Dating for Success: In Laws

When dating, both the boy and girl focus on the qualities and values of each other and consider if and how they can fuse their lives together as one unit. The emphasis and attention is placed on the boy and girl themselves and not their families, and that is rightfully so.
You would be marrying that boy/ girl and not their family. However, as many newlywed couples will attest, the impactful role in which each of the boy and girl’s families play once the wedding has passed is quite drastic. It now fully hits you that your husband or wife’s parents and siblings are your in-laws and your full-fledged family. You quickly realize that you not only married your spouse, but in some way, their family.
However, despite this reality, it should not necessarily frighten you.
Be very careful to reject a boy or girl because you don’t see yourself being “so close” with his or her parents. Your in-laws do not need to be people that you love vacationing with and spending your every waking moment with. It is true that they will be related to you through marriage, but remember, it is through marriage. You are married to your spouse and that is who your life will be spent together with. Having a close and warm relationship with your in-laws is a bonus and wonderful asset, but it is not a prerequisite to enjoying a happy and healthy relationship with your spouse.
In many scenarios, various circumstances and conditions will make it more difficult for you to relate to your in- laws. Consider the situation where your husband’s parents are 10- 15 years older than your own parents. You may be the oldest in your family and your husband may be the youngest. You might think that your husband’s parents would get along better with your grandparents than your parents, and how will you, who is even younger ever relate to them? The question is a fair question, but once again, you are marrying your husband and not his parents. In this case, for example, the age difference should be of no major consequence in affecting your marriage or your healthy relationship to your in-laws.
Notwithstanding the above, the one question which should be addressed when looking into the boy or girl’s family relates to their emotional stability. If that is compromised, then there is what to question as it relates to the boy/girl you are dating. If the parent’s personal lives are unhealthy to the point that it has affected your date and/or the environment he or she grew up in was influenced by that imbalance, there is something to consider. Each case will be defined by the specific nature of the emotional instability, but do not ignore it.
Included in this is the nature and quality of the parents’ marriage (or divorce), and more importantly, their relationship to their child who you are dating. If their parenting of their child has been less than satisfactory, its effects will show in your date, albeit subtlety perhaps. Poor modeling of healthy relationships growing up will translate into their child (and your date) having never seen up close what a healthy relationship looks like. This will often leave its impact on your date’s worldview and a host of other parts of their life. Identifying resulting cognitive and emotional patterns in your date may be difficult to discern for you who is unexperienced in human behavior and relationships, but to a trained therapist will not. In practical terms, this requires that you keep a keen eye out for what the parent/child relationship is like for your date, and look to determine what impact that has created. Seek guidance, before you get married, if you are unsure about concerns relating to this.
However, aside from emotional stability, other family differences – whether it relates to parents’ age, style (your date’s family may be very into kiruv and you aren’t) or family customs – should not deter you from moving further in the dating process.