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Mel Robbins is a no-nonsense relationship and career coach and syndicated radio and TV personality. Mel gives us relationship rules to deal successfully with your partner's family.
RULE #1 ASK QUESTIONS TO MAKE A CONNECTION.
The biggest complaint I hear from older people is my child's mate never greets me, never asks questions, and doesn't make me feel welcomed. That seems so easy to remedy, doesn't it? Start showing your mate's family that you are interested in them and ask them questions about who they are and what they are interested in. You can ask, "Where are you from originally? What is your background? Where did your parents come from? How long have you lived here?" If you need to fake it in the beginning, that's okay and pretend you're interested for a millisecond. These questions will make them feel important. They will believe that getting to know your mate's family is important to you because they matter. I suggest in the beginning you do things that are interesting to your mate's family. For example, go to their favorite restaurant and ask, "How long have you been coming here? What is your favorite dish?" Go to their home and cook dinner. You can notice their beautiful gardens and ask, "Did you do this yourself?" The focus will be off of you and on your partner's family member.
RULE #2 ENDEAR YOURSELF WITH SMALL GESTURES.
Make it easy for your partner's family to like you and participate in your life. I say small amounts of stuff go a long way. For example, try picking up a book, writing a note, and sending it to your mate's mother. When your mate's mother goes to the mailbox and receives the book with the inscribed note from you, she will be filled with feelings of respect and appreciation. That small gesture will go a long way and it will take you 20 seconds and cost you $10. I say instead of making your mate's family come to you, meet them half way. Find ways to have them participate in your life. Call up a member of your partner's family and invite them to go see a movie or an exhibit. MOST IMPORTANTLY, when you go over to your mate's family home, always bring a hostess gift... ALWAYS!
RULE #3 RESPECT EACH OTHER'S HOUSE RULES.
You and your partner need to figure out how you want your house to run. Next, you need to communicate those needs and desires to your families. Once the rules are communicated then it is up to all involved to respect the rules of the home you are visiting and other's to abide by the rules that you have set forth as important for you and your home. You can easily communicate to a loved one, "Listen, I love your dog and you can bring your dog to my house anytime but all I I ask is before you leave, walk around the yard and pick up the dog poop." Not only do you need to abide by the rules you should also be realistic. If you are vegetarian and you are going to a member of your partner's family that is not vegetarian then don't expect a full vegetarian meal. Try bringing your own vegetarian dish to compliment the meal.
RULE #4 HANDLE YOUR OWN FAMILY MEMBERS.
It is very important for the partner to handle his/her own family. Never put your mate in the firing line of your family. There are particular things you need in order to feel supported and your partner needs to be the one to communicate those things to his/her family. You need to feel confident that your mate will speak up for you to his/her own family. Your partner should be your number one, before your own kids or families. That can be very threatening to your partner's family. However, if communication is clear and consistent between the each family then boundaries can be known and respected. If a boundary is not respected and someone is hurt, then be sure to have your partner speak to his/her family about it and you speak to your family about it. If you have done the job of making your partner's family feel important and respected then dealing with these issues will be easier as long as you talk to your people and I talk to mine.
RULE #5 DON'T LET SMALL PROBLEMS GROW.
What you need to do is get on the same page. Check-in with your family. Be sure to ask if everything is okay from time to time. Be responsible for your own feelings if and when small things that bother you come up. For example, when your partner's parents drop-in without giving a call first, then your partner needs to tell them that it makes you feel disrespected. If you forget to clean up at your mate's parents' house then they need to let your partner know that you forgot to put your dishes away and that made them feel disrespected. If you are an adult you train people how to treat you. If you feel someone is being rude, selfish, or disrespectful to you then you say something. You can be calm and kind about communicating this. People are not mind readers. No one is going to know they did something hurtful unless they are told. If someone avoids saying anything because they don't want to make waves then I guarantee later when the behavior continues the offended party will build up resentment and hurt feelings that become a ticking time bomb that will explode into something much bigger down the road. Again, it all comes down to feeling unimportant and disrespected. You want to avoid letting these feelings brew and fester unresolved.