Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Why having in-laws is so hard.

Let me start by saying that I probably have the best in-laws in existence. And that's not an exaggeration. They're kind, generous, supportive, forgiving, and understanding. They're always there for my family, but they're never demanding. They see me as their own daughter. 

But all the same, getting used to having in-laws is a strange, uncomfortable experience.

I didn't expect that. Before I got married, I thought I would be the perfect daughter-in-law. I would call my in-laws "Mom" and "Dad." I would take their quirks in stride. I would be totally angelic. 

Yeah. You can see the problem here. 

First of all, it's kind of weird to try to treat people like they're you're parents when in actuality, you hardly know them. I think I saw my parents-in-law-to-be twice before I actually got married. Only twice. I've seen a cashier at the grocery store more often than that, and I'm not about to call him "Dad." 

So I suddenly had these people in my life that I was supposed to treat as equal to my own parents, aka the people that I've known intimately since the moment I entered this world. I was supposed to call my mother-in-law all the time in addition to calling my own mom. I was supposed to invite them to stay in my home and try to entertain them. 

(By the way, my in-laws have never actually had these expectations of me. I wanted to do them so I could be an angelic daughter-in-law.)

(Cue laugh track.)

It's just a little weird, no matter how wonderful they are. It's hard to treat someone like family when you haven't spent much time with them. (I'm not the only one who feels this way, am I?) I've been trying my best to do it, and of course it gets easier as I get to know my in-laws better. But I'm always wondering what they're thinking of me. Every time I say a word, I start thinking, "Did that make me sound dumb? Did it make me sound like a bad wife? Do they think I deserve their son?" And it's just a downward spiral. 

I know some people would say, "Don't worry about what your in-laws think. All that matters is that your husband loves you." That's true, but I mean, they are my husband's parents. He cares what they think. And they're pretty much in my life to stay, so I might as well try to start the relationship off on the right foot. 

My in-laws are great people, but when I try to be perfect all the time, it puts a certain strain on our relationship. When my husband and I went to visit last year, after a while my father-in-law asked me, "Are you okay? You've been so quiet the last few days." 

I'm not generally a quiet person. 

But when I'm afraid that everything I say will make someone think less of me, I'm a little less inclined to open my mouth.  

That's not good, y'all. 

(My husband is from the South, by the by.)

It keeps getting easier, the better I get to know my husband's parents. More and more, I'm beginning to honestly feel like they are my parents. I'm lucky to have in-laws who do everything they can to make me feel comfortable. All I have to do now is resolve my own insecurities. 

We're traveling to visit my in-laws soon, and this time I'm doing my best to get it through my head that all I have to do is be myself. Knowing my in-laws, they'll still love me. 

And my husband loves me, so that's all that matters. Right? 

Ha. Ha. Ha. 


  1. Regarding my sons-in-law:
    If they keep my daughters happy I'm happy. That's all that really matters to me.

  2. I've been pondering whether to share my thoughts on this because it's a little uncomfortable to mention, but hey, you started it! My opinion is that in-laws will almost never be the same as your original family, because your relationship with in-laws is conditional and can be dissolved. If it came to a situation where parents-in-law had to choose between their child and their child's spouse, they'd always pick their child (barring any hideous misbehavior on the part of their child). Once grandchildren are involved, your relationship with your in-laws can't be completely severed anymore, but still, your importance to the in-laws is based on ties to their non-in-law family members.

    Here's my own experience: I absolutely adored my mother-in-law. She and I were great friends, we spent lots of time together, and I called her "Mom" with complete comfort. I actually think I had a better relationship with her than Ken did (probably because I'm a woman). Now that she has passed away, I think of her every day because she was such a big part of my life. But she didn't leave any of her estate to me. In fact, her trust had specific language excluding me. It instructed Ken and her other beneficiaries to keep their money in their own names and never mingle it with their spouses' money so their spouses could have no claim on it. I was a little hurt by that - didn't she think of me as a daughter? But honestly, it was wise. I was a good friend to my mother-in-law, but her estate was for her family. My family benefits were wholly because of my marriage to her son.

    And by the way, Ken didn't follow the advice of the trust. The money is in both our names. But shortly after my mother-in-law died, Ken's sister was betrayed by her husband and wound up getting divorced. I'm glad the trust was so clear that her ex-husband shouldn't have any claim to that money.

    It's not such a bad thing to realize that you're not the same as a daughter to your in-laws. You get to develop a friendship with the benefits of family. That's a great kind of relationship to have!

  3. This is a really tough subject. I absolutely love my in-laws. They have always been there for me just like they would a daughter. I think it's hard for us because my in-laws don't have any daughters. The mother-daughter relationship in particular is so complex and fraught with opportunities for disaster. I feel like I have never been a very good daughter even to my own mother, for many reasons, so it's hard for me sometimes to figure out how to be a daughter to my mother-in-law, and I'm sure she is still figuring out how to mother a daughter! I have stepped out of bounds several times with my in-laws and said too much of what I am thinking, but luckily they are understanding and never give up. They accept all of their daughters-in-law for who we are, and are just glad that we make their sons so happy. ;) (Seriously, my in-laws' sons are a lawyer, a doctor, and engineer, and a teacher, all of which served missions, married in the temple, and have two or more children. They must have done something right! Or they are the luckiest ever.)