Life really couldn’t be more perfect or any more sublime as the two of you make a picture-perfect, snuggly home together in the months following your wedding near the naval/army/marine/air base where your spouse in uniform is stationed.
The New Year is starting to loom large on the horizon. Off the two of you will go cross-country to spend leave time with his family, your family or both families respectively.
If not right now, then later this year.
Face it: Inevitably, you will find yourself having to spend a great big bunch of time with your in-laws.
Dealing with the task of getting to know your in-laws, allowing them to get to know you while trying your darnedest not to make any serious faux pas in the process can seem about as formidable as climbing Mount Everest.
But it doesn’t have to be that tricky once you’ve got the inside track on how to win over new in-laws.
The following are tried-and-true tips culled from every active duty service member and military veteran I could get my hands on:
Be especially nice and attentive to your spouse’s mother.
Remember, she’s struggling to get to know you and wants to love you as much as her son/daughter does. If you got married at the courthouse and she wasn’t invited because it was so last minute, express to her that you really wished she could have been there. Even if you didn’t, it’s important to say that you did.
Tell her when the day comes that the two of you renew your vows, you’ll want her to definitely be front and center. She’ll love hearing that from you.
Show interest in your spouse’s father and his hobbies.
He’s going to be a pretty easy sell if you seem genuinely interested in him and what he enjoys. A model car enthusiast? Ask him to show you his models. Coin collector? Ask him about his favorite coins. If he built the backyard patio with his own hands, express how beautiful you think it is.
Really want to win him over? Ask him for his help with…something. Dads just love being asked to help. Get him helping and you’ll have him fully squared away in your corner in no time.
Play with the family offspring.
In-laws love watching a new member of the family interacting with their children. Make a real effort to gather up the kids and engage them in a fun impromptu game, tell them a story or simply sit and converse animatedly with them.
Your in-laws will get get so warm and fuzzy about you through your interactions with their kids that you will literally end up owning their hearts forever.
Refrain from expressing controversial opinions.
Remember, you’re still the family “newbie.” You may have been married for the last ten months but the in-laws don’t know you well enough yet where you can let your hair down and tell them what you really think about anything.
Do your best to be “Switzerland” by remaining neutral in every conversation. If Mom loves Obama and Dad can’t stand him, shrug when the spotlight lands on you and say you really don’t have an opinion either way, even if you do. If your spouse’s sister who prostituted herself for drugs is in rehab for heroin addiction, simply say, when asked what you think, that you hope she’ll get her life back on track soon.
In-laws are a lot like elephants in the respect that they never forget what was said and by whom long after a discussion took place. Don’t take the risk of venturing into dangerous ‘he said/she said’ waters until they know you really, really well.
Brag openly about your new spouse.
Remember, you are the one who gets to see your spouse up close and personal on a daily basis in terms of his or her military service. You are the closest link your in-laws realistically have to their loved one in uniform who, to them, is stationed a million miles away from home.
Go ahead and gush that he’s the best sailor in the Navy, she’s the best soldier in the Army. The best Marine or Air Force airman. Show them what a wonderful cheerleader you are for the man or woman you married. They deserve that. No, they need that from you – a virtual stranger who has joined their family in marriage.
And if you really want to bring it all full circle to where they will clutch at you and hold you close to their hearts? Tell them how much their son or daughter, brother or sister loves and misses them, not just sometimes – but all the time.
Say it, mean it. You’ll find yourself ceremoniously given the key to the family inner circle.
Count on it.