The Out-Laws

A former boss of mine with a HILARIOUS sense of humour used to refer to my (and everyone else’s) in-laws as “the out-laws”. He also used to use the oft-used-at-that-time-in-business-circles phrase “open the kimono” which just gave me a mental image of him that makes me shudder just writing that. I actually had to stop typing for a minute to shudder. Anyway. The in-laws are visiting this week, which is fine: I get along with them just fine and they dote on the boys, who are their only grandchildren.

But despite the above, I always get a little anxious before their arrival getting things ready and it is ALL FOR NAUGHT. These people are incredibly laid-back about planning their visits. They don’t stay with us, they stay in a hotel, so they come over for a visit…whenever. They will go out to eat dinner by themselves or they will come over…whatever I want. This level of easy-going-ness is what makes me anxious.

You see, I come from a very large extended family who are (and I say this lovingly) a little crazy and very family-oriented, and there is always, always, some sort of feud going on between some members of the family. Someone is always not talking to someone else because of a real or imagined slight, or some kind of offense is taken, or someone doesn’t like someone’s spouse. You get the picture. Despite this, like I said the family is very clan-oriented and there are a few unspoken rules: a) if you visit, you stay at someone’s house, and b) you spend as much time as possible with the person you are visiting.

So you can see why my in-laws’ good intentions make me anxious. They like not staying with us, and truth be told, I like it too. They like eating some meals in restaurants, and hey, I don’t mind. But still, I have this constant feeling like I should be doing more, cooking more, making them at home in our (teeny tiny) spare room, just the way it was when I was growing up. This is why I think so many people have problems with their in-law relationship – it’s the melding of two different family structures and two different levels of expectation.

What do you think? Do you think most in-law issues could be solved just by accepting the fact that your spouse’s family does things differently?

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