Everyone knows the stereotype of the terrible, overbearing in-laws – and everyone believes they'll definitely avoid this ball. Above all, if you only have a relationship and you think you are far from marrying, the concept of dealing with the family of a significant partner appears as a vague, unimportant problem. But almost everyone in a committed relationship will tell you that someday you'll have to deal with it, and things will be much better when you're prepared.
A study of married heterosexual couples over the age of 16 showed that women who had close relationships early with their parents-in-law divorced while men with close relationships with their parents-in-law reported less were divorced. That is confusing! But we think it's important to build up a good but not suffocating rapport with bae's lineage immediately.
How do you do that? You could follow the mistakes of your own parents (eg, my mother's advice, "marry an orphan!") Or imagine yourself in Constance Wus or Ben Stiller's shoes. To be a little more helpful, we have approached some therapists and dating experts with some sage tips before meeting the parents for the first time.
. 1 Start with only two of you.
Before this first meeting, most experts said they were sitting a little bit with their partner. It's important to find out how close the other person's family is to you and your family and how close they want to be.
"Discuss both your families and the boundaries that may need to be placed over the Internet," says Sarah Epstein, a marriage and family therapist who practices at the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. "Families have different thresholds for their participation in the lives of adult children, and what type of information is shared (about jobs, relationships, money, etc.)."
. 2 Ask yourself the hard questions.
"Cultural differences can affect our family – Western norms are more individualistic, while Eastern values are more family-oriented – but these conversations can be tense but fruitful," says Jess O & # 39; Reilly, Phoglio, Astroglides Sexologist. She suggests asking what role your partner's parents and siblings play in their lives, how happy they are with these relationships, how they handle conflicts in their families, whether they want to live close to them, and what financial relationships they have "Maybe you should talk to each other."
"It's always best to talk about conflict over conflicting issues," adds O 'Reilly, "because you're more rational and empathetic when you're not physiologically flooded (your heart, breath.) And blood pressure rates rise when you are angry. "
3. Think about the rules of the game.
Although your partner's family does not come with a manual, you would like to be briefed on what should be hypothetical.
"The most important thing to remember is that each family has its own unwritten norms and rules," says family and wedding therapist Abigail Thompson. "Even if you get along well with your partner, these rules will come into play when their families enter the picture, they will not tell you and they will not consciously think about it, but they expect you in a certain way communicate and respond to complaints (or not) in a particular way, so if you try to deal with them the way you know it with your parents, it will not work with your parents-in-law. "
4. Plan short and sweet, early meetings.
"If possible, the first visits to your partner's family should take no more than one hour to two hours," said cast member and relationship columnist Kevin Darne. "Your buddy should set expectations before visiting his family, casually mentioning that you have two other commitments, and it's always a good idea to wish for more on those first visits." Your partner should also plan to stay by your side during this meeting so you feel well supported everywhere, says Darne.
. 5 Be yourself – with limits.
"In the early stages, it's important to let your authentic self shine through while being polite, friendly, and thoughtful," says clinical psychologist Jeff Nalin, Psy.D. "Since this is an adjustment period for everyone, it's helpful to show appreciation for their hospitality and to get to know them without putting yourself under pressure."
When you get home, says Nalin, you should not give in to the temptation to unload your first impression of your partner. "When your fellow human beings complain or complain about their family, you remain neutral in understanding," says Nalin. "Listen, but do not judge or talk negatively about it."
. 6 Set these limits.
No matter how good these first meetings are, you need to set your own limits before others do it for you. Do you remember this statement in the beginning about the woman's closeness to her in-laws, who is actually a divorce predicator?
