a healthy relationship with your in-laws can feel doomed. But by knowing this, you can turn it around before it heads south. Getting your relationship with your in-laws to a healthy place requires knowing (and acknowledging), that all in-law relationships are rooted in competition.

It then becomes your job to turn competition into collaboration if you don’t want to hate your in-laws. You should then become honest and show interest in learning who your in-laws are and what you can learn from them, the most important thing you can do to keep your relationship with them in line is to establish boundaries.

As it turns out, in-laws don’t need to feel included on everything as long as they don’t feel excluded from anything. Keep in mind that a parent’s biggest fear is exclusion from a valued relationship with his or her child. Sometimes people who feel under threat behave badly, so the best approach is to offer reassurance of continuing connection in the context of setting boundaries.

Not everyone is going to look forward to interacting with in-laws, but the hope is that you never have to dread it. So if encouraging closeness and seeking opportunities to bond is not your thing, the least you can do is not make it worse. Anyway, it is impossible to ignore your in-laws’ wishes and needs completely and at the same time making your partner choose between you and his parents!

It is better to create boundaries for the hateful in-laws and never allow them to break your relationship and take away your happiness. As long as you are in good books with that one person who matters most in your life then the rest come second and they should know that they will never win the battle.

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