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Caroline Rules

How To Deal with Frosty In-Laws

Caroline Manzo puts the real in The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and her fans relate to the reality star's no-nonsense attitude, focus on family and, above all, abundant common sense. Check back at Glo every Monday as Caroline helps solve your most pressing dilemmas.

The Dilemma: How do you deal with not-so-friendly in-laws? Do you grin and bear their aloof behavior, or sit down and talk with them about why thy haven't seemed to warm to you? As a mother, what advice would you give to women who have difficult relationships with their in-laws, especially during the holidays when the opportunity for criticism and conflict rises?

Caroline's Ruling: I think the word in-law should be outlawed. To me it suggests a divide, a separation. I believe that when you marry you become a part of your spouse's family and they become a part of yours. You form a bond with these people over the years that should last a lifetime and grow to love them as you love your own family. So, why not just say “my family” instead of “my in-laws”? Think about it.

Now, let's get down to business: If you find yourself in a situation where your in-laws are less than enthusiastic about your presence in their lives, this can potentially have an effect on your relationship with your partner. Remember that first and foremost. You need to evaluate the situation and understand how it affects the two of you as a couple.

Have a conversation with your partner and express how their family makes you feel and see if they are aware of it. You never know — what you interpret to be stand-offish behavior may be the norm for their personalities. In other words, don't make assumptions. You know what they say about when you assume, you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me”! If this is the case you need to adjust your sensitive button and go with the flow. Don't take it personally, it's not you, it's them.

On the flip side, we've all heard or lived through some real horror stories when it comes to in-laws. For a newly married couple, this situation can be a problem. I can only suggest to give it time, and perhaps let them get to know you and understand you a little better before you come out swinging. Show your partner that you're committed to your relationship: That includes dealing with a little jab here and there from the “other” side.

One thing that should never be tolerated, however, is full on verbal abuse and disrespect. Address the situation calmly and rationally with the intent to bring awareness to the problem and, hopefully, to put an end to it. If that doesn't work, at least you know you tried your best and have a legitimate reason to back away. The worse thing you can do is respond to bad behavior with more bad behavior. Two wrongs don't make a right.

One thing you need to be conscious of is the fact that your partner loves these people and they love them in return. Respect that. Rome wasn't built in a day. Relationships take time to build and certainly have some bumps along the way. Pick your battles. Don't sweat the small stuff. So if you have to endure a little jab here and there so what, kill them with kindness. One of two things will happen, they'll come around or you'll drive them nuts. Either way, you win.

Here's to a safe and happy holiday season. In-laws, you can't live with 'em, you can't live without 'em!

  • From marriage dilemmas to family issues, Caroline's got the answers!

    Photo by Michael T. Greco
Caroline Rules
How To Deal with Frosty In-Laws
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