“My in-laws hate me.” You probably have great reasons for this lament, but the truth is, very few men have in-laws who actually despise them. More likely, you’re dealing with some deep core differences with your wife or significant other’s parents. Here are a few common reasons your in-laws may balk at your presence.
You are the “Other” Man in her Life
Remember, your partner is also their daughter. Your in-laws raised her for eighteen to twenty-one years. In many ways, marrying you is the biggest and farthest-reaching decision she has made, often largely without their input. Many in-laws have a visceral negative reaction to this, even if they’re good at hiding it. Your in-laws may fear you are “stealing” their daughter, especially if the two of you have moved far from them. They may also fear your influence, or accuse you of changing her for the worse. To avoid this, spend as much time with your in-laws as possible in a non-confrontational manner. Drop by for a visit, email frequently, or Skype. Invite the in-laws out for activities you all enjoy, and discuss each other’s positive traits.
Major Personality Differences
So, when the in-laws visit, you feel as though you have to talk constantly to fill the silence. Or you get excited about everything while they seem cold and unemotional. What seems like coldness and lack of interest is probably a personality difference. In addition, your partner may well have absorbed some of the traits that you find less than desirable in her parents. Talk to your partner, and your in-laws, about your basic personality, needs, and wants. You can even agree to take a personality inventory for fun.
Differences in Core Beliefs
Some couples marry knowing that they have vastly different beliefs in terms of religion, politics, finances, or the way to raise children. The couple may have made peace with this, but the in-laws might be a different story. This often causes hostility between the couple and one or both parent sets. Therefore, it’s essential to discuss how this subject will be approached before it comes up. For instance, let’s say you are Catholic and your partner is Protestant, or you are Jewish and your partner is Christian. If you have decided to give the kids exposure to both faiths, explain to the in-laws exactly how you’ll do so (taking Mass on Sundays and going to a Protestant service on Wednesdays, for example). If you have decided to raise the kids in only one faith, stress this is a mutual agreement and does not make one religion “better”–one faith is just particularly suited to your lifestyle.
Similar problems can crop up with other issues, but may be more difficult to handle. For example, if you want to be relaxed about discipline, but your in-laws are authoritarian, they may worry that the kids will grow up spoiled. It’s crucial not to bash your in-laws’ parenting style. Simply say, “We appreciate your input and will seek it often as we raise children, but we need space to be parents on our own.”
Sometimes, it can seem as if your in-laws despise you. The truth is, though, they rarely do. They may simply be uncomfortable around your beliefs, personality, or position in their daughter’s life. With tips like these, though, you can help assure greater family harmony.