I've heard a litany of complaints and observations from husbands who tell me their tales of woes going to the in-laws. I've heard about the neat freaks, and the mother-in-laws who cook the food beyond recognition. I've heard about the families who ignore the husband (What am I - invisible? one man said to me). One client told me that his mother-in-law would tell his wife what she wanted him to know. "Mom" would never speak directly to her son-in-law. Sure these are horror stories and most people aren't that way, right?
Regardless of whether you are visiting the in-laws from hell or you just want to make sure that you put on your best behavior, I have some tips for you. You can use it anytime you are going to the in-laws.
- Take a hostess gift for "Mom". It could be flowers, chocolates, fruit, a small plant. Ask your wife what she thinks would make "Mom" happy. But remember if you come up with it yourself, your wife will most likely tell the family "And Rob came up with this present all by himself!"
- Take "Dad" a gift. Perhaps his favorite drink. That could be alcoholic, but it doesn't have to be. It could be a bag of gourmet coffee beans!
- Arrive when you said you would.
- Be prepared to be one of the crowd and not the one in control of how things are happening. Remember that you are only staying for a few hours or a few days and once the visit is over you can go back to being the captain of your own fate.
- If you tell a story, make sure it is a story about something positive about your wife. Make her the focal point of the story - do not put yourself in the starring role.
- Offer to set the table, carry the gravy or clean up afterwards. Pitch in where you can. Don't just sit on the couch watching the football game and drinking beer with the brothers.
- If asked to give thanks, or if you have the opportunity, let people know that you are giving thanks for your wife and for her family.
- Love the meal. Be sure to say something sincere and nice about the food that has been cooked. Even if the turkey is mushy and the potatoes are lumpy, find something real and good to say.