Before I got married, my mother, relatives and married friends gave me unending tidbits on how to interact with and to handle my in-laws. Many times the advice would be repeated and other times it would simply be contradictory.
“Don’t get too close with them just yet, study them first before getting too chummy with them,” one friend would say.
“Don’t be quick to join in conversations during family gatherings, especially gossip. You do not know what they are saying when you are not there,” another would pipe in.
More advice I got was that I should be very generous with my in-laws and not to favour my own parents and family members more than them.
The kiondo I got during the wedding, my mother made it clear, is huge for a reason. It should be filled to the brim whenever I go to visit my in-laws.
Once you’ve settled somewhat into your marriage and are no longer the bride to be pampered and coddled, your in-laws’ true colours will start to show.
Depending on how dramatic or shameless your new family is, the real picture may range from outright hostility to more subtle nuances of their real feelings about you.
A friend told me how she is regarded as a stranger because she comes from the “wrong” community. She says that whenever she makes an appearance at her new family’s gatherings, all conversations cease as an “intruder” is around. Mark you, she and her husband are both Kikuyus, just from different regions.
On social media, things are no better. After going through horrendous stories posted by women on a popular Facebook page about mothers in law (MIL)from hell, I wondered how the experience would be for me and if I would live to tell the tale, or if I was willing to take a gamble and just hope for the best.
That’s when I realised that the only person who really wants me from my new family is my husband. The rest went along with it because they didn’t have much of a choice, while others found out that having me in the family is advantageous to them.
A few may not even know how or why they are hostile towards me and it’s simply subconscious. Some are still holding grudges about how we went about the wedding planning and will probably hold it over us for years to come. Woe unto us if we don’t name our children after them!
True wisdom is the only key to effectively and sensitively handle your new relatives. Learn to hold your tongue and weigh your words carefully lest they come to bite you.
Don’t be cold and aloof towards this new family but also don’t rush to seek their approval. As much as they raised your husband, their ways may not always be the best. If you (as a couple) have agreed on certain issues, don’t be bullied into changing your mind in favour of what your husband’s family wants.
Be open with your husband but be wise about it. He is your closest ally and best defense against attacks from his family, because they love him, despite how much they may hate you.
Be careful who you unburden your heart to. Running to your mother may give you immediate comfort but may strain the relations between you, your in-laws and your husband as word always gets out. Your family will always have your back, but their reasoning will be clouded with emotion rather than logic.
Above all, be prayerful. All frustrations and difficulties are so much easier to bear once you have shared it with an all knowing, non-judgmental, listening ear.
Involve your partner so that he knows exactly what you are going through, especially if you don’t know how to tell him directly. You know the old saying, ‘A family that prays together…’