How to Mix Parents and In Laws
You’ll be familiar with the old adage that you can’t choose your family – well, unfortunately you can’t choose that of your significant other, either. If you’ve been resolutely keeping your parents and in laws apart, determined that the day need never come when they need to meet, you’re probably reading this because that dreaded occasion draws near. Fear not, our no-sweat guide is here to help.
Forewarned is ForearmedThe chances are that you’ll already have told your parents quite a bit about your in laws (or potential in laws) but if most of that’s been rather uncomplimentary, you now need to do a bit of PR on their behalf so that your parents aren’t completing dreading the meeting from the outset. Focus on their good points, but by all means warn them of any ‘quirks’. For example, if your father-in-law has a tendency to vociferously break wind at the dinner table, forewarning your parents will enable them to conceal horrified expressions nicely. Encourage your other half to employ the same management technique with his parents, too.
Common GroundHaving something in common eases any conversation with a new acquaintance, so talk to your partner and try to find some mutually interesting conversation starters. If your mothers both like horses, or your fathers are whiskey connoisseurs, use this information to your advantage to avoid awkward silences. Even if your parents seem to be like chalk and cheese there are bound to be a couple of topics they can all talk about. Think about the state of the garden, newsworthy events or perhaps holiday destinations. Just steer clear of politics, whatever you do.
Destination UnknownChoose a neutral setting for this first meeting, preferably somewhere you’ve been and liked. It might seem easier and cheaper to visit one of the family homes, but this will lead to lots more stress, particularly for your mothers. They will both be feeling insecure enough without having to clean the house to clinical standards and play hostess, all the while worrying that they won’t measure up to ‘the competition’. A decent pub or restaurant also lends more material for conversation about the setting and the food, and so on.
Precision TimingThe first meeting of your parents and in laws is, even with the best planning in the world, going to be at least a little stressful for all concerned. For this reason it’s important not to combine this event with an already pressurised occasion, for example, your wedding day, or the birth of your first child. By the time these events occur you should be comfortable in the knowledge that both sets of parents can be civil and chatty, if not the best of friends. New mums and blushing brides will not enjoy the sight of their mother and mother in law sizing each other up across the labour ward or the top table at your wedding reception.
You might find this first meeting is one of many, or it may be the first and last. If it doesn’t go so well, don’t take it to heart. Both parties will be grateful to you for making the arrangements and, whether or not they become life-long friends, they’ll be happy to see that you’re in good hands.