Building Genuine Relationships With In-laws

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You haven't said or done anything yet but for some reason, they do not like you! That's right. You worked you butt off to get the girl of your dreams and your relationship status has been upgraded, however, you now face a new challenge. Her parents. Your potential in-law has their backs up from the get go (rightly so) but this is where you are required to show what you're made of. See it from their viewpoint. You may become a regular attendee at their family events. They may have to introduce you to their friends as their daughter husband... their son-in-law. You could even become the father of their grandchildren. This is a big deal for them. If your family's circle joins into their family's circle, they'll form a chain and in the words of Robert De Niro "you can't have a chink in the chain." Her parents ultimately want to make sure that you are worthy of having their daughter and they need to make sure that you're not the chink in their chain. Now that you've been armed with that background information lets look at a few tips to ensure you're winning them over the in-laws by being proactive in building a solid genuine relationship with them.

 

Be Interested 

I can't claim to of had a 'bad relationship' with my in-laws however there were some walls that needed to be broken down in order to create a more conducive environment to build a better relationship than we first had.  To be completely honest when I first met my then future mother-in-law, I wasn't as ‘clued up’ or as confident as I am today. My lack of self-confidence allowed her lack of interest to leave me feeling like a dear in headlights. I was usually loved by previous girlfriends parents so this was a first for me. For the first time in my life, someone’s mother did not instantly take a liking to me and boy was that a shock to my system. At that time I couldn't find common topics of discussion that I could share with her so conversation was awkward at first. Thankfully, I now have many shared interests with my mother-in-law, however, I know how hard the process can be to get to this place.  

My father has always spoken highly of a book called "how to win friends and influence people" by Dale Carnegie who said, "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” With this in mind, I would like to think that the same rule applies for our in-laws also. Spend time with them socially and get acquainted with them as people. Find out what they're interested in and take it from there.  It may be sports, politics, TV  or even religion... whatever it is, use that as a place to start from to get them engaged in a conversation with you. Failing that you can always talk about something that you are guaranteed to have an invested interest in... the woman you're with. Keep in mind that the worst thing you could do is get them to invest their time by having a conversation with you for you to neglect the importance of retaining the information that they share with you. The retention of this information is all part of the "Being Interested" process. If your in-laws have to keep on telling you the same stories, same likes and dislikes or simply regurgitate the same conversations with you every time you meet then it shows a lack of progression and displays lack of interest as you have not been able to retain parts of their life that they have openly shared with you. Stop trying to be interesting and start being interested. 

 

Be Thick Skinned

I shared in a recent podcast recorded with my Lost and Found bros that for a long while before I was married I didn't know what to call my wife's mother. I would have thoughts like:  

  • Do I jump the gun and call her mum? No! Way to forward!  
  • Do I call her by her first name, Sonia? No way! My parents brought me up to call my friends parents and other elders by their surname as a sign of respect.  
  • "….Miss?" No! It's not school!  

I'm not sure that anyone will be able to relate to my unique dilemma.  

I asked my wife "what I should call her mother" and in an attempt to be as difficult as she could be her answer was the same every time! "Ask her yourself!" (The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree) So one day, out of the blue I grew a pair and just asked her.  

"I've been trying to find ways around this for a while but I really need to know how you would like me to address you?" 

 I'm thinking, "Man! You nailed that Gene! You were confident, strong, and now this hurdle is over with!" How wrong was I?! My then girlfriend's mother responded with, and I quote... "Princes Sonia!" 

Was my future mother-in-law being extremely difficult? 100%.  But in my simple process of finding out how to address her, I was able to discover that I would have to be thick skinned because my true intentions were about to be tested and not because she didn't like me, but, because she didn't know the man who was looking to be more than just friends with her daughter. Some of the things that she did during my pursuit of her daughter did not make much sense to me at the time, however, on reflection I see that it was her job to find out who I really was and in that process her words may be harsh, stern among other things but having thick skin would see me through the process. Being thick skinned proves to her parents that if you can  

 

Be The Optimist  

It's hard to remain positive and have hope for a fruitful relationship when your in-laws only ever display a resistance to moving forward together, however, it's important that you hang in there. There is a famous quote that says "Enthusiasm is contagious and so is the lack of it." This principle can also be applied to a positive mindset. It's the battle of positive VS negative and one way or another there has to be a winner. Either you win the in-laws over by remaining positive or their cold shoulder pulls you over to have a negative perspective on the relationship with them. Remember that any negative feelings your in-laws may have towards you are merely temporary. Don’t let temporary feelings derail your positivity. Most parents will intentionally put you through the mill and give you a hard time just to see if you have what it takes. So be the optimist! My mother-in-law put me through it when I expressed an interest in her daughter, but, I won her over in the end. Just got to be optimistic that all that hard work will pay off in the long run. 

 

Be Consistent

Consistency is a great trait to have and is one that we should all be consistently working on cultivating regardless of our relationship status. In many areas of our life, it's deemed as the number one strategy for achieving anything goal. So whether it's your body, business, spirituality, relationships and even connecting with the in-laws, our consistency trumps all. It establishes our reputation and maintains our key message. Hopefully, that message is a message of trust, love and protection for their daughter. Being realistic is also key because the reality is that you're probably not going to be able to be consistent 100% of the time. We are human so you need to be okay with making mistakes and occasionally getting lax about your consistent habits. When we learn to be consistent in whatever we do when are then able to build trust and confidence because people can vouch for what we do consistently. If we are consistently working towards building a better relationship with the in-laws and are consistently working in the best interest of their daughter then it will help build a stronger connection between you and your partner's parents.  

 

Be Authentic

I have found that being who we are is one of the only things we are guaranteed to do with any true level of consistency. It's our default setting, however, in a world where we're often liked based on a social façade, authenticity can be swallowed by our innate desire to be accepted and belong. If you are not your authentic self from the get-go and pretend to be something or someone you're not, well, you're going to be in for a tough ride trying to keep it up. When we are not true to who we are what we're actually saying is that the real me is not good enough for anyone to get to know. Lying about who we are, ultimately denies our future in-laws the chance to come to accept us for who we are. Our Lies change, but the truth doesn’t. Keep in mind that a good parents job is to test the character of any potential candidate looking to sweep their daughter away. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to keep up the appearances. If your actions do not line up with the things you say then there will be a visible display of your inconsistency and inauthentic nature. Be authentic and give her parents the opportunity to like you for who you are... or not (be prepared for that bombshell too. Lol!). 

 

This article heavily leans towards presenting the benefits from or a parent's perspective, however, "winning" parents over has massive benefits for us men too. A psychologist and research professor; Terri Orbuch started her study in 1986 and found that men who have close relationships with their wife's parents decrease the risk of divorce in their own marriage by 20%. Now I'm no gambling man but those odds are worth making an effort for.  

What special efforts have you made in order to forge a relationship and win an in-law? Leave your comment below and share this article with a friend!.

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