In-law relationships have a reputation for being difficult to deal with. Pop culture would lead you to believe that your future mother in law and father in law are innately out to get you and hoping for the failure of your relationship. But actually, plenty of people have a loving and healthy relationship with their spouse’s loved ones. If everything works out as hoped, marriage means you’ll end up gaining an extended family of your own. The phenomenon of having “a village” who supports you makes everything from child rearing to visiting during the holidays that much easier. It’s totally understandable that you want your in-laws to love you as much as your spouse does.
Being in a same-sex relationship can bring forth its own challenges when it comes to the approval of family members. If someone doesn’t accept your relationship simply because you’re dating someone of the same sex or gender, you have every right to feel frustrated, upset or angry. In this day and age, it’s unfathomable that someone would hold such beliefs, but as members of the LGBTQ+ community know all too well, homophobia is far from eradicated in America and across the globe. We’ll cover how to approach family members who fall into these circumstances, too. (But if you don’t want to read further, just know that cutting them off is completely appropriate.)
Thanks to technology, connecting with your in-laws is always feasible, even from a distance. We’ll go over our trustiest tips for making FaceTime and phone calls something that doesn’t have to be awkward or disconnected. Whether your in-laws are down the street or across the world, these tips will help you win them over in a heartbeat.
Maybe you’ve been seeing your man’s family for years, or maybe you haven’t even met them yet. Either way, a formal get-together to introduce each other or get reacquainted is always a good idea. You might feel more comfortable hosting, as having folks “on your turf” allows you to control the amount of time spent around each other and the setting. You can also wow them with your cooking skills, if that’s your thing.
As an aside, including your own parents or other important members of your own family in the event might be a way to feed two birds with one scone. By combining family events, your spouse can spend time with your immediate family too, and both sides of the couple will get a chance to get to know each other. Forming these connections can make you and your spouse feel mutually closer to your respective in-laws.
Want to kick it up a notch? Suggest cooking the meal together! Accomplishing a shared task can be a wonderful way to break some of the tension and awkwardness that can come with meeting new people. DIY pizza night or a potluck are both great options if you’re not sure where to start and want to make something everyone will enjoy.
Your in-laws should love you for who you are, of course, but a little schmoozing never hurt anybody. When you’re nervous, it can be easy to tense up and turn into someone you don’t recognize. (Don’t worry, it’s normal!) You might be tempted to crawl into your shell and withdraw from conversation, but approaching your in-laws with warmth and politeness is essential. And don’t worry – it’s pretty easy to approach a conversation with unfamiliar people if you know a few tricks and practice them ahead of time. If you’re not sure what to say, here are some tips:
It’s not always realistic to spend time with your in-laws in person. You might live on opposite sides of the country (or world!) which can limit visits to holidays and momentous occasions. Even if you can’t make it to Sunday dinner every week, there are other methods of communication that go a long way in contributing to meaningful connections. In today’s highly digital age, communicating through technology has never been easier. Thanks to laptops, smartphones, social media, email, and other modern means, you can video and audio chat for free virtually anywhere in the world.
Navigating your in-laws disapproval of your relationship solely because you’re a same-sex couple is profoundly difficult. We can’t tell you exactly what the right way to handle it is, as a suitable response depends on your unique situation and relationship with your spouse’s family. In general, an honest conversation (or letter, or email, or text) in which your feelings are discussed can be a good place to start. If your in-laws are not receptive, you can continue to try to change their hearts, or you can take temporary or permanent space from them.
Maryellen Mullin, therapist at San Francisco Family Therapy, suggests “When you get stuck, consult a couples or family therapist together. And always make sure, harmful behavior is addressed, and that your partner is supportive of you, regardless of what their parents’ acceptance of you turns out to be.”
Whatever you choose to do, remember that your relationship is valid and worthwhile. You aren’t obligated to retain a relationship with someone in your life just because they’re biologically related to you. Keep your network of support close, don’t be afraid to establish boundaries, and discuss what you’re dealing with to a trusted friend or professional.
Getting your in-laws to see you for the amazing person you are isn’t always easy. With these tips, you’re well on your way to stealing their hearts. Through hosting, bridging the distance through technology, and communicating honestly and openly, a meaningful relationship with your partner’s family is more likely to be formed. For more advice make sure to check out our Groom Hacks page for top groom tips.