Listen carefully, boys and girls, this is important.

When you get married, like it or not, you marry into each others families. Most of us have no idea what that means until we've been married a while. We assume that because our intended is the epitome of wonderfulness, their parents are great as well.

If you are lucky, and I hope you are among this most fortunate group, your new or future in-laws already know that Good In-Laws….

  1. Treat their new son or daughter-in-law with the same respectful boundaries with which they treat their own child.
  2. Do not assume instant love; good in-laws know relationships need time and nurturing to grow.
  3. Never give unsolicited advice. Never. They wait to be asked and even then answer only the question posed and wait for the next question.
  4. Visit only when invited and limit calls to a reasonable once every few days. If the newlyweds are living with them good in-laws are clear about where their kids' space begins and ends.
  5. Never complain about the non-blood family member to their adult child. If they have a problem with their child-in-law they think long and hard before deciding it is necessary to tell that person directly. Most good in-laws just hold their tongue.
  6. When good in-laws visit they resist the urge to point out and fix whatever is broken. No matter how handy they are, a good in-law waits to be asked and then helps (if they want to) without conditions.
  7. Understand that the adult child's allegiance must be with their spouse. Good in-laws defer to the newlyweds as a couple and make it clear that they are there for both of them. They never assume they can come between them by working one against the other. Or by saying something absurd like, "But I'm your mother so, of course you want to please me no matter what your wife/husband says."
  8. Good in-laws understand the new couple needs to blend the traditions of two families and find their own way of doing things. Good in-laws do not presume that "Our way is the *right* way."
  9. Don't insist the new relative call them 'Mom' or 'Dad' or 'Mother Brown' or 'Miss Sally'. The good in-law is flexible and sensitive to what their new child-in-law is comfortable with and figure it out together using a good dose of humor.
  10. Resist the urge to enable troubles the new couple may have; not "rescuing" them by throwing money at the problem or in any way encouraging dependence rather than independence.
  11. Are not competitive with the new couple or with the other set of parents.
  12. Good in-laws have satisfying lives of their own and mind their own business.

And as a bonus:

Good in-laws understand that becoming a grandma or grandpa is not license to ignore 1-12.

If you're not so lucky, and there's a lot of us who aren't, you might discover your most excellent loved-one was a changeling raised by wolves. Or worse yet, your new in-laws may become a serious obstacle in your road to marital bliss, threatening the very core of your relationship.  If you're in this group look for a post coming soon: When In-Laws Go Bad – Not A Joke. 

Reference:  Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies For Protecting Your Marriage, by Susan Forward, PhD in the carousel over in the side bar –>