When you marry your sweetheart, you end up marrying his entire family as well in the Indian context. This can be a good thing when you get so much love and support from an entire clan of people who accept your unconditionally and treat you like one of them just because you married one of the clan. At the same time it can be a bad thing when you get a whole bunch of relative strangers suddenly interested in all aspects of your so far private life.
You may have to deal with The financial expert Father in Law, the well meaning but interfering Mother in Law, the always needing a favour Sister in Law, and the “I can show you a better way to do that” Brother in Law. It can be enough to try a saint’s patience and God knows you are not a saint. So what do you do when your in-laws begin meddling in your family life? Well think about it as a battle campaign where you need to plan and strategize so that you are never taken unaware. Yes if you have been ambushed by your in-laws before, you know exactly what I am talking about avoiding.
Always be respectful and polite
Your in-laws can be rude, judgmental and gossip about trivial things. You cannot change them, so don’t bother to try. The only thing you can control in interaction with your in-laws is your own behavior. So ensure that you are always respectful and polite to them. Yes, this can be difficult to do when they are busy criticizing everything you do, but hold on to your temper and your tongue. There is nothing to be gained by having a tantrum in their presence.
Do not give them reason to point fingers at your behavior. Be careful with sharing sensitive information that you do not want running the rounds on the family gossip channel. Also do not encourage gossiping in your presence. Try not to give lengthy opinions to them that may be misconstrued, or misquoted to other family members. In short, ensure that they have no ammunition to take you down.
Set boundaries with the help of your spouse
Since your spouse is well aware of the good and bad points of family members you must share the problems you face regularly. It makes no sense to not tell your spouse that something is bothering you about their family for years and then suddenly blast them. Help set boundaries for your in-laws and keep your spouse involved. If something makes you uncomfortable speak about it with your spouse. They may be able to offer creative solutions to the problem that you would not have thought of on your own.
It is best to not let things get out of hand right from the beginning If you feel that your in-laws are interfering too much in your private life ask your spouse to let them know and gently withdraw from the situation. Once you do this a couple of times the family will understand that you are uncomfortable in that situation and not put you on the spot again.
Don’t be hyper critical of them at all times
Yes, you find them interfering, meddling and frustrating, but don’t keep harping upon all the negative stuff each time you talk with your spouse. It will make you come across as a person who hates his family, and remember that will hurt. Blood is thicker than water, and while your relationship is new and exciting, the family has always been there for your spouse. They may seem like old fuddy duddies to you, but they are beloved parents, uncles and aunts to your spouse.
Everyone has good points, so talk about those as well. If you felt cared for at an event or someone make a kind gesture towards you, communicate that to your spouse as well. Let the spouse see that you are receptive of all the positive attention that the family is showering on you. This will allow your spouse to understand when one of them does something that bugged you and you share that detail as well.
Learn to let go and relax
While at the time of the event it may seem like your world is falling apart, do not get all het up and emotional. A good rule of thumb is to take ten deep breaths and then think how this present situation is going to affect you five years from now. So let your mother in law doctor your dinner with special spices to please herself. Let your sister in law borrow your expensive lipstick for her night out. The trivial issues will fade right away along with your anger when you realize that it will not affect you or your spouse in the long run.
However if it is a major life decision then, by all means pay attention. A different point of view can be used as a Devil’s Advocate to judge your actions, both past and future. Try and see things from their perspective and then see if it affects yours. If it does, thank them. If it doesn’t just let it go and relax. You know what you are going to do, so you can listen to their opinions and still not get frustrated, or angry.