Who is an ideal in law? Is there even anything like that? And if there is, how do we recognise one? I do not know if any human being in any relationship can truly be defined as ideal. Most people have their flaws and we need to constantly find a way to accommodate the shortcomings of others without necessarily compromising our values. This is even truer in the marriage relationship. And when it comes to the relatives of our spouses, it is non-negotiable. Having said that, I know that the in law situation is one that creates a lot of tension in homes.
One of the things we must bear in mind is that we are all in-laws. If you are a wife and you have sisters or brothers in–law, you are also a sister-in-law. So this set of rules apply to us all. Even the unmarried are in-laws in one way or the other. So who is the ideal in-law?
The ideal in-law is one who gets along with the family of the spouse and who causes no offence. It is that one person who is at home with the other family and is welcome at all times. I know you are thinking that it is unrealistic but believe me, there are people like that. I once had a younger brother live with me who fit the bill perfectly. He was so close to my spouse that whenever the neighbours came to the house to look for him they always asked for my spouse’s brother! No one believed he was my relative because of the very cordial relationship he enjoyed with my spouse.
So what kind of behaviour sets someone apart as the ideal in-law?
- They accept the relative’s spouse as their own relative and not as an in-law. This is rule number one and it is non-negotiable. If you accept the person as your relative it would be much easier to forgive them for any real or perceived flaws.
- They treat the person with respect. Nobody likes to be disrespected. If you treat anyone with respect, they will likely reciprocate in kind.
- Remember that siblings have a history that is older than the marriage and be mindful of that
- Be mindful of background and upbringing. Our backgrounds differ and they all contribute to who we become. Don’t judge everyone by the standards you grew up with. If they grew up in a different way, they will most likely behave in a different way than you. Be tolerant.
- Respect their space. This is one of the more frequent causes of friction. Learn to respect the people’s space. Visit only on invitation as much as possible. Try to inform before you visit and ensure you do not overstay your welcome.
- Do not visit empty-handed. If you are staying longer than a few busy days, then make yourself useful in the home.
- When all else fails, make up your mind to love the in-law no matter what. After all love never fails