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June and Wilson had been dating since secondary school. Eleven years later, Wilson popped the question. June said yes without batting an eyelid and both went through a typical couple’s life stage – applying for a Built-to-order flat, planning their wedding and filling their daily conversations of starting their lives together. Then out of the blue, Wilson’s parents broke the news, “We will be moving in with you when your house is ready.”

Here’s their story and how they coped with the initial years of staying together with her in-laws.
 
Talk and set boundaries
Before moving in together, talk and share your concerns with your spouse. Ask each other what life is going to be like living with the in-laws.
 
June: I was taken aback by the news as my initial thought was just the two of us, a pair of newly-weds in our new home. I was not ready to share our home with my in-laws! I felt it was an invasion of our privacy and that I would be judged by the way I was going to run the household. So before I went crazy, Wilson and I sat down and talked about it.

Wilson: We did our research, discussed and weighed out the pros and cons. It was not an easy topic but we managed to come to an agreement on what would work for us as newlyweds and then with my parents.

We came up with some ground rules for everyone; for example, shared household responsibilities – taking turns to do the laundry, cook dinner, clean the house, etc., and avoid any potential misunderstandings, like buying dinner when there is home-cooked dinner.
 
Ask for privacy
Let’s face it, newlyweds need their privacy. Your room is off limits to your in-laws, we don’t want anyone budging into your room especially when you and your spouse are being intimate.
 

June: If your mother or father-in-law keeps walking into your bedroom unannounced, you have to tell them that they have to knock first. Always do this gently so that it doesn’t rub off as offensive. Your in-laws will understand, after all, they do want grandchildren!


Wilson: Sometimes, we do want extra privacy; we have to do it in a nice way, like sending my parents off on a midnight date or even a short vacation.


Arthur Ling says, “Purpose to plan time together as whole a family so that the elderly parents feel loved and cared for.”

 

Take your stand
Conflicts are bound to surface over time but it’s the steps you take to overcome this that matters.

 

June: The tension between a mother- and daughter-in-law is nothing new, be it in the real or reel world. I have heard stories of friends not being able to get along with the in-laws and tensions can run high, leading to many quarrels and sleepless nights. Sometimes it could arise from something as insignificant as the type of milk to feed baby.


Wilson: To avoid such conflicts, I always remind my parents not to get involved whenever June and I have a disagreement. Likewise, I don’t get involve when June has a disagreement with her parents and vice versa. We just have to be mindful and adopt the mind-set that there will be disagreements in the initial phrases as everyone is getting used to the new living conditions.


Arthur Ling says, “Husbands can take an active role to mediate when there are areas of disagreement between his wife and parents.”


Seek to adjust/ compromise
Sometimes, in-laws will say or do things that will bother or annoy you. Look on the brighter side of life or speak up when you have no other choice.

 

Wilson: With my parents living with us, we can always look forward to home-cooked meals as my mother loves cooking and inventing new dishes. This is a plus for us because neither June nor I would have the time to prepare proper meals during the weekdays. And not to mention, when the children come along, we’ll have peace of mind while at work, knowing that our kids will be in safe hands.


June: I would not classify living with in-laws an easy task. Being a multi-racial couple, we did foresee certain conflicts, but I am glad they adjusted to my comfort level and I accommodated to some of their living habits. These small compromises help both parties and made me appreciate my in-laws more. I tell myself to stop worrying, wondering, and doubting and have faith that things will work out.


Arthur Ling says, “Fill the love tanks full all the time. When the marriage is going well, the wife has a greater motivation to love her parents-in-law.”

 

Get help when needed
There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. It will do wonders for both the couple and the in-laws.

 

Wilson: I agree it is not easy and I am grateful for June to be able to live harmoniously with my parents. We must remember that our marriage should remain the number one priority. I would suggest getting professional help if the situation becomes overwhelming and if the living situation is starting to show signs of cracks in your marriage. You might also consider living a more separate life from your in-laws temporarily.

 

June: I would be lying if I were to tell you that there is absolutely no stress living with my in-laws. To maintain my sanity, I talk to my girlfriends and we share our experiences and laugh off the stress. This has helped me keep a healthy relationship with my in-laws!

 

3 tips on living with in-laws

1. Communicate
Nobody is perfect; your in-laws are only human. Don’t expect them to read your mind and know that you are not happy with certain things. Schedule family meetings and talk things out in a diplomatic way and also be sensitive to each other’s feelings.
 

2. Be reasonable
Involve the in-laws in most of the decisions that concern your house and family, but you have to decide where to draw the line.

 

3. Don’t be over-possessive
Don’t be over-possessive over your spouse. Your in-laws gave you the opportunity to marry their child, but that doesn’t mean your spouse is your property. Like the saying goes, sharing is caring.

 
Maybe Baby thanks Arthur Ling, deputy director of Fei Yue Family Centre for his valuable input.

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