Falling in love in itself requires a lot of factors to line up in just the right way; the chemistry, life goals and the timing all coming together to create a couple's special love story. For some people, falling in love with their beloved's family -- and vice versa -- is just as important. So whether you're ready to take the plunge, you've already said "I do" or you're somewhere in between, here's a list of some surefire ways to get close to your sweetheart's family.
Like music, comedy can bond people quickly. And what better way to connect than with laughter by inquiring about your honey's awkward stages growing up? Caroline Utz, in writing the article "5 Ways to Bond with Your Future Mother-in-Law" for the Martha Stewart Weddings website, says: "You and your future MIL share an important common interest -- her son! Ask to look at old photo albums and yearbooks, and ask questions about what your groom was like growing up. If she's like most moms, she'll be more than happy to chat about him." Request to hear all the embarrassing stories (and photos, of course) you can. If you're at an event with siblings and cousins, even better! They'll be able to give you the "insider" versions of the stories, the ones that were not suitable for adults back in the day. Besides bonding over laughter, you'll get a glimpse into a side of your special someone that you didn't know. While everyone's relaxed, stories of his or her accomplishments -- and your own -- are appropriate as well.
*Shared and Unique Interests
You may fear that you and your in-laws are more different than alike, but if you keep an open mind and inquire about their favorite activities, you can plan something around them. "Whether you listen to the same music, have a similar taste in clothes, both started bingeing the latest Netflix series, or share a love for cooking, take time to bond over things that you both enjoy," writes Gabrielle Gresge on the Brit + Co website. This is a great way to help them feel comfortable with you, as their guard will naturally be down while engaging in an activity they love. Who knows? You may find out you have a secret passion for card games, relay races or cook-offs that you never knew existed!
*Mum's the Word
Sometimes the easy way to bond with your in-laws is by not talking. A simple way to relieve a situation where the stakes and expectations are high is to immerse yourselves in an experience where you don't have to talk, like watching a movie or a play. That way, you're all sharing the experience without anyone feeling stress or anxiety. This is also a great way to include teenagers or children, especially around the holiday season, as there are many family-friendly movies playing that time of year. Not only is this a wonderful way to bridge generational gaps but if there are also issues with certain conversation topics -- say, politics -- you can keep things as light as possible.
*Being Each Other's Teammate
It may seem obvious, but kindness is a magical tool that you can use in every conversation. Oftentimes in-laws have opinions about choices you and your significant other should make. You can set boundaries early on in a kind and healthy way by declaring that you will make decisions for your lives as a team of two; everyone else's voices will be heard and considered, but ultimately, you will choose what you feel is best. As long as you both know and practice this, you can truly enjoy the time with your in-laws and extended family -- even those who drive you both crazy -- because you know that you have each other to lean on.
Just like your relationship with your sweetheart, the relationship with your in-laws and family members must be nurtured so it grows stronger over time. The common theme among all of these tactics is this: Start where you're at, and build from there.