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Breaking the ice with the in-laws

Jan 17, 2012, 6 a.m.

While some married ladies and gents hit it off well with the in-laws right from day one, others struggle to feel the love. If you think your relationship with your in-laws needs some "warming up" family therapy, here are six tips for breaking the ice:

  1. Divide and conquer. Take a lesson from young children, who often employ the "divide and conquer" strategy on their parents to get what they want. Spend some one-on-one time with each of your in-laws. When spending your one-on-one time, do activities, like shopping, going to lunch, golfing, or attending a sporting event, rather than sitting around drinking coffee.
  2. Learn about their interests. While playing Gin Rummy every Friday night may not be on your favorite list of things to do, your father-in-law may be crazy about it. Learn the rules, terminology, and even some variations of the game so you can show sincere interest in his hobby. Better yet, offer to play a hand with them. You'll have to lose, of course!
  3. Don't share your marital secrets or problems. A sure way to cause your in-laws to give family therapy advice is to tell them your marital secrets or dirty laundry. Keep it positive with your in-laws.
  4. Actively participate in family reunions activities. Your in-laws undoubtedly take pride in their family. When it comes time for the family reunion, offer to get involved: bake cookies, set-up, decorate, or plan games.
  5. Ask for help. If your mother-in-law is a fantastic cook, ask her to make one of her signature dishes for an event at your home. While eating her dish, praise its tastiness passionately. If your father-in-law is a notorious handyman, ask him to take a look at your leaky faucet. They'll love being able to help. Trust me on that.
  6. Smother with kindness. This one works exceptionally well for the mother-in-law whose reputation landed her the "ice-queen" nickname. We can't change the way people act toward us, we can only change how we act. Treat your in-laws the way you want to be treated. The old adage "You'll get more flies with honey than vinegar" applies nicely to the in-laws.

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