The Unique Relationship with In-Laws

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if you are married or in a long-term relationship, then part of that deal comes your partner’s family: your in-laws. the relationship with in-laws is unique because this is the family that has watched your spouse grow, seen them through those awkward teenage years and also dealt with all the ugly poor dating choices before you came along. it’s an interesting thing to become a part of once you get married.

when my husband and i first started dating (after he basically said he wanted a wife on our first date) he already had a trip planned to backpack through italy for a month. this was before the days of using your cellphone to connect via wifi while abroad (i sound like an old lady on a rocking chair. go me some darn lemonade, young whipper-snapper!) so he only had so much money on a pre-paid international calling card.

right before he left, he said that every few days he would either call me or his mother to let us know he wasn’t dead in the canals of venice. he proceeded to give me her number and said that i needed to call her after we spoke to let her know i was okay and she would do the same. at the time, his parents were living in texas and i was in colorado so i had never met them or even spoken to them before.

cue the panic and nervous anticipation as i anxiously awaited my first call from his mom to find out the status of my boyfriend, which needed to include him being alive and not falling in love with gorgeously tan italians. thankfully, she is such a kind and warm woman so the conversations flowed easily but i still was a bundle of nerves anytime i talked with her because i was madly in love with her son and wanted her to like me.

i flew down to texas to ring in the new year (2008) and meet his parents in person for the first time. i recall needing to do a swift reapply of deodorant because i was so nervous i was sweating profusely (and there was no texas heat in december). when i walked in the door, both of his parents embraced me in a huge hug and said they were so happy to finally meet me (let’s recall the email he sent them like 3 days after we started ‘hanging out’).

this was taken on the night i met them!

improving your relationships with your inlaws 2his mom heard that i like ham so she made a massively huge and delicious honey baked ham. my husband hates ham. ha! she didn’t know what kind of cake was my favorite so she made a fruit pie and a marble cake. his dad welcomed me into their home and started asking me about my own family, interests and what it was like growing up in colorado. they welcomed me and made me feel at ease.

i am one of those lucky people that married into a great family. one of the things that was important to me in a partner was the relationship i would have with his family because i have heard that you don’t just marry your spouse, you essentially marry the whole family.

while i don’t necessarily agree with that whole statement, it is true that they do become part of your world whether you like it or not.

i spent last week visiting my in-laws, who now live on the beach in florida (heeeyo) and i have spent time reflecting on how grateful i am for the relationship we continue to build. like all relationships, it takes intention and room for growth as time goes on and i’m grateful for that.

relationship with your inlaws 4families and relationships can be difficult but i believe they should be our top priority in life so do what you can while you can to make them better and happier. this is something i’m still working on because it’s important to me to have a solid relationship with them. my relationship with my in-laws is by no means perfect (because no relationship is) and we have all had to apologize at some point because it can be an intricate and unique type of relationship. it is a learning process because it’s not like any of us have done this before!

through my 8 years of knowing them i can say without hesitation that they are some of the most generous, kind-hearted and fun-loving people you will ever have the pleasure of knowing. you should also know that anything goes at the cards table so if you have a weak heart or thin skin, you might want to sit out. oh, and they play for real money so cough it up!

check out ways to improve or enhance the relationship you have with your in-laws because it is so important to your well-being as a couple. every family is different so it takes time and intention as you navigate this role with your spouse’s parents!


  1. Audrey

    July 8, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Great post, Chelsea! I’m really excited to read your follow-up post about improving in-law relationships.

    I’m also one of the lucky ones that married into a wonderful family. At the same time, they show their love a little differently than my family and it took a long time for me to adjust and react correctly. (My family is sarcastic and independent- K’s family is very comforting and touchy and close.) Only in the last year have I adjusted but I’m very thankful for the two dynamics!
    Audrey recently posted…| My Grateful Heart |

    • chelsea

      July 8, 2015 at 8:36 am

      are we the same person, audrey?! that is almost exactly how our families align too! it was a huge adjustment for both of us to interact in these new family dynamics. i love what you said about reacting correctly too, i’m going to include that in the next post because you are so right. i’m thankful for the differing dynamics as well 🙂

  2. Amberly

    July 8, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Yes, I love this!! I can’t wait to read your next post 🙂
    Amberly recently posted…The Perks of Being Married to a Dietary Aide

    • chelsea

      July 8, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      glad you liked it amberly, hope you enjoy the next one too 🙂

  3. Elyse

    July 8, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    I can’t wait to read your next post!

    I’ve had a weird relationship since they knew me growing up it’s hard to “see” me as an adult, but once we were engaged it’s like a switch changed and they saw us both as grown ups and fully embraced our relationship. It’s still a work in progress but I don’t dread seeing them anymore!
    Elyse recently posted…Lovin’ From the Oven

    • chelsea

      July 13, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      that would be tricky since they’ve known you for so long elyse, i hadn’t thought of that! i’m glad that once you got engaged, they fully embraced your ‘grown up relationship’ and i’m happy you don’t dreading seeing them anymore! it makes holidays and interactions soooo much easier 🙂

  4. Rachel G

    July 8, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    It’s a very good thing to have an excellent relationship with your in-laws. And more people need to be aware of the fact that they marry a person who comes from a family of some sort, and that their family does influence who they are in many ways, though each individual is different. I’m all for cross-cultural marriage and all that, but when I got married I don’t think I quite realized just how much it would matter that I married into a family that literally speaks a whole different language. My relationship with my parents-in-law isn’t the easiest or most natural thing in the world, but I have a lot of respect for them. And I haven’t met most of Angel’s extended family because that’s what happens when your family is spread across several different countries.
    Rachel G recently posted…An Educational Visit to Siem Reap

    • chelsea

      July 13, 2015 at 4:42 pm

      wow rachel, that is a whole other component of literally speaking a whole other language than your in-laws. that would be hard to get to know one another and even more tough since you don’t live in the same country (and i thought my flight tickets were steep across country but you win)! thanks for adding this dynamic to think about because it’s important!

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  6. Vivien

    July 10, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    As my mom always said, two people getting married from the same religion/culture/background is difficult enough, as every family dynamic is different. Start changing any one of those above, and both parties have to be understanding and willing to keep an open mind and learn about the other.
    Vivien recently posted…From Toastmasters to Real World

    • chelsea

      July 13, 2015 at 4:45 pm

      your mother is so very right, vivien! it’s such a unique relationship and add a different cultural component and it continues to make it complex!

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