The place of in-laws in the life of couples is so fragile that if not handled with caution, it may make or mar a marriage. I am particularly talking about Africans; As for the Westerners, it is a different ball game entirely. A white couple expects that anyone, (including the mother in law) has an appointment before coming into their home. But that is an abomination in Africa.
There is a saying that “when you love a man, you love his dog.” Many couple however, especially the women, expects a man to come in leaving his dog outside. Before a marriage takes place, spouses must have met each other’s family and I guess, made up their mind that they could cope with them. Whether they are rich, poor, arrogant, uncultured or aristocratic, all must have been seen. They must have had a fore knowledge of the kind of in-law they will be. It is now left for the individual to strategise how to handle them without breeding conflicts.
One of the things to realize is that your spouse has known his/her people long before you both met. There is a way they have lived and bonded before the reality of life took two of you out of your individual families and brought you together. That can not be yanked off in a jiffy.
As for the ladies, try as much as possible to love your husband’s family as your own (oh! You say that’s not possible). It is possible depending on your mindset. If you go into marriage seeing them as intruders, it becomes difficult. But if you see them as new friends you have made, it becomes easier to handle. Take your husband’s parents as your newly adopted parents and treat them as you would your own. Even if your mother in law is a typical African who sees you as a rival who has come to ‘steal’ her dear son, you can douse the fire with love.
From the beginning of the marriage, let your impact be felt in that family. Be a bridge builder, bring fresh ideas as to how to plan family events (do it with wisdom because some will resist), when they see positive results, very soon, they will start handling important things over to you. Be concerned about the welfare of your parents in law. Even if their daughters don’t care, take it up as a duty. You are not only pleasing God and man, you are also sowing into your future as a potential mother in law. While you are doing this, your husband may pretend he doesn’t see it, but surely, he appreciates it and will respect you for it. One important thing; when your husband is angry with his siblings or parents and he begins to rant and say negative things about them, sister please DON’T contribute. Rather pacify him and say positive things that won’t do more damage and escalate the quarrel. If you say ills about his people, he will turn round one day to remind you how you are always happy to see him fighting his people!
I will like to address you men. You often make the mistake of thinking that matters of relationship with in laws is for women only. That is a farce! Always remind yourself that it takes a lot of trust for a family to hand over their child to you. It is a great risk they have taken unsure of what you will do with her. Reciprocate their good gesture by vowing within yourself to treat them like your own family. Do not see them as intruders you will delete out of your wife’s life.
When your in laws’ welfare is taken with utmost importance, your wife will worship you. Do not leave all the family outing to your wife alone. Some men have turned their wives into a delegate who attends both families’ function. They won’t attend neither their own nor the wife’s family. In these days of telephone, make sure call your parents in law often. Show you care. Have interest in the affairs of your wife’s siblings. Be a big brother in their family. Let your impact be felt. That way, you all become interwoven and one big family.
To both of you, don’t put down each other’s family rather complement one another. Remember a wife today, will be a mother in law tomorrow while a husband today will be a father in law tomorrow. Life is a circle, what goes around comes around. Enjoy your home.
She is the founder of Cassandra's Diary, a forum for trashing out issues in families.
Married to Dele, they are blessed with 3 children, Temi, Tolu and Alexandra.
In summary, my team and I, we are counselors and public speakers with a passion to raise model families.