"Soft or highly permeable borders are often the stage for situations that are detrimental," says clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, Ph. D. "Women often strive to be generally very acceptable and willing Strengthen oneself when you meet the family of a significant other person, but it is important to turn away from this behavior and to set clear, respectful boundaries from the beginning, which will allow new relationships to grow on a solid basis. " You also need to contact your partner for this step. It is up to you to determine how much time you want to spend with the other person's families (especially during the holidays) and how much information you want to share about your relationship with them. You may want to try to avoid discussing politics or other sensitive issues. You do not have to have the same rules for both families as long as you agree with this scenario.
. 7 Do you have the back of the other.
"The most important thing is to find that the responsibility for managing this momentum is the partner whose family he is," says marriage and relationship coach Lesli Doares. "It is the person's job to define and enforce the limits that you both decide on.The formality of marriage can facilitate this, but setting clear boundaries should begin as soon as you are a defined couple.The needs of your partner and of Their relationship should, in most cases, take precedence over their family's wishes. "
The latter is more of a drag on many couples, especially if a partner is not independent of their parents, says family and relationship psychotherapist Fran Walfish, Psy .D., Author of The Self-Aware Parent .
"Reasonable separation from the family of origin means that you, the adult child, no longer have your mental memory space occupied (or crammed) with thoughts and worries about what your parents will think," says Walfish. "Your mind is free and free to make room for a new intimate partner."
. 8 Rise above the verdict.
Despite all your homework on borders, you can not control the fact that some people, even your beloved's parents, will be rude and judgmental. All you can control is how you react to it.
"Ignore the topic they are talking about and say something about being judged," suggests Tara Vossenkemper, a marriage counselor. "Simple but not easy If a brother in law makes a joke about your political attitude, your degree or your absence, the money you make or not make, your animals or anything else (or disgusting digs), you can literally say Just say, "Dang, I feel pretty decided right now. I hope that's not the norm. Ha! "
It does three things at the same time, putting an end to the tricky topic of conversation and making your defense obsolete, and also showing that you're not too shy to comment that it turns you into an uncomfortable one Say it with a light tone so that you do not appear as an attack, which justifies it when you attack them (and we want to avoid that), "says Vossenkemper.
9. Tell your partner how you feel.
Although you may not want to defend yourself, it's important to let your partner know how you feel about what you've been told. "Your communication with your partner must not be accusatory or be angry, but share your feelings openly and honestly, "says psychologist Ramani Durvasula, a relationship expert at Tone Networks.
" It may mean keeping the conversation short and focused Do not raise issues that affect your judgment, and if that does not work, you can communicate appropriately and directly with your parents-in-law. These things can fester if they do not change, but at least you are not involved in tacit approval.
10. Be the adult
"If in-laws are difficult, learn to treat them as members of another family whose nasty actions are not worth responding to. Just politely ignore what they are doing or say, and stick to a nice way, "says psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D." Be an adult, whether she is or not. If you have to treat them as inappropriate children, then so be it. Do not let them misbehave. "
11. Do not call her mom and dad if you do not want to.
At the other end of the spectrum are the families who are very anxious to see you in theirs Maybe you are just as happy to call them "mom" and "daddy" or maybe not, then you have to talk to your partner again.
"You may feel the behavior of your family towards you but your partner is very happy about it, "says Ana Jovanovic, clinical psychologist and writer at ParentingPod.com." Instead of focusing on your in-laws' behavior, focus on your needs first – both to your individual needs and as well to your needs as a couple. This is because the measures that aim to meet those needs are more in your control.
12. Meet them on your terms.
Ideally, this means satisfying your needs while giving some space to your partner's family in your life. "Create a meaningful family ritual," says Walfish For example, a monthly dinner or scheduled phone calls and visits if they are not local. "Perform regular merge with continuity. If you keep it regular, give each family member something to look forward to. Do it regularly enough to feel good and not so often as to make you feel suffocated. "Rojas Weiss lives in Brooklyn, surrounded by freelance writers and knowledgeable pushchairs, working on Refinery29, Yahoo, MTV News and The views expressed herein are their own and are to be taken with a grain of salt Follow her on Twitter @shalapitcher.