You can pick your spouse, but you can't pick your in-laws. Learn Modern Manners Guy's 3 tips for surviving your in-laws.
I’ve said in the past, debating politics doesn't end well. Even if you and the other person completely respect one another, politics has a way of turning up the heat. Add in the fact that your in-laws may get their political insights from a less-than-objective media source and you’re bound to go 10 rounds of “No, you're wrong!” It’s enough to make banging your head against a wall seem like a better alternative.
See also: Should You Talk Politics at Work?
The best way to handle in-laws with aggressive political beliefs is to simply never get involved in a political discussion. I know that sounds like the easy route, but when the issue comes up the first time, you’ll know where they lay on the political spectrum and gauge just how intense they are. If their views are diametrically opposed to your own, it’s better to simply change the topic and not engage.
Talk sports, talk weather, talk about a vacation you’re planning, but do not take the bait on politics. Nothing good will come from it. You’re never going to change their minds. Roll your eyes, mentally yell at them for being insane, and then smile and compliment your mother-in-law's homemade cheesecake. It will all be over soon.
Rude In-Laws #3: The Religious Adherents
Hands-down the most uncomfortable in-law situation is when your spouse's parents hold religious beliefs that differ from your own. Even if you are on the same “team,” the level of passion can be drastically different.
For example, if they're at temple or at church, and you’re watching the big game or going shopping, to them you're basically partying with Satan. Similar to politics, talking religion is a no-win situation. You’re never going to change their minds and it’s improper to walk into their home and even try. Everyone has the right to their own beliefs and challenging the faith of your in-laws will only brew animosity.
See also: 3 Tips on the Etiquette of Religion
You don’t have to agree with them, but you can’t argue with generational practices. But - and this is a big but - you can respect their beliefs without sacrificing your own. If they can’t accept you for you, this may be a deeper issue in your relationship (I’ll touch on that in a future episode).
If you and your spouse are on the same page in terms of religion, that means all you need to do is simply survive the interactions with the in-laws. The most frustrating aspect of the overzealous religious in-laws, is that you’re already behind the eight-ball before you walk in the door. Even if they love you with all their heart, they will still wonder why you won’t see things the “right way.”
Like politics, it’s totally fine to agree to disagree on the question of religion. But unlike politics, religion is a much more personal issue in which you can’t wave the banner of both parties. If you're going to be a part of this family, you need to respect and participate in its traditions.
Do you have to go to church or temple every weekend if they do? No. Do you have to alter your diet to adhere to their rules? Absolutely not. But if they don’t eat pork, resist the temptation to order a bacon cheeseburger in front of them. During family gatherings, take an active part in the songs, the stories, and the social practices. You are not betraying your beliefs by playing the part for an hour or two. They are your family and you married into it knowing full-well what comes with the marriage license.
As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.
Do you have any recent graduates in your circle, or perhaps someone who is looking to start a new career, check out my new book, Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career for great tips and advice on job success. It's available now!
In-laws image courtesy of Shutterstock.