How To Be The In-Laws
Ours has been mostly a female family. 75% of us are women with one brother in the mix, and nobody's wedding has pulled anyone into our parents' house....till now. You hear so much from friends, acquaintances, even random stories of people you don't even know, where the new girl in the house, (or the new girl in the family, if the couple are living separately), gets to be the one to do the major adjustment. In my idealistic bubble where I want to imagine that it should be equal adjustment for both the genders, it feels uncomfortable to register that that isn't always true. But the reality is that most girls do have to work towards fitting in (on which I have a ton of opinions but that's for another day).
So with the brother getting married, I decided I'd imagine all kinds of scenarios based on experience/conversations with friends or strangers/general observation and develop a set of instructions that I can remember and personally take care of with respect to his wife (because so much of the misunderstandings can sometimes even be rooted in actions committed as a force of habit). And of course, I wrote these down because I wanted new in-laws from-the-guy's-side to have a run-through too, kind of like a borderline public service announcement.
In no way do I feel it applies to every situation or that no one does it and here I am with the revolution AYYYAAHHHHHH, but just something that's good-to-remember, good-to-execute and good-to-take-in-the-right-spirit. (I have a strange sense of feeling that I might get some kind of hate for this post, but this cookie that I'm having is so freaking good, I'm finding it every hard to care at this point). Let's go?
1. Give space. It's always best to live in separate houses because that's truly what breeds the best relationships, between the couple and the girl & in-laws (a decision religiously preferred as well). But that may not be possible for everyone so if you're living together, give space.
2. Don't tell her what clothes to wear or what makeup to use. Let her dress herself, pretty sure her parents' weren't dressing her before getting married, right.3. Don't tell her how to do stuff in her space. Let her do things the way she wants to. If she leaves her shoes all over the place or does lab experiments under her bed, that shouldn't give you a fever. If you feel her room's messy, clean your own room because that's as far as your territory goes (probably stop the lab experiments...).
4. Don't expect the girl to hang out with you every single day. If it's different house portions/separate houses, don't complain if you don't see her for days. Everyone has their own life. Don't make someone do stuff under pressure. Any gesture should be a product of love. (If I told you the number of times I talk to my mother-in-law in a year, you'd freak out so I'm not going to, but interacting less doesn't mean you're on a cold war. My mother-in-law has NEVER complained and I love that about her).
5. Don't imagine her personality to be exactly what it is during the first couple of months. Everyone is on their best behavior initially. She'll hang out with you more, be nicer than she would be to anyone else, but that's not her actual personality....just like it's not yours. Real life comes into action after a few weeks and everyone gets busy with their lives. Don't expect her or the couple to be your best buddies all the time or to be smiling and cooperating 24/7.
6. Don't box the person based on a random interaction. Everyone has a bad day. Everyone has a day when they don't want to interact with anyone or pretend to be nice and just generally want to be in a shit mood. If you catch her in a bad mood, don't take it personally and don't share with your other siblings with the speed of light (but if it's a regular occurrence, feel free to imagine her as the spawn of the devil. Haha? No? Ok.).7. If she doesn't know how to cook (and I can't even believe I'm typing this), don't expect her to learn. If food was getting cooked at your house before the wedding, then it can continue to be done the same way. You should definitely split chores between everyone but then dish them out to your brother/son as well (if he wasn't already doing them before).
8. If she's trying something new, don't stand over her shoulder and watch. Make her feel like you're not there so she can feel free to make mistakes. A bad purchase for the home, a food recipe that she got messed up, anything else that she could do freely at her own place. Let both of them breathe and feel like they can do their own disasters without any silent judgment.
9. If she's working, don't comment on her staying late at work. If she's staying at home, don't comment on her staying up all night/sleeping in late. If she's not the one responsible for administering life saving drugs to anyone in your family, let her plan her own schedule.
10. If she's a working girl, she should have the exact amount of house chores assigned to her after work, as your son/brother. If your son's relaxing on the couch after work, so should she. There's nothing wrong with making chai for your daughter/sister-in-law everyday if you're a stay-at-home person. If the entire household has jobs or has stay-at-home moms with kids to manage, everyone should split responsibilities. No girl should come home from work or after a full day of managing her kids and make rotis if the husband or other family members are not helping out...equally.
11. If everyone's living in the same house, and the couple's heading out for, let's say, weekend plans, don't ask every single time where they're going and when they'll be back. Tell them to have a good time and then just stop right there.
12. Don't tell her you've been seeing your grandchild/nephew's face in your dreams and ask her to make those dreams come true. If you're dying to know when they'll produce their own offspring, ask your son. In private. Ideally, don't ask at all, because someone may not be capable of having kids or just not want kids at all, but if your life depends on it, ask your own blood. I've been married 4 and half a years and my mother-in-law (or sisters-in-law) haven't asked me ONCE when I'm having kids; I love that.
13. And if the baby comes, let them name their own child. If you want to name something desperately, get a puppy.
14. Compliment her. Even if her taste in style or food or home decor is not what you like. Compliment her.
15. Tell your brother to compliment her. Guys are slow, they need instructions.
17. If you're living in the same house, don't just walk into their space, especially if they're not around, just because it used to be your place at one time. If you wouldn't like someone going through your room/stuff when you're not around, don't do the same yourself, no matter how comfortable it feels.
19. If you're not living in the same house and visiting the couple in another city or country, don't crash their house without asking. In fact, ask both of them, particularly if the girl is not working. Because she'll be the one entertaining you in all probability and you need to ask her permission to come to her house. My husband always says his mother taught him that the couple's house is primarily the girl's house after getting married. I love that he knows this and always repeats it.
20. And if you're doing point #9 above, help out with the chores, especially if there's no house help. Your vacation should not become a buttsore for the couple.
21. Don't bitch about her to your brother or son, especially during the first few weeks. Everyone's adjusting, everyone's getting used to personalities. Let the dust settle.
22. If your brother or son changes in any way, after getting married, that you don't like, it's all on him. He's an adult (hopefully), capable of making decisions and understanding the world. I can't tell you the number of times I've cringed at hearing so many people say about their daughters/sisters-in-law "she's manipulating him" and "he's stupid, so he can't tell". No. He's not stupid. He knows what he's doing. Don't just blame the girl.
23. Don't interfere in their arguments/fights, unless the couple asks you for help.
24. If your brother/son ever shouts at her/expresses some kind of displeasure in front of other people, make him feel like dogshit. He can't do that and you need to be the first person to tell him this.
25. Sharing a space with anyone, ANYONE, will get on your nerves. That doesn't mean there's something wrong with that person or yourself. I'd hate even my best friend if I had to live with her all the time and I LOVE HER. So get annoyed and move on. It's going to be a part of life.
26. You don't have to love her. You just have to get along to be able to peacefully enjoy stuff together. If you do end up loving her, nothing could be better than that. But let's say that that's not happening, because sometimes people don't click, it's not the end of the world. She's not your wife. Accept that and move on. All of us hate our colleagues and yet end up spending the entire day with them without any fatalities so this should be possible.
27. Be happy for your sibling/son. If there's a person who makes him happy, that needs to be IT for you. Everyone deserves a loving relationship and if your family member has managed to find that, be happy for them.
28. Remember that having a new person in your brother or son's life does not mean that he's going to love you any less. Love is the only emotion that has the fantastic ability to multiply exponentially. It's ridiculous to imagine otherwise. If you ever end up feeling jealous, remind yourself that having a spouse never made you love your siblings or parents any less; it doesn't work that way so chill.
Now that all of that's written down, I'm going to grab a mojito and pretend to implement some of that. Join me, okay.