I love my in-laws, and my parents adore my husband. We are so blessed to have great relationships with each other’s parents. While this isn’t the case in a lot of relationships it is rather vital for the stability of a long – long term relationship.
A few years ago my sisters and I made a fun observation. My dad, a music educator, would always seem to have some sort of engineering, or technology, article in his back pocket to pull out at dinner table discussions when Ryan, or my brother in law was over for dinner. He hadn’t shown a lot of interest in our high school boyfriends, perhaps he knew they wouldn’t be around long. But when serious relationships in college formed our dad became more involved.
While it can be intimidating when the parents start getting more involved, and adding their opinions and wisdom to the relationship it’s important to vet your future spouses family – because they aren’t going anywhere. I didn’t just marry Ryan, I married into a family. A family that has it’s own story, history, and baggage. I needed to be okay with this, and he needed to be okay with mine, because I’m very involved in my families lives.
Know your standards
Similarly to having dating standards have family standards. One of my standards was – I would not date a man who’s father was an alcoholic, recovering or not. It was something I picked up on when my sister dated a guy like that. His father was a heavy drinker. I saw the stress it put on the relationship my sister had. She avoided going to his house for dinner, she confided in the sisters her fear he may become an alcoholic. This stress was part of the undoing of the relationship. I decided that’s a hard no for me as well.
The mother – a mentor, not a friend
I can confide a lot in my mom. I grew up being able to open up to her about my fears and worries – but I’ve never put my mother in the same group as my friends. We didn’t share clothes, we didn’t go to the bar together. Even as I graduated college and entered the real world my mom stayed a mentor in my life. I call her because a recipe confuses me, or because I can’t figure out how to get a stain out of a shirt. (Exciting conversations, hmm)
No matter how I fight it – I’ll turn into my mother. If my mom was coming to the bar with me I’d probably end up going to the bar with my daughters – and what husband wants that? I’m proud of who my mom is, and my husband can look at my mom, and see my future. If her mother is throwing up red flags – those red flags are something she grew up with, something that was normal to her. Don’t ignore them.
The father – their first authority figure
A friend of ours was dating a girl who constantly spoke poorly of her father. Her attitude toward her father was he was incompetent and he should be so grateful her, and her mom, were there to make all the decisions. This started to bother our friend. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but something about it bothered him. He eventually broke up with her because he realized this was his future with this girl. Looking at her relationship with her dad was a window into their future.
I respect my dad, I grew up knowing my dad’s rules were not negotiable. If I had to leave 7:05 for school and I came down the stairs at 7 just to hear dad say “you aren’t wearing that to school” there was no questioning it. I just turned around and better still be out the door by 7:05. Because I grew up with a father who had authority over his house I am very comfortable living in a house where my husband has authority over the home.
Her involvement in family drama
People are born into their families, they don’t get to pick. And quite possibly your future spouse was born into crazy. (mine was!) But watching how they interact with the situation can say a lot, too. Perhaps her mother is a narcissist and so she picked a college 8 states away trying not to look back. Maybe his dad wasn’t allowed to be part of his life. While not ideal, how your significant other reacts to their situation will speak volumes.
Your standards are important and they can evolve with each relationship. Family is a constant in so many people’s lives. And for traditional girls those families are often more involved. We literally trade one authority figure, Dad, for a new one, Husband. But we’re going to want to see our family, keep in touch with Skype calls, and go back home for a number of holidays.
In the end only you can decide if you can live with this being the family you marry in to, because they aren’t going anywhere.