I’ve been mostly blessed in the in-law department, though it may be due in part to the fact that The Beard’s family is teeny-tiny. Not everyone I know is so lucky. I have enough friends with scary sisters-in-law and maniacal step-mothers-in-law and boorish brothers-in-law to know that having a few states and a few thousands miles between myself and my extended family is a good thing.
You see, mother-in-law jokes aside, the stories submitted to sites like I Hate My Inlaws are not just pieces of fiction created by some deranged mind. Sure, one’s biological parents can be a nightmare, too, but one usually has a few decades in which to learn to deal with the idiosyncrasies of one’s own family. Prior to and upon getting married, one is immediately expected to become fast friends with nonblood kin of every description. As if.
So what’s the problem? A reasonably sane adult should be able to cope with a few strained familial gatherings per year, right? Would that it were that easy. You see, it turns out that new research has found that avoiding your in-laws (even the icky ones) can actually harm your marriage.
A husband or wife’s satisfaction with their in-laws is a dominant factor in how happy they are in their marriage, University of Denver associate professor Mary Claire Morr Serewicz found after spending six years researching family issues.
In fact, Morr Serewicz found in-law relations can represent 43 percent of a couple’s satisfaction in their marriage.
Forty-three percent? Yowza! Maybe it’s time to send your future sister-in-law a holiday card or give in and let your future father-in-law fix your brakes. If good relations must be established, why not start establishing them ASAP with a little holiday cheer? Then again, I’m a big fan of setting strict boundaries. If you’re slated to be married or recently tied the knot, this might just be the time to say “I love visiting with you, but it throws off my schedule when you drop by unannounced” and “No, I’m sorry we cannot drive four hours each way to visit you for two hours on Christmas Eve.”
A six-year study might tell us that positive in-law relationships are integral to a good marriage, but I’d venture to guess that sometimes the best thing you can do to maintain good relations between people who mix about as well as oil and water is to avoid one another as much as possible.