Whether you're living with them or not, it's always important to maintain a good relationship with them even if you aren't particularly close. And this advice is applicable to both husbands and wives.
It's true: Living with your in-laws is bad for your health. A Japanese study published in 2008 found that women living in multi-generational households, with grandparents, adult children and young children under one roof, were two to three times more likely to experience coronary heart disease than women living with just a spouse.
While not all of us have to actually live with our parents-in-law, it is always important to maintain good relations with them even if you aren't particularly close. Navigating the challenges of getting comfortable with your in-laws is especially tricky but we've got some pointers that will keep tensions at bay:
1. Roll out the red carpet
Let them know you appreciate them and their presence by pulling out all the stops when they come over for a visit to your home. Make sure the house is spick and span, cook a nice family meal and plan some light entertainment so they don't get bored. Just a little bit of effort will go a long way in their eyes.
2. Look after your spouse
Nothing will assure your spouse's parents more that you're the right fit for their child than knowing he or she is well taken care of. It's not easy for parents to hand over the reins of responsibility so showing that you are capable of taking over will impress them to no end.
3. Find common ground
Nothing cements a friendship more tightly than a shared interest, so find out your commonalities and enjoy them together. Perhaps your in-laws enjoy playing sport or hunting down the latest culinary delight? There are plenty of things you can do together to forge a closer bond.
4. Ask for seconds at meal times
Mums usually love nothing more than cooking and feeding their family. They are also fiercely proud of their cooking skills (most of the time). So ask for seconds or thirds if you can manage it at the dinner table when you're over at your in-laws to butter them up a bit. Better yet - ask whether your mum-in-law can teach you the recipe to one or two dishes!
5. Dress to impress
You may not think much of it, but how you dress can influence your spouse's parents' impression of you more than you know. Always aim to look well-groomed and put together when you're meeting the in-laws. Choose family appropriate outfits that are modest but stylish and still show off your personality.
6. Run a tight ship at home
Get your ducks in a row and keep your home organised, clean and presentable. You never know when your in-laws may drop by (or any other guests for that matter) and you don't want to welcome them into a wreck of a living room. Besides, clean sheets, shiny floors and uncluttered counter-tops can make your living space feel homier somehow (link to H&D story).
7. Don't sweat the small stuff
A psychologist from Cambridge University has discovered that wives are "programmed" to fight with their mother-in-laws. Even if you don't get along like a house on fire, you can still maintain a cordial relationship and the key to that, is to pick which battles to fight. Avoid pointless bickering because it won't lead to any good for either of you.
8. Cure with kindness
Okay, so maybe you had a disagreement or didn't see eye to eye on something. Try to get back into their good books by spoiling your in-laws a little. No relationship is perfect and there will be speed bumps along the way but remember, it is always in your best interests to have your parents-in-law on your side.
9. Do call them regularly
Even if you don't have time to meet your in-laws in person (or you both live in different countries), always try to check in regularly so that they know they're in your thoughts. Familiarity breeds affection so regularly setting aside time to talk to them will ease the relationship and put you in a positive light.
10. Learn when to bite your tongue
Try to agree to disagree if you find yourself arguing with your in-laws about an issue. Find ways to be grateful for them. At the very least, remember that they raised the person you love to become who he or she is, so try to look for the good because it could always be worse!
This article was first published on Singapore's Women Weekly.