Congratulations! Your son is engaged to a woman. Sadly, this does not mean you can assume she is your child. However, it does mean that IF you work hard, you can build a great relationship with this person, who one day may be picking your nursing home. Here are five tips for getting along:
- Learn from your past experience. Treat your daughter-in-law just as you would any other new acquaintance with whom you want to build a relationship.You wouldn’t yell and scream at a new friend or coworker,so you shouldn’t do so with any of your new family members until you’ve established genuine care and respect…and that may take many years!
- Accept the reality. Just because you want to be best friends with your new daughter-in-law, it doesn’t mean she’s ready to commit to that kind of closeness. Let the relationship develop by gradually getting to know each other—by sharing interests and by helping—just as you would with a friend. Build a relationship on what you have in common. It could be shopping, hiking, music, or almost anything. Sometimes your commonalities are not obvious. In which case, work hard to develop an interest that your new, impending family member already enjoys. You may be pleasantly surprised that your horizons can be expanded.
- Remember this is not a competition. Don’t expected to be included in every activity and don’t be hurt when the young couple has other plans. Instead focus on being grateful that your child has found a companion he enjoys. You are no longer center stage in your son’s life, but that doesn’t mean you are completely out of the drama. You can have a role in the new scene that will develop over many years. That role will develop over time and through many changes in both you and your children.
- Time to share. Remember your children must now consider not only your feelings but the feelings of the other family. Whether your child is marrying someone from a very different background or not, chances are, you will not agree on every single decision. This isn’t all about you. Juggling the needs of many people is a sign of maturity. You need to demonstrate that maturity!
- Keep things in perspective. Don’t argue about small things. The choices with the most enduring consequences are how you respect and participate in decision-making. Be willing to think beyond the wedding or a particular event your children do or do not attend. Every slight or kind act is remembered longer and in greater detail than a mere daily occurrence. Good memories are the foundation on which to build the support system you will need to weather life’s twists and turns.
It’s no easier incorporating a daughter-in-law into the family than it is incorporating a new baby. In both cases, the learning curve is steep as you become attuned to the newcomer’s characteristics and quirks. This time, however, you can do it with a full night’s sleep!
Ruth Nemzoff is the author of Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws into Family