Life Support: How to impress the in-laws

Essential skills for the modern world
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Brace yourself

Regardless of how average their offspring are, most parents expect their children's partners to be intelligent, good looking, wealthy, cultured... no pressure there, then.

And some parents' desire to live vicariously through their children extends to their relationships as well as their careers – if mother is harbouring regrets that she didn't run away with a rock star, she may be disappointed when her daughter brings home a sensible lawyer. So impressing the in-laws can seem nigh on impossible, but luckily a few simple tips can help.

Prepare

Treat the initial meeting as a cross between a job interview and a first date. Dress nicely, but appropriately for the occasion – hotpants and an Armani suit are equally wrong for a relaxed Sunday lunch. Do your homework. Find out what they are interested in, be it football, gardening or Chinese ceramics, do a bit of research on the subject, and then ask them about it.

Listen to your partner

Your other half knows his or her parents much better than you do, so get your partner's advice – it will score you brownie points with your other half for making an effort. It is worth getting them on side, as bad relations with your partner's family can be very stressful. In 2008 Cambridge psychologist Terri Apter did research showing that two thirds of British wives said that their mothers-in-law caused them "long-term unhappiness and stress", with 15 per cent of men feeling the same.

Give them a chance

While some people do have fraught relations with their in-laws, others get on better with them than with their own parents. In some cases, these friendships even outlive the relationships that they were born out of, as in the case of actress Jennifer Aniston, who is famously still close to ex-husband Brad Pitt's parents.

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