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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

When you marry, you get more than a spouse. You also inherit a bunch of new relatives. Life is infinitely more enjoyable when you get along with your in-laws. A good place to start is with sisters-in-law. A sister-in-law who becomes a friend can be a powerful ally and support system. Follow these steps to befriend your sister-in-law.

Establish a separate relationship with your sister-in-law that doesn't include your spouse. A friendship takes time to build. Instant bonding is rare.

Remember that while she may be a friend, she's also a relative. While joking is okay, don't rehash marital gripes with your sister-in-law. She may complain about her sibling, but rally to his defense if he's attacked. There's a reason they say that blood's thicker than water.

Find common ground. Maybe you both like the same kind of music or exercise. If so, make a date to attend a concert or go running in the park.

Encourage her to talk about herself. She'll probably be grateful for your interest, plus you learn a lot about her and possibly all of our spouse's relatives. Make certain your sister-in-law knows that you consider her an important part of the family. Ask her advice about things like buying gifts or being a new parent.

Ask your sister-in-law for help. She may be letting you do the dinner clean-up because she doesn't want to offend you. If your sister-in-law is staying with you for a visit, perhaps you could invest in cute little signs that send the message that everyone picks up after themselves.

Communicate directly with your sister-in-law instead of through your spouse. That means sending your own thank you notes for gifts. Instead of asking your spouse to invite your sister-in-law for dinner, pick up the phone and invite her yourself. The gesture may mean a lot to her.

Stand up for yourself. Don't nitpick, but if you have a gripe, go to the source and not through your spouse. Tell her that you have plans when she shows up at your house without warning. If you don't speak up for yourself, you'll become frustrated and resentful.


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