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Being a good in-law is like walking a tightrope, if you say too much or two little you fall off balance. Obviously, both can have serious consequences. Lately I've been seeing and hearing a lot of the results of poor in-law behavior. Thankfully I can be proud to say-I have been above reproach.

One friend shared with me her hurt at being totally forgotten on her birthday, again. In 18 years of marriage 90% of her in-laws had never even so much as called her on her special day. They had also not remembered to call their niece and nephew on the days of their births. She pointed this out to her spouse. In all these years she had made sure his family had always received, at the very least, a phone call on these occasions, plus on their individual anniversaries. A family member called and regaled that her mother-in-law had done the unthinkable-she bought a car from a dealership that had treated her son worse than dirt! In case you're wondering, this woman was at the agency and witnessed firsthand the treatment the young couple had endured. Both felt as if this woman deliberately stabbed them with a butcher knife. The mother-in-law in kind, thought they owed her an apology, leaving them a five minute tirade on their answering machine telling them just that! Now I'm sure in the two years that I have been an in-law that I have probably said or done something I shouldn't have, I am a force to be reckoned with when something "gets my goat".

But I try very hard to be a "good" relative. My mother probably had the world's worst in the way of marital relatives to contend with, so from an early age I took mental notes about what you should not do if you want to be loved for a lifetime by your adult children. My parents are very good in-laws, not perfect (who really wants to be?) but darn close. My husband's family could have learned a few things, but I've come to love my sister-in-law and wished that she and her family lived closer. Same with one of his cousins.

The way I see my position is this: everyone has a right to make their own mistakes. I am not the keeper of the clan. What was a good choice for my husband and myself doesn't mean that it is the only way! So I keep my mouth zipped, unless I am directly asked what would I do in the given situation. If something really bugs me, I say so-to my daughter. I say it honestly, once. Then I shut up. Okay, sometimes twice. I'm working on correcting that.

I always remember birthdays and anniversaries of the immediate family, call when I hear someone is sick or hurt to see how they are doing. When time or need comes up, I offer my services in any way I am able.

Being a good in-law is not the same as being a good employee-there is no yearly review! No one calls you in and tells you what your strengths are or where you could improve. It's all trial and error. Kind of like being a parent for the first time. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a class to take? "In-law: 101-the ins and outs of getting along with your married children"

I for one, would sign-up.


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