For many people, the day they wed is one of the most exciting days of their life. When you say, “I do” you are getting all of the other person. Sometimes, we forget this includes their extended family.

One of the most common complaints in marriage is in-laws. There are plenty of mother-in-law jokes circulating proving how rigid marrying into difficult in-laws can be.

With many in the military, the distance can be a welcome relief, but certainly “out of sight” doesn’t always mean “out of mind.” Challenging in-laws can cause marital stress and arguments to include where vacations will be spent.

Long distance does not mean you can simply ignore the awkwardness.

If you have challenging in-laws, there is hope. However, the hope has to start with you. Try to remember your spouse was their child first. If you have children, you understand the bond.

Naturally, they care about their child (and this is a good thing). Your goal is not to sever or hurt this bond. Your goal is to develop your own bond with your spouse and with them.

If the in-laws are speaking ill about you, the best person to defend you is your spouse. Generally, defending yourself to your mother or father-in-law will not be well received.

Likewise, the best person to set boundaries with them is their child.

If you are friends on Facebook, post a nice message from time to time. Text or call them on their birthday and other important days. Even better, send a card or gift. Send pictures of their grandchildren via mail, Facebook, or text message so they feel connected.

Also, tell them the good things their son or daughter is doing. As a parent, I love hearing people speak highly of my children. They instantly have favor in my eyes. This also reassures them you are noticing the good and not nagging or harping on the bad.

To strengthen the bond with your in-laws, consider a family vacation together. The memories you make are priceless. Invite them to visit or to dinner. Sometimes, in-laws are challenging because they feel excluded in their child’s life.

When it’s appropriate, include them in your life. However, if they are toxic to your marriage, spouse, or children, it’s better to hold off until the relationship is more stable.

Some find their spouse’s parents are not overbearing, but instead, absent. This can be equally painful and challenging. No matter how bad they may be, don’t speak ill of your in-laws to your spouse or children. You can acknowledge your spouse’s pain and validate their feelings, but talking bad about their parents will in no way make your spouse feel better or help restore the broken relationship.

At the end of the day, you can only change you. Whether your in-laws receive your kindness or not, the choice is theirs. Just make sure what you are doing is honorable. In doing so, they will be proved wrong if they say anything ill towards you or about you. Remember to give your in-laws honor.

Kindra Warner is a marriage group facilitator at Grace Christian Center in Killeen and a Herald correspondent.

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