How to love the in-laws

It was like speed podcasting today. Ed was on a mission as he had to be at a meeting and I had arrived on my bike having left the car to be fitted with a tow bar to take a new bike rack so that we can go cycling in National Trust properties and Delamere forrest. And holidays can be even more exciting. This raised an issue that is connected to todays podcast and blog. The decision was do we get a two-bike carrier for just us two or do we get a bigger one so that when Pam, my mother in law, wants to come with us we can pop her bike on as well. So we decided on a three plus one. So we can take up to four bikes.

This week we had a listener email in and ask us to talk about In Laws and the magic of communication, or miscommunication that can occur when you meet your partners parents. The first thought in my head was the movie ‘Meet the Fockers’. Hey ho… I have heard that many stories about and from in laws in my work. In the comedy theatres they were always full of the mother in law jokes, remember Les Dawson?

In our case Rie does not have the issues of in laws to deal with and I am lucky to have Pam as my mother in law who is fabulous.

When working with couples in relationship therapy the in law issue can be a big one. Two things to consider…

…when you have a relationship with someone it is never with just them alone they come with baggage. That might actually mean kids from previous relationships, siblings, parents, extended family and so on. When we take someone on as a partner we are taking on their family as well. It is so good when everyone gets along and has good relationships. Ed is in a magic position in that both sets of in laws get on so well that they spend time together. It is great to attend their family get togethers and to see and feel everyone getting on so well.

However this is not always the case and I deal with a multitude of issues with couples that come from the way that they were brought up in their natal family. Often there is an in law mismatch. This can be based in race, colour and ethnicity, in class or caste, in perceived intellectual or status positions and differences, financial or the Mrs Bucket based snobbery.

Are you gaining a son or losing a daughter?

When your child meets another person they also meet another family. How do you feel if they chose to spend more time with them than they do with you? Do you feel that you have gained another child into your life who is enhancing your family? Or does it feel that you have just lost your child to the other family?

Different cultures and religions will have prescribed ideas as to how and what happens once children get married. Often the two family cultures and ideas do not mix and the ‘other’ family can be seen as the enemy rather than friends.

Do we become our parents?

Take a good look at your partner parents. The chances are that your partner will become more like their parents over time. When I was young I was always told to look at a girls mum because that was what she would end up like. I guess that she could just as easily ended up just like her dad. I reckon that when it comes to our parents that we either end up just like or reject it all and become the opposite.

More importantly it is becoming aware of the values and ideas of the other family and deciding if they match with yours. People come to grief over differences in ideas about money, parenting, fidelity and friendships, in fact all those things that we might do feel or believe differently to our partner and our partner’s family and that might include politics and religion.

It is all to do with families and in laws are our family. We have just taken them on with our partner. It is not so much ‘love me love my dog’, as ‘love me love my parents’. When you do life is so much easier.

Take care be happy and love the in laws

Sean x

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