How my in-laws strengthen my marriage

How my in-laws strengthen my marriage

Relationships with your husband's family don't have to be tense and strained. These women have had quite the opposite experience. By Sunita Shahdadpuri

"I remember the first time my sister-in-law, who had emigrated, came to visit. I had been married only a few months.

"My in-laws had a big garden party and my sister-in-law, who knew her way around and was very capable, did a lot of work for the party. But she gave me credit for it. It was a very sweet gesture on her part and gave me some brownie points as a new bride." - Sheila Bhandari*, 40, stay-at-home mum

"We live with my in-laws, and whenever my husband and I have a tiff, my mother-in-law has a plan: Instead of making us feel that we have to eat at the dining table together and pretend all is well, she tells my father-in-law to take her out for a meal, on the pretext that she is craving something.

"This way, Hubby and I have some space to discuss things and resolve our differences. When they come home, things are usually back to normal." - Janet Wong*, 28, banker

"Every family has one in-law who tries to neutralise the atmosphere when there is an argument. In my case, it's my brother-in-law.

"One day, I baked a cake when my mother-in-law was out. When she came home, she opened the fridge to see how much butter I had used.

"When she saw that my husband, father-in-law and brother-in-law had already finished their slices, she said to my husband: 'The cake was dry, right? She didn't use the whole slab of butter.' My husband agreed with her. "My brother-in-law stood up for me and said: 'It's such a yummy cake, I want another slice!' My father-in-law followed suit and they both gobbled up another slice, even though it was nearly dinner time." - Rena Khan*, 38, marketing manager

"My in-laws have always been on hand to babysit. They give us feedback on how well the kids are behaving, and this makes us feel we have their approval on how we are raising the children.

"This support has helped us cope with being parents to three children and also allowed us quality time together, as they encourage us to go on regular dates and have weekends away." - Dorine Cheung, 41, stay-at-home mum

"In 1990, when our son was 18 months old, my husband went on a business trip to Kuwait. It turned out to be the wrong place and the wrong time, as the conflict with Iraq unfolded then. There were no flights out of the country and I didn't hear from him for over two weeks. It was terrifying.

"My in-laws helped me through this tough time. They called me every day to see how I was, and reassured me that no matter what happened, they would always support me financially and stand by me. We were all so relieved when my husband finally came home." - Tanya Mukherjee*, 45, stay-at-home mum

"My mum-in-law and I often have long chats where she shares interesting insights about my husband. I used to wonder why he was such a workaholic - he would sometimes forget to call me or even eat, if he was very busy.

"I learnt that he was one of a few in his extended family who went to university on a scholarship. When he started working, he felt a lot of pressure to make sure he didn't take that opportunity for granted.

"So now, whenever he forgets to run an errand or misses my calls because of work, I'm a bit more understanding." - Lim Hui Ching*, 38, sub-editor

"When my daughter was a few months old and still breastfeeding, my mother-in-law saw me exhausted from lack of sleep and overwork.

"She told me that the most important thing I can do for my family is to take care of myself first. And she encouraged me to take up tennis! How many mothers-in-law would do that?

"Since then, tennis has been part of our special bond. We don't live in the same city, but see each other several times a year. And each time we do, we play tennis. My daughter is now five years old, my tennis game has improved, and maybe some day I'll be able to win a set!" - Joy Chen, 45, writer

"I used to have a formal relationship with my in-laws, only meeting them occasionally. But a few years into our marriage, my husband and I decided to emigrate. The plan was for me to go back to university for a year, taking our three- and five-year-old sons with me. Once I got a job, my husband would follow.

"I felt anxious when my in-laws asked to visit us. But to my amazement, when they arrived, they rented a car, did my grocery shopping, cooked, washed, ironed, cleaned and babysat - all without fuss.

"Their two-week visit flew by, and when they left, I was sad to see them go. The support they gave was unconditional. They wanted to see me succeed, to see our plans for the future work out and for our marriage to flourish. During that difficult year, my in-laws were a much bigger bonus than I could ever have imagined." - Samantha Chan*, 38, teacher

"My in-laws thought they were getting a daughter-in-law who was a great cook, but cooking was just not my thing. I decided to buy some cookbooks and learn.

"One day, I made a Thai curry. All was going well but the colour didn't look right - it was muddy brown. I decided to add green food colouring. To my horror, it turned the curry bright green. It was too late to do anything, so I had to serve it.

"My mother-in-law was the first to taste the food. I was amazed to hear her say 'Excellent, very tasty!' and 'Must make it more often!'. She even commented that it was a 'very pretty colour'. My husband was beaming from ear to ear and I felt so good and supported!" - Jasmine Patel*, 38, lawyer

*Names have been changed

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