You can't walk before you crawl. In the same way, you have to pass through four stages on your way to developing a satisfying relationship with your in-laws. The four stages are:
|1. Greeting||Saying "Howdy" to the new in-laws|
|2. Meeting||Figuring out how things are done|
|3. Seating||Becoming part of the family|
|4. Completing||Feeling that you really belong to the family|
Even though each stage in getting to know your in-laws brings its own special challenges, there's no reason for stage fright. After all, you have plenty of time to settle in. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is your relationship with your in-laws. Let's take a look at each stage more closely.
Greeting: Putting on a Happy Face
Most in-laws want the process to work as much as you do, because they do want their precious baby to be happy. At the beginning, assume the best of your in-laws; you're more likely to be pleasantly surprised.
Don't Go There
Under normal circumstances, the Greeting stage takes place before marriage. In some rare situations, however, you may not meet your future in-laws until after the wedding. In these instances, the Greeting and Meeting stages can get compressed, putting extra strain on everyone.
If something they do upsets you, address it as soon as possible. They'll be more likely to stay calm and listen.
Stage #1: Introductions. This stage begins with the First Encounter, when your honey takes you to meet his or her folks. Depending on the number of siblings involved, this stage can stretch on longer than a tax audit. Here are occasions where you're likely to undergo the greeting ritual:
Informal family functions
Formal family functions
Business functions involving family members
How can you make this stage go more smoothly? Start by recognizing that there will be differences in viewpoints and culture between you and your in-laws. Unless these differences are abusive, keep an open mind. And remember: Because you love your honey, there are bound to be some aspects of your in-laws that you can respect and admire as well. After all, they did raise your beloved, so how bad could they be?
Second, recognize that first impressions can be misleading, especially when so much is at stake. What you perceive as phoniness might just be nervousness; ditto for what you take to be standoffishness.
You can make the Greeting stage easier by doing things together that you all find mutually enjoyable, such as dining out, playing sports, or dancing. Get to know your in-laws as people, and give them a chance to get to know you.