How to Get Along With Your New In-Laws

A mother-in-law shares her secrets for keeping the peace.

Photograph by Kurstin Roe Photography.

Washingtonian’s resident wedding etiquette expert and author of It’s Her Wedding But I’ll Cry If I Want To Leslie Milk has a son-in-law and daughter-in-law of her own. Here’s her tips for couples who want to keep the new family relationships happy and healthy.

Don’t criticize your new spouse to your in-laws.

They may secretly agree with you, but they will feel honor-bound to defend their child. Plus, your criticism implies that they did a less-than-terrific job as parents.

Find something to bond over.

Look for a way to connect even if it’s out of your comfort zone. My daughter-in-law is low maintenance, and I am definitely not. On one of my visits, she took me for a gel manicure—something she would never do for herself.

Don’t use your spouse as your mouthpiece.

Any sentence that starts with, “Can you talk to your mother about . . . ” is an invitation for trouble. Even if your spouse agrees to mediate, your in-laws will know the message comes from you.

Accept that you can’t control everything.

The wedding is one day; the relationship with your spouse’s parents should last a lifetime. If your brand-new father-in-law wants to dance the tango at the reception, take an extra sip of Champagne and look the other way.

Remember: You’re marrying the whole family.

No matter how similar the two sides may seem, you are marrying into another culture. You don’t have to blend in, but you do have to respect your spouse’s traditions and incorporate them into your life together.

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Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.