From holidays to vacations and beyond, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your future spouse’s family in the years to come—so your relationship with your in-laws is super-important. Assuming you’ve already been introduced to your partner’s family, your pre-wedding period is a great time to get to know them even better—and will bode well for a successful relationship with your in-laws in the years to come.
Here are some ways to strengthen your relationship with your in-laws during your engagement.
Get the inside scoop from your future spouse.
Your spouse is a wealth of information about your future in-laws, so don’t be shy about picking his or her brain! Ask your spouse about his or her folks—their hobbies, favorite foods, likes and dislikes, family histories, funny stories, and more. Not only are these great conversation starters for those quiet nights at home, they’ll also help educate you about your future in-laws so you’ll feel right at home at the next family event.
Offer to help.
While lazing around on your in-laws’ couch might seem pretty relaxing, don’t get too comfortable. Always, always offer to assist your in-laws if they’re hosting a holiday or event. “Can I help you with the groceries?” or “I’ll set the table” will be music to your future in-laws’ ears—not just because it shows you’re polite, but it may also allow for some extra bonding time.
Spend one-on-one time with each in-law.
It can be difficult to strengthen your relationship with your in-laws if you only see them during large family gatherings. Try to get some one-on-one time with your in-laws if at all possible. This can be as simple as running to the grocery store with your future mother-in-law, or as involved as spending the day fishing with your future father-in-law. You’ll learn so much about your future in-laws during these more personal moments (and vice-versa!), so if the opportunity arises, go for it!
Bond with the sibs.
Joining your future spouse’s family isn’t just about his or her parents—if your partner has siblings, you’ll want to develop a good relationship with them, as well. Take the time to plan outings with your future siblings-in-law, whether it’s trips to the movies, drinks, dinner, or just hanging out at home. If appropriate, follow them on social media and like their posts, and try to get some one-on-one time with them as well. If you play your cards right, you’ll get a spot on that sibling group text before you know it!
Share a common TV show, book, website, sports team, etc.
Is there a television series, sports team, book, artist, or blog that your future in-laws are loving right now? If you can tolerate it, finding common ground on a piece of culture or sports will help strengthen your relationship with your in-laws and give you an instant conversation starter at the next gathering. “Did you see the latest This is Us?” or “I can’t believe that play in the last Red Sox game!” or “Have you heard the latest Paul McCartney album?” are easy ways to get your in-laws talking, especially if they’re not the biggest extroverts.
Get the families together.
If you haven’t yet introduced your family to your future in-laws, get on that—and don’t stop there. Of course, the first meeting of the two families is a big deal, but you’ll want to develop their relationship beyond that. If it’s feasible, try to find a few other times when the two families can meet up again. Of course holidays are great, but if that’s not possible, a casual BBQ at your place or a hike together can be great ways to get everyone bonding.
Don’t shy away from family traditions.
It can feel a little awkward to insert yourself into your in-laws’ family traditions—the Thanksgiving touch football game, the Christmas morning matching PJ breakfast, etc. But in order to strengthen your relationship with your in-laws, you have to go all-in. This is particularly true if your future spouse comes from a different culture or religion than you. Be curious, ask questions, sample the food, and get involved—even if you don't yet know all the ins and outs of your partner's culture. You'll learn soon enough and your future in-laws will be impressed that you’re making an effort.
Don’t dwell on the disagreements.
Bonding with your in-laws can be extra tough if you don’t agree on certain major issues—politics, religion, interests, etc. Our advice? Focus on the things you can agree on, even if it’s something as small as your love for coffee cake and the outdoors. Yes, there may be times when you want to jump across the dining room table as your future father-in-law discusses politics, but do your best to hold back and focus on the positive aspects of your relationship.
Be there for good times—and not-so-good times.
It’s easy to strengthen your relationship with your in-laws during happy times—enjoying a Fourth of July barbeque or a New Year’s Day brunch. But what about the difficult times? Your future in-laws will likely experience some not-so-great times during your marriage, from small bumps in the road like a flooded basement to major issues like an illness or death in the family? Don’t shy away from reaching out to your future in-laws during these hard times. A phone call asking your future mother-in-law how she’s doing after her knee surgery, or taking a morning off work to attend your great-aunt-in-law’s funeral will mean so much to the family you’re about to join—and help your relationship grow.