Singaporebrides | The Groom Room

August 2013

Surviving Her Family

Being part of a new family is just as daunting to the groom-to-be as it is to his bride. Fu Jinming shows you how to handle her parents and siblings. And make her family yours.

So, you’ve got the girl. You’ve got the flat. And you’re all ready for a life made for two. That is, if you discount her parents, who’d like you both to come home every now and then for dinner. Her aunt who thinks you can fix anything, including her toilet. Her younger brother who’ll always need help at Math. Or her cousin who thinks you guys should hang out together with her and her hubby more often.

Before long, you realise that your married life now resembles less of a Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan rom-com, and more of a Star Trek episode with an ensemble cast – of Starship-Enterprise proportions.

Like it or not, unless you’re planning on living like a hermit couple, your marriage will always be filled with characters that come with that ring on your finger. Because the truth is, when you marry the girl of your dreams, you marry her whole family.

It might have been the fact that women are generally more sociable than men. They are also more nurturing; they like the people closest to their hearts to get along with one another. Especially if it involves the man she loves. Which is why she’s always looking for you – the man in her life – to take initiative, and play an active role in her extended family life.

Likewise, she’d like her loved ones to enjoy your company – and you, theirs – so she can cement your place in her family circle.

Surviving her family

Which is a good thing.

According to a new research in the US, a couple’s risk of divorce decreases by as much as 20% when the husband has had a close relationship with his wife’s parents.

The math adds up: having close ties with your in-laws says a lot about how important your wife is to you. It tells her that you care about her parents, because you care a lot about her.

This bodes well for a long and healthy marriage. And may get you out of the doghouse more times than you’d care to imagine.

The great thing is, it’s generally easier for men to get along with their wives’ families, than it is for women to get along with their husbands’. After all, surveys have shown that men are less likely to worry that their in-laws are interfering too much into their romantic relationship.

So go on, make yourself comfortable around your wife’s parents, their parents, her siblings, her uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, and so on.

Often, that involves letting them get comfortable with you first. But once they do, you’ll find them to be an unexpected – and frequently rewarding – source of support for your marriage.

Here’s what you can do to ease into the family.

Take Them Out

If you think getting to know your new family involves just turning up during Chinese New Year or Christmas parties, think again. To truly get acquainted with your in-laws, make an effort to spend time with them socially. That means taking the initiative to plan outings and get-togethers, so you get ample face time with them.

Surviving her family

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. A simple lunch date would suffice. Or dinner at a restaurant you’ve been meaning to check out. It could even be leisure activities you know your wife’s family would enjoy. Like an afternoon walk in the park. Or an evening at the movies.

Get to Know Them Better

Once you’re spending time with them, try to make conversation. Ask them about their jobs. Discuss the latest current affairs. Heck, you can even talk about the weather. The key here is to take an interest in their lives and the things that affect them.

You can also talk a little about your family or your work. Opening up about your life gives them a better insight into your upbringing, personality, and belief system. More importantly, the more they know about you, the more they’ll feel relaxed around you.

Stay Neutral

Never, ever insult your wife’s family members – behind their backs or otherwise. Even when your wife’s complaining about them. She may be displeased with some of them, and she may even have a good reason to, but nobody likes to have their parents talked about in less-than-pleasing terms. Least of all by the man she trusts most.

If your missus has a problem with her folks, offer a listening ear, but try not to take sides. Suggest that she talk it out with them. If you’re the one having an issue with her parents, talk to your wife about it. Calmly.

Treat Her Siblings Like Yours

If her brother is like the brother you’ve never had, treat him like one. If he isn’t, pretend he is anyway. Chances are, your wife will be pleased that you’re making an effort to nurture a relationship with her siblings – even if she finds them annoying.

Surviving her family

If it’s her younger siblings you’re dealing with, help them out with their homework. Or give career advice – but only if you know what you’re talking about, and are sure that you’re not being intrusive. A nosey brother-in-law is about as cool as a pair of Crocs sandals.

If she has older siblings, show an interest in what they do for a living. You can even ask for their advice in matters like car loans, housing, and even your career. They’ll feel flattered that you hold their opinions in high regard.

Limit What You Share

While it’s good to share interesting anecdotes about your married life, it is generally not advisable to talk about your spousal problems with her family. For one, they might take sides. After all, she’s kin. You just came with the package.

Even if they do side with you, it’s still not a good idea; your wife might take it as a betrayal – from both you and her family. Good rarely comes out of it. Instead, work out your issues privately. By leaving her family out of it, you leave them less reason to intrude into your lives.

Give Gifts

Take the trouble to remember dates special to her family. Like her parents’ birthdays and wedding anniversary. Or her siblings’ birthdays. Then get them gifts together with your wife. She would know what they’d like and what they wouldn’t. And you’ll get into their books as a sweet and thoughtful son- or brother-in-law.

Though the value of your gift shouldn’t matter, don’t go for the bottom of the barrel here. Besides making you look like a cheapskate, a generic “budget” gift – like an airport souvenir – also suggests that you’re a thoughtless little man. Put a little heart into it. Find a present that’ll mean something to the people who mean the world to your wife.