Are your in-laws ruining your relationship?

Your in-law cheat sheet

Mothers-in-law get a bad rap in our culture. TV shows, movies, books and jokes all liken the critical shrew of a mother-in-law to the Wicked Witch of the West. In reality there are as many fab mother-in-laws as there are self-centered ones. In addition, a father-in-law could just as easily be the source of conflict.

When you choose a life partner you also enter a new family. Nonetheless, it's important to remember that the new family you create together receives priority. This shift in energy is bound to create problems. In the popular reality show the "Real Housewives of New Jersey," the rift between sisters-in-law Melissa Gorga and Teresa Giudice is ripping their families apart.

Establish positive energy from the beginning with your first meeting. Remember, this moment is new for everyone and as the potential to be awkward. A good beginning will give you a strong foundation to build a loving family inter-relationship on.

We know what you're thinking. For some it may be too late. Maybe you already got off on the wrong foot with your in-laws. What should you do now to keep the family together and avoid killing each other?

Boundaries are key.

If your in-laws have a poor opinion of you, your spouse may be to blame. It's natural for us to share stress with loved ones. However, if your partner runs to his family with every fight you have they will have a negative opinion of you. The same is true about what you tell your loved ones about your significant other.

Remember, your parents won't be privy to the intimacies of your making up so they may hold a grudge even though you don't want them to. Create boundaries for yourself.

Reinforce the positive.

If your interactions with your spouse's family run hot and cold, reinforce the positive moments. When you share a great meal or they give you a compliment, make a big deal about it. This way, you're teaching them that this is the best way to treat you.

People thrive on positive energy. Sure, some Negative Nellies might want to keep going negative out of fear. Don't take this into your experience.

Don't suffer in silence.

We all want family peace. Your job is to be the best person you can be and to love your partner, not to be abused by his family members. If someone he loves is being inappropriate with you or purposely making you feel uncomfortable or inadequate in any way speak up. Call bad behavior to light when you see it.

For example, say your father-in-law critiques your cooking or housekeeping skills. You might want to say as close to the moment as possible, "Wow, George, I know you're not trying to be rude but that really hurts my feelings." Letting things fester only builds resentments. "George" may not even realize that he hit a sensitive spot.

Don't make spouses choose.

"It's me or your family!" These words should never be spoken. If your in-laws are a nightmare to deal with, limit your interactions only. Take it from your personal love coach, do not ever prevent a spouse of grand-kids from spending time with their extended family.

If all else fails, limit interactions to holidays and keep the good vibes moving.

Good luck!

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