When it comes to the relationship lottery, consider yourself a six-ball winner if you like your partner’s parents.
Not only is it rare, disliking them is socially acceptable (see: any/all mother-in-law jokes, wedding films and cliches about not choosing your in laws etc).
Bad blood with your paramour’s parents can tear your own relationship to shreds – I’ve seen it happen, it’s not pretty.
If you are committed to your partner, and unless their parents are bigoted, racist despots, there is plenty you can, and should do to maintain domestic harmony.
No one one said it would be easy.
Manage your exposure.
Keep days around your in-laws’ birthdays and major celebrations free; that way, no one can accuse you of evasion tactics, and alcohol will be probably be available.
Now establish your tipping point: if three hours is all you can manage in their company, schedule something frightfully important later on.
Find common ground.
Cooking, cars, movies, books, TV, plants, travel, magazines, crosswords… hell’s teeth, you are all sentient human beings, there has got to be something you can discuss with relative decorum.
Ice-skating and base jumping are probably out, and the canal museum might not be your idea of a good time, but shared experiences spark conversation and create shared memories.
Summon these memories during awkward silences to reinforce what an excellent sport you are.
Avoid the three Ps.
Politics, Parenting and Prayer stuff.
And by prayer stuff, I mean religion, but I wanted it to sound catchy.
Step into their slippers (older people enjoy a comfy slipper).
For 20-odd years, your partner’s parents have enjoyed an unfettered relationship with their child, give or take a few flash-in-the-pan twinkies.
Now here you are to detain your partner on weekends and smear your sex juices all over their sweet baby.
Subtext: your relationship isn’t just about you. Encourage your partner and in-laws to maintain their relationship and try and understand their perspective.
Draw your battle lines.
Accept that your partner’s parents will: 1. Comment on your cooking; 2. Make occasional swipes about your career; 3. Give you ‘that look’ when your own child is eating food out of the bin (or whatever impish thing it is that children do).
These are inevitable and, for the most part, permissible.
It is unacceptable for your partner’s parents to be: 1. Plain rude; 2. Critical of you in earshot of your partner or your children (which really is the pits); 3. Still be in your house a week after they ‘popped in for the weekend’.
Establish your own non-negotiables from the outset and get shouty crackers if they are violated.
Arrange a solo date.
My friend Annie was struggling to connect with her future mother-in-law. Hoping she might move to Guatemala was proving fruitless, so Annie took her out for dinner.
‘There was a different dynamic without my fiance there,’ she says. ‘My fiance is her only child, she was clearly worried I would take him away from her. Forming our own relationship made her feel more secure.’
This approach is not for the faint-hearted but she who dares and all that.
Suck it up.
If you don’t like your partner’s parents, don’t bitch. Don’t yell. Don’t spend the car journey home comparing his mum’s roast chicken to yours.
In short, do everything you can to get on with your partner’s parents.
Because they have to deal with yours.