Surviving the 'in-laws'
By Siana Scatti
say that when you marry you don't wed your spouse, but rather
your spouse's family and, for many, this extended family brings
a wealth of support, friendships and love.
If you are unlucky, however, in-laws can be the bane of your
If you're out of luck, they can bring about many frosty times
with your partner, who may have vowed to love you forever
- but that's as long as you don't mention Aunt Maude's flatulence
or Uncle Ron's appalling drink-induced jokes.
Heaven forbid that you react badly to your father-in-law's
snide comments about the wondrous house-painting job that
you've spent your entire holiday doing and how he could have
done it better in a third of the time.
And how about the mother-in-law who cannot help herself
and continually gives advice on child-rearing and always adds
the cutting: "You're only making a rod for your own back"
to each gem she offers that is politely declined.
Annoying in-laws put a very bad strain upon a marriage if
your spouse cannot see them through anything but rose-coloured
Remember, however, they have been the loving influence upon
your spouse for their entire lives and, as such, deserve credit
for how your beloved has turned out.
They may be old, meddling fuddy-duddies (in your eyes) but
you have been given the responsibility of making their loved
child, even a 40-year-old, happy and content. That means not
upsetting your partner by ridiculing or being rude to them.
If your in-laws harp on about things not being done the way
they would have done it or to their level of expectation,
don't fire up. They have different attitudes and, when it
comes down to it, only want the best for their offspring.
Stay calm and, if you have to say something, gently suggest
that not everyone thinks along the same lines. But don't buy
into an argument.
While parents-in-law may be the main cause of aggravation,
the brothers and sisters of your spouse can cause upheavals
Petty jealousies that stem from childhood can rear their
ugly heads if one sibling seems to be doing better than another
and woe-betide the family's tallest poppy. The sniping and
back-stabbing can be brutal.
Sisters can be the best of friends, or the worst of rivals,
and no matter how much one moans or criticises the other the
safest option is to keep quiet and find a nice book to read.
Don't buy in to it. Don't get involved. In fact, run away!
Be aware of the situation and don't walk into traps. The
easiest way for a jealous sibling to create trouble is to
get you and your partner rowing over family matters.
Stay wise, stay alert and stay silent. Here are Five Golden
Rule 1: Never Criticise In-laws
Even if your spouse has just had a huge blow-up with one
of them - keep right out of it. Nod, make a cuppa, hold their
hand, but never say anything negative about the offender.
If you are tempted to offer some sensible view of the incident
- don't. Bite your cheek, mash your tongue, but don't say
a word because it will only come back at you in the form of:
"You've never liked my family!"
Rule 2: Always Be Polite
If you happen to pick up the phone and it's one of your loved
one's relatives, it can do no harm to be polite.
After all, a minute's worth of: "How is the weather there?"
"How's young Hermione?" "Fine, thanks" or "And you?" will
make your life considerably easier. The beautiful thing about
the phone is that they cannot see the look on your face as
you talk politely.
Rule 3: Never Compare Families
Just as you must never compare the achievements of one sibling
with another's, you must never mention your family's two doctors,
three lawyers and five masters degrees in the same breath
as your in-laws' one Victorian Certificate of Education pass.
In fact, just don't talk about it.
Rule 4: Never Be Provoked
This is particularly apt during the festive season. No matter
how obnoxious an in-law gets while imbibing Christmas spirit
you must do your utmost to ignore the jibes, snarky comments
and obvious wind-ups.
Christmas and birthdays tend to lead to a lot of family
fights and being in the middle of one can have long-term consequences.
A kebab stick through the palm of the hand will usually have
your mind focused elsewhere and allow you to ride the hassles.
Rule 5: Avoid Danger Ground
If get-togethers seem to be on a downward spiral then it
may pay to avoid them. Don't do so in an obvious or provocative
way - that makes things worse than the probable fight ahead
- but find a way to avoid the trip to Sister Hilary's.
It could be right-on-deadline work or a viral contagion
that only lays you low for a few hours.
Hopefully, if you've kept a low profile at the lead-up occasions
then no one will realise you have missed the past five Christmas
Now while this and the preceding four tips may seem a little
spineless, they may just make the visits, holidays or big
occasions just that more bearable. Remember, there are a lot
of people suffering from Inlawitis.