May 21, 2018
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How to survive your in-laws: Family gatherings

By Hundreds of Heads, Special to the BDN

Married? Here’s some advice on your visiting with your in-laws from the book “How to Survive Your In-Laws” (Hundreds of Heads Books,, $13.95), straight from people who’ve done it:

When my husband’s family descends, they have that family thing going, and I’m not part of it. I always feel like an apple in a room full of oranges. I’ve given up on trying to change that, and instead I just focus on getting through it. It also helps to remind myself that when my family visits, the shoe’s going to be on the other foot.

— Anonymous, Boulder, Colo.; years with in-laws: 4

It really helps if you can connect with another “outlaw.” I remember, for example, the first time I attended a big family dinner with my future in-laws. I was sitting next to another girlfriend, who has since become my sister-in-law, and we were having a great time talking until my now-husband said, kind of sternly, “Mary, my dad is talking.” We were really surprised, and then I realized that at his family’s dinner table, his dad really held court, and everyone else would just listen and not talk. And we hadn’t realized that, because in our own families, everybody talked around the dinner table at the same time. Since then, my sister-in-law and I have gotten through a lot of family events and outings by being able to connect with each other and process the weird family dynamics together.

— Mary, St. Paul, Minn.; years with in-laws: 15

My mother-in-law is a control freak. Over the years, I have been the one to voice my opinion when she’s being unreasonable, and my husband has just stood by. I’ve told my husband, though, that it would be more effective if he, as the family member, would speak up. I believed that his mother would hear things, especially critical things, better from him. My husband has started to do this, and it has helped a lot.

— Anonymous, Easton, Pa.; years with in-laws: 13

I was initially shy at family get-togethers. My husband’s family is much louder and more vocal than mine; I found that overwhelming. At some point, it occurred to me that I was feeling left out because I was keeping myself on the sidelines. It was my attitude, not their treatment of me. The easiest way for me to get comfortable is to do something: clear the table, talk to the kids, take pictures. Also, this is a family that loves to laugh, and once we’re laughing, we’ve definitely bonded.

— Andrea, Philadelphia, Pa.; years with in-laws: 15

Hundreds of Heads Books’ survival guides offer the wisdom of the masses by assembling the experiences and advice of hundreds of people who have gone through life’s biggest challenges and have insight to share. Visit to share your advice or get more information.

@2012, Hundreds of Heads Books, Inc.

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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