“‘My in-laws are coming to town.’ It’s a simple statement. And yet, it elicits a bad reaction most of the time. People complain to their friends and coworkers about their in-laws, and it’s a running joke in our society. Just look at the many TV shows, movies, and books that talk about ‘the annoying in-laws.’
But every time you make a crack at your in-laws, guess who suffers? Your partner. When you hate someone your partner loves, it’s hurtful. And over time, it can cause a rift in your marriage.
I’m not talking about the toxic family members that cause serious harm or injury to you physically, mentally, or emotionally. In fact, I encourage both you and your partner to cut those people out. But, for a minute, let’s talk about the petty hate that surrounds in-laws on both sides of the relationship.
No one wants to have to listen to you hate on their family. They can complain about their own family because they grew up with them. But if you start complaining, it hurts. They know you don’t love them like they do, and the more they listen to your hurtful words, the worse they feel.
Think about when your partner complains about your family. How does it make you feel? Most of the time, it either hurts your feelings or makes you get defensive. Both outcomes aren’t positive and really only hurt your relationship.
Here’s the thing: Your in-laws are never going to be perfect. They’re probably always going to seem just a little ‘off ‘ to you. You know why? Because they aren’t your family. They didn’t raise you, they probably have different personalities, wants, and desires than your family; and it’s just weird.
Maybe you don’t like that they say a certain word. Or maybe you think the way they do things is just strange. Guess what? We all think that. Every person who has in-laws thinks their in-laws do weird things. Your partner thinks the same thing about your family, whether they admit it or not. But does that mean we have to point it out when we think each other’s families are strange?
Does it mean we need to complain to our partners about it?
Love your partner’s family like you want your partner to love yours. Take their weird quirks and strange habits and embrace them. Accept their flaws, and love them as best as you can. It’s not for you (though you may end up having a great relationship that you’re proud of). It’s for your partner.
Imagine you wore your favorite shirt that you’ve held onto for five years. You put it on, snuggle in its warmth, and love how it fits. It’s nostalgic, it’s cozy, and it perfectly describes who you are.
But… then you start to notice things. There’s a little stain on the sleeve. Near the bottom of the hem is a hole. And the seam at the collar is starting to come undone. But, you only notice those things because you’re looking really deeply at the shirt. And it’s your favorite shirt, so you’ll love it regardless of a few stains or tears.
Now, let’s say a week goes by and you want to wear your favorite shirt again. You put it on, fail to even notice the imperfections this time, and walk out of your closet feeling confident. It is your favorite shirt.
But the second you get out of your room, your partner says, ‘You do realize your shirt is stained, right? And I can see a hole at the bottom. A little tear at the top, too.’
They didn’t necessarily say anything negative. Your partner just pointed out the same things you had noticed before. But it’s different, right? Because now you’re self-conscious.
They’ve noticed the same imperfections you decided to ignore because deep down, you didn’t think they were a big deal. Maybe, you even thought the stain, hole, and tear were endearing. It showed you how the shirt had lasted for five years and still remained your favorite.
So, if your partner says something about their family like, ‘They’re so annoying, why can’t they just listen to me?’ it’s just common family banter. But if you come in and say something like, ‘Your family is so annoying, why can’t they just do things like I do?’ it’s different.
It’s natural to want the person we’re in love with to love the people that mean so much to us. And when they don’t? It sucks. Your in-laws or your partner’s family (whether it be biological family or friends they’ve come to call family) will never be conflict-free. There will be times where you don’t understand them or you think they’re downright crazy.
But give them the same grace you should be giving everyone else: Love them, regardless of their flaws. So what if they do things a little weird? They probably think you’re a little weird too. And your partner probably thinks your family is a bit strange as well. I’d guess your family also thinks your partner has a few weird quirks. That’s life. We’re all different!
If your partner loves them, and you love your partner, love their family. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, but next time you want to point out something annoying or petty that your in-laws do, maybe ask yourself whether it’s really worth making your partner self-conscious or defensive about it. Ask yourself if you would want your partner to say it about your family.
If it is important to you, talk to them and bring it up. But what I’ve found is that most of the time, these minor comments aren’t. And when you stop bringing up petty things about your partner’s family, everyone ends up happier.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jess Carpenter. You can follow her journey on Instagram, TikTok, and on her website. You can visit Jess’ author page here and buy her new book here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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