Conflict with in laws have been going on for eternity. Some gets resolved, others resulted in bitter disputes even causing the marriage to end between the couple.
The conventional thinking is that in law problems are between the man’s mother and the daughter-in -law but it can happen with the son-in-law and between the men too. In any case, we are all human beings with our own sensitivities, likes and prejudices.
I have encountered at least two situations where the marriages ended because of this family conflict . This is very likely to happen if they stay together under one roof and do not operate as an individual family unit, independent of each other and failing to respect each other .
One friend in her thirties told me that after she got married , her mother in law A was always coming in between to give her two cents worth on everything. The couple could never have privacy to discuss the solution to their problems.
It is not far fetched to say that there was a real case of mother in law B who came into the room to cuddle her son in the night and that really put off the wife. Some mothers forgot to cut off their apron springs so to speak and see their sons as still needing their love and care.
The interference intensified when children came into the picture. Now, the grandchildren were so loved by the grandmother that they could do no wrong. How could the young ones be taught some moral and ethical lessons when needed?
The typical Asian grandmother ( not all )would kick and beat the chair or the floor should the child fall hence the chair takes the blame. When the child grew up, he or she would not take the blame for any wrongdoing.
In another case, mother in law C warned my young friend that she did not want to see her son help in any housework as he was not brought up to do so. Stress simmered and with time, the marriage ended. Her expectation was that the wife should serve him and not turn him into a part time housewife.
Such parochial thinking but it happens often in Asian families where the woman is expected to be subservient and the man rules the house. In some Asian families, the males continue to stay with the parents even until late adulthood, not picking up personal responsibilities.
So one can imagine that in today’s world if the woman is also working, she would have to shoulder additional burden, that of work and housework and children as well as old folks. Even if there is a domestic helper, it is always handy to have a trained hubby to chip in as helpers do not stay with the family forever and they come with different abilities and may pose another challenge. All said, everyone should try to be useful.
There are cases of uncaring daughters in law or sons in law too. Having had comfortable lives in their own homes, they were not aware that getting married is a whole load of responsibilities and challenges. Being aware of this and doing what is dutiful and right would lead to a very cordial and happy relationship with the in laws.
So , how does one navigate this tricky affair? I guess we could approach from the perspective of the young couple and then the in-laws.
From the young couple ;
If feasible, it is best to stay on your own but with the respect and blessings of your in laws- as the saying goes, absence makes the hearts fonder.
The less contact you have, the less friction there will be. You could also always stay near your in-laws. I have seen much potential problems averted by smart in-laws who know not to butt into another family’s business. Unless help is requested .
1 Be wise — Always be polite and considerate. Even if you get caught up by work, make time to visit your inlaws, buy a little gift, share a little joke. This will strengthen the ties with them overtime.
2 Be positive– not every suggestion by your in law is an interference. Some points are valid. Acknowledge them , adopt them and thank them for it. Your in laws have more life experiences and can see the forest more than trees. They usually meant good especially when their own son’s or daughter’s welfare is involved.
3 keep your lines of communication open with your spouse. Don’t bear grudges. Discuss with your other half any issue amicably without criticizing his or her parents. If your in law has a less than ideal suggestion, thank her anyway and let her know that you would be trying your own way first. At least he or she would know that you are listening to him or her. Never bicker with your spouse in front of them or it would invite their interception.
From the parents who become in laws
1 Stop interfering in the matters of younger people and let them sort out themselves. The worst thing is to take sides and create more enemies. Be mindful that they are already adults who can solve their own problems.
2 Don’t nag about anything. Young working couple has stress of work as well as adjustment to a marriage and if there have kids, the situation may become more challenging. Offer help when and where they are needed. Give advice when requested.
3 Live by example. Be the role model parents that the young couple aspire to be. It is indeed heartening to see our parents always loving and get along well. This would encourage them to put in effort in their relationship too.
4 Shower love and respect. If you tend to hug your son or daughter, don’t forget to show some affection to his or her spouse too. Respect their wishes, dreams and hopes and expect the same from them.
Peace and harmony will prevail in any family if people make it a point to see and do things with the other party in consideration. The steps listed above would work wonders for the relationship with your in-laws.