Myths and Realities of Extended Families

By Ashley Michael
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Focus on the Family
Your relationship with your in-laws will probably change once you get married.
Myth: After marriage, my relationship with his parents will be the same as when we were dating. Reality: In a family’s eyes, being his girlfriend or fiancée is totally different from being his wife. Walking down the aisle is the first of many steps you will take toward becoming a part of your extended family. Having a healthy relationship with your spouse’s parents may take work, but in time it can prove to be a fulfilling and loving connection. Myth: Once we get married, my wife and I will be free of our parents’ control. Reality: Marriage is supposed to be an act of leaving and cleaving, yet it’s often hard for parents to let go. In the first few years of marriage (and unfortunately for some couples, much farther into the future) parents are often prone to give endless advice — and to expect their children to follow their every suggestion or demand. Though at times this counsel may be solicited by a young, naive couple, if and when it becomes the beacon for all decision making, parents and their married children must recognize the need for boundaries. Myth: Even though I don’t like my in-laws now, I’ll feel more like loving them after the marriage. Reality: Love is a decision, not an emotion. And this holds true for in-laws. You may never feel like loving them. And they may never seem deserving of it. If you didn’t like her folks to begin with, the wedding won’t change anything. The only thing you can change is your attitude toward them. Start by extending respect, and give love a chance to grow. Remember, by loving her parents, you’re loving her. Myth: I won’t have to deal with my in-laws much after the wedding. Reality: Starting your marriage with this misconception is a recipe for frustration. In-laws are closely connected by more than DNA. You’re looking at family reunions, grandparents wanting to spend time with grandchildren, the responsibility to care for aging parents and visits in each other’s homes. By readying yourself for the possibility of frequent interaction with extended family, you’re in a better position to transform your attitude. Myth: My in-laws will be totally annoying, intrusive people who will attempt to ruin my marriage. Reality: Not everyone’s mother-in-law is the stereotypical, nosy matriarch portrayed on television sitcoms. And even if you find that your in-laws are overbearing, it’s worth it to your spouse (and your marriage) to find their good points and love them for who they are: the people who gave life to your mate. Rather than a complete nuisance, in-laws can be a great blessing: last-minute baby-sitting, heart-to-heart talks, time-tested advice, unconditional love and more. Though you may experience the occasional bump in the road, in-law relationships can ultimately be a great addition to your life and family.

Copyright © 2002, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

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