I have received many DMs about the struggle to merge two different families with differing expectations, norms, and values. The critical thing to remember with in-laws is to have a united front with your partner. This is where I see many relationships struggle.
Let’s use an example:
You are busy planning your wedding. You both decide that you would like a small affair in a vineyard over a weekend. Your in-laws are horrified. They had always imagined a huge wedding in the city with ALL their friends and family, and it needs to be their priest in their church. How could you even suggest not inviting half the family and the baker down the road??? Does this sound familiar to anyone?
Now, your partner knows his parents; he knows they are coming from a good place, they are proud of him, and this is their big day too. Now he is in the middle, and you are on one side and his parents on the other.
This is not going to work. You need to find a way to have a united front with your partner. It might be that you make some compromises and the in-laws do too. Maybe you find a bigger vineyard that is closer. The key is shifting the energy from him in the middle, to you both on one side and the in-laws on the other, with your partner leading the negotiations, as it is their family.
Whenever there is family conflict, I like to remember to stand in their shoes. What might it be like to have an excuse for a big celebration and it not be how they imagined it? Do they want to feel more included? How could that happen in a manageable way for you? Do they want more closeness to the two of you? Are they missing the old relationship they had with their child? Does your partner need to spend some regular time with them without you?
Whenever two families merge, there is usually some crunchiness as family traditions, expectations, and norms are challenged. If it becomes overwhelming, get some support from a professional.