Dealing with the In-Laws

Imagine that your parents had been replaced with near-total strangers—people who may not have the same set of values, interests and manners as you do. Imagine that you have to accord these people the same respect and love that you do to your real parents. Wouldn’t that be very difficult? For many of us, we don’t even have to imagine this—we’re already living it, starting on the day we agreed to marry our partners.

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We may be a little awkward with our in-laws at first, but they often become one of our greatest source of guidance.
Photo courtesy of IrisWave

We surveyed the Perfect Wedding Forum to find the biggest problems Singapore newlyweds face when it comes to their in-laws, and what other members advice to overcome these setbacks. Here they are:

1. Making Yourself Part of the Family

The first challenge of dealing with one’s in-laws is how to make them like you even before you officially become part of their family. Given the special role your in-laws will have on your marriage, it’s very important that you win them over from the start. That takes more than flattery and giving them random gifts.

Jasper advises: “Organise a joint family gathering, like a dinner together at your husband-to-be’s house. Buy small but thoughtful gifts for your future in-laws, such as their favourite food or items for their hobbies. Make an effort to do some family bonding about once a month.”

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Being part of another family is often uneasy but also one of the greatest things that can happen to us.
Photo courtesy of Chris Ling Photography

Apart from that, you can also make your in-laws feel good about you by making them feel important. To do this, give them a call every once in a while to ask how they are and consult them when you have to make any major decision.

2. In-Laws Who Don’t Seem to Like You

So you’ve put your best foot forward, but your in-laws still don’t seem to warm up to you, what do you do then? RosesAreRed asks: “Are there signs to tell if your to-be parents-in-law don’t like you?”

The biggest signs that you haven’t yet caught your in-laws’ affections are that they are being cold or distant, or they seem to outright ignore or avoid you. However, signs are only signs—unless you can confirm their feelings towards you, you shouldn’t jump into conclusions.

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Just because your in-laws aren’t fussing over you, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you.
Photo courtesy of Kinici Photo

Take Rietta’s case for example: “My parents don’t like my brother’s GF but still appear kind and generous to her. But they treated my fiancé very coldly, though they get along very well now. Parents seem to worry more for their daughter than their son.”

If you really want to know how your in-laws feel about you, ask your partner, or better yet, talk to your in-laws directly. Make them see that you mean nothing but the best for your partner and their family.

3. In-Laws Who Clearly Don’t Like You

In one of his sermons, Pope Francis joked, “Even though I don’t have a mother-in-law, I can relate to what it’s like… After all, I am in a constant battle with Satan.”

Member Shan understands that all too well. Among other things, her MIL tried to sabotage her wedding by going against every decision she made, demands her son to prioritize her over his fiancé at all times, and nags about every perceived flaw she finds in her soon-to-be daughter-in-law.

This kind of open hostility is probably the worst problem anyone can have with their in-laws, and our community is a little divided on how to address cases like this.

Some members like Ning suggest ignoring the mother-in-law until she gets tired of pestering the couple, then there are others like Xixi who believe that just letting the villainous MIL have her way means you are the better woman, while others still like Sher reminds that the wedding period may not only be stressful to the couple, but to the future MIL as well, who may think that she is about to lose a son.

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A lot of mothers feel devastated when they “lose” their son to another woman, which is why they may be hostile to their future daughters-in-law.
Photo courtesy of Visio Workz

However, other members like Jasline and Rowena suggest taking a compassionate approach or reacting with kindness, such as by taking the MIL’s “attacks” as constructive criticisms, actually agreeing with her as much as possible, and even having an alone time with her for the two women to bond and come to an understanding.

Brides and wives with similar experiences shouldn’t think that there’s a single solution that would solve every problem. Instead, consider the advices above as different strategies that you can use depending on the situation.

Lastly, always remember that love always trumps hate: the love between you and your partner will trump any MIL’s fear of losing her son, and the love that you foster for her will, eventually, trump any enmity she might have for you.

4. Stay in One Place or Shuttle?

On to the lighter side of things, we have the small problem of couples who don’t have their own homes yet. Mike asks: “Will it be ok if my wife-to-be were to stay alternate days between my parents’ place and her parents’ place?”

Simple answer: if it works for you, then by all means, yes.

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It’s common for Singapore newlyweds to stay with their in-laws until they get their own home.
Photo courtesy of Avior Pictures

The major considerations in this situation are, one, mere practicality and, two, how everyone is adjusting. If her parents’ home is much closer to her workplace, then it’s understandable if she might want to stay with them most nights.

Regarding adjustment, keep in mind that this is often difficult for most people, and in the case of newlyweds, there are at least six people involved. It takes time for anyone to settle in to a new place, or to feel comfortable when a new person starts living with them.

5. MIL Who is Constantly Nagging

Members Belinda and Valerie have the same problem: while they’re still waiting for their homes to finish construction, they have to live with their MILs who have a rather unpleasant behaviour. Says Valerie: “I’m so fed up with my in-laws who keep nagging about everything. I grew up with modern kind of parents, I really cannot stand them nagging all the time.”

Well, dears, as much as we don’t like to say this, but the cardinal rule of hospitality is: Their house, their rules. As long as you live under someone else’s roof, even if you’re the one paying the bills and putting food on the table, it is your duty to obey them—otherwise, find somewhere else to stay.

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Moms are notorious for being naggers. But they may also smother you with love once you endear yourself to them.
Photo courtesy of Chris Ling Photography

This isn’t to say that you’ll just have to silently suffer your MIL’s nagging. Rise above the pressure and try to have a mature discussion with your in-laws. Aim to please and address the reason why your MIL is nagging. Be sweet to your in-laws always and, over time, they’ll be kinder to you. (In fact, there are even some parents who come to favour their daughters- and sons-in-law more than their real children.)

If you really can’t make it work, you can always come back and stay at your parents’ house until your new home is finally finished.

6. “Wah—My In-Laws Are Too Nice!”

One of our members has a unique problem, which is that her future MIL insists on buying an expensive gift for her. Says Yiling: “Not that I don’t want to accept. But now when I know the cost of the gift that she’s going to buy, I felt very paiseh lah.”

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Some people, including mothers-in-law, express their love by giving gifts to their xifu.
Photo courtesy of Ling Jewellery

Many of us would find Yiling’s situation amusing—and, indeed, it quite is—and tell her to just be happy about her situation, as some of our members had done. But for anyone who’s experiencing something similar, having a better understanding of our MIL’s actions could help improve our relationship with her.

Is gift-giving simply her love language? Is she trying to compensate for something? Perhaps, she’s just very happy to finally have a daughter (assuming all her children are male)?

7. Conflicting Interests With In-Laws

Some of us have in-laws who may not be openly hostile but whose interests disagree with our own. Worse, these in-laws may even pretend to be concerned about us when they actually have more selfish intentions.

Take for example the situation of member Katherine: her future MIL, who is a widow, wants Katherine to live with her family in an ulu part of Singapore after the wedding—saying that it would be best for the couple—even when Katherine and her fiancé have already won a ballot for an HDB in a good location.

So should Katherine and her fiancé just get the HDB unit, damn everyone else?

Fellow member Geraline says no. She points that there are probably good reasons behind any person’s actions, and that we may even simply be unaware of the implications of the things we do. In Katherine’s case, her MIL is probably very worried that after her son’s wedding she would be left much more alone in such a distant place. If we were in her place, who among us wouldn’t try to prevent that, right?

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Having a child go away after his or her wedding can be very difficult to parents.
Photo courtesy of Annabel Law Productions

The key in situations like this, as Geraline suggests, is to work something out that considers everyone’s needs and desires and reach a compromise that is beneficial to everyone.

8. In-Laws Who Want Grandkids Already

This problem is pretty similar to the one above, except it’s much more understandable. Relates Casey: “My in-laws want grandchildren as soon as possible because they claim that they don’t have a lot of time left with us. I can’t help but feel extremely pressured into guilt trips because of our differing mind-sets.”

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Grandkids bring a new purpose to the lives of elderly people.
Photo courtesy of Signature Bridal

This can be a really uncomfortable situation, and if not discussed properly, it can be a cause of tension between all parties. If your in-laws pull the “we don’t have a lot of time left” card, tell them (in a jovial yet understanding manner) not to be so pessimistic and make them believe that you do have plans to have children at a time that you think is right.

Don’t sacrifice you dreams or your youth just to please your in-laws, but don’t be so selfish either as to deprive them of the great joy of having grandchildren.

9. In-Laws Who Want to Live With You

Once we have our own home, it’s our in-laws’ turn to stay with us. Occasional visits from them is usually fine, it may even be fun. But how do you deal with in-laws who want to stay permanently? Xixi asks: “My sister-in-law is staying with my family now and it’s getting hard to adjust. Is there any way to make things easier between everyone?”

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Being family means supporting each other in our times of need. In some cases, that means letting them live in our home.
Photo courtesy of Unique Colours Creative Media

In cases like this, there are actually two problems. The first is how to get along with the staying in-law, and members Ning and Lillian advice that we simply treat them as we would our own family – with love and due respect.

The other problem is why the in-law has to live with you in the first place. Solving that means getting your in-law to leave your home and return to theirs. Of course, if any of our family members has nowhere else to stay, whether they’re from your husband’s side of the family or yours, it is our responsibility to take them in.

10. Clashing In-Laws

Sometime, it’s not you against your boyfriend’s/husband’s parents or even him against your parents. Sometimes it’s your parents vs. his parents. But don’t think you can sit this one out, because if you don’t deal with it, you and your partner may end up being the ones fighting.

What you have to keep in mind in situations like this is that our parents usually act in what they think is our best interest. Some parents, perhaps because they love us too much, push others to give us what (they think) is best for us, nevermind what our partner wants to do, much less his parents.

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Not all in-laws get along well with each other. It’s our responsibility to patch things up.
Photo courtesy of Iriswave

To deal with this situation, you and your husband should make both set of parents see that you are now mature individuals capable of making your own decisions. Tell them that while you value their opinions, you will follow what your heart tells you is right.

As member Desiree says, “Ultimately, the decision lies in you and your partner’s hands. Just try to reach a compromise to stop the quarrel.”

As is often said, when we marry someone, our parents become theirs, and their parents become ours too. That’s usually great—if nothing else, it means there are more people to love and support us—but the act of getting along with our in-laws is where we usually falter. To make things easier, treat your in-laws as you would your own parents—love them, respect them, understand them—and soon enough they’ll treat you like their very own child too.

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Photo courtesy of Unique Colours Creative Media

*Names have been changed to maintain our members’ privacy.

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