As an individual goes through life, there are all kinds of relationships he/she enters into. Parents, partner and children are some of the most important among these which is why their mutual dynamics can greatly impact a person’s happiness. So if your husband and parents don’t get along, it is a far from perfect situation but fortunately there are a few things you can do to soothe ruffled feathers all around.
Divest yourself of any guilt
At the very outset, keep in mind that this is none of your fault. Your husband and parents are adults and responsible for their own feelings and behavior; if they are not able to get along with each other, you do not have to take the burden of making them like each other or the difficult job of playing peacemaker. Consider your husband and parents as you would deal with different members of your friend circle – each having a unique personality and individual set of good and bad traits but not necessarily getting along with each other. Having this approach will help you to view both sides as separate individuals in your life who you love and understand but cannot, indeed do not need to, control.
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Talk it over, separately
Once you are free from any notions of guilt about your husband and parents not getting along, you will be better able to take any steps that can help at least help them behave courteously with each other. Sit down with your husband and parents separately and explain that you'd like them to get along with one another better. Once your spouse and parents realize that their relationship is important to you, they might make an effort to improve the relationship. Don’t forget to remind both your husband and your parents how important they are to you, and explain that you think you'll all be happier if they get along. At the same time share good memories and stories about your childhood with your husband. Telling him about the good things that your parents did for you may make him feel grateful to them for treating you so well. Likewise mention the loving and thoughtful things that your husband has done for you and your parents will be able to more thankful for the man their daughter has married.
If these are early days, there are still some steps that you can take to foster better relations between your husband and parents. If you are newlyweds fill up your husband with larger family dynamics – which parent is close to which child or the family’s views on politics and religion in general. All this will help your husband to avoid controversial topics or indulge in a sense of humor that does not exactly match your parents’. Also ask yourself if there is something about your parents that your husband should know about – earlier marriages or children from other relationships. While these factors may have no bearing on the affection that you and your parents feel for each other, knowing about them may well save your husband from making an embarrassing mistake and further exacerbating the tension.
Set some boundaries
If things are particularly acrimonious, this would also be a good time to establish some rules about mutual interaction so that later during holidays and visits things, don’t turn ugly. Gently but firmly tell your parents that your husband's career choices, style of dressing or parenting style are not up for discussion. Likewise let your husband know that he is not to criticize your father's political beliefs or your mother's cooking. Similarly if you have children, remind both your husband and parents to speak kindly about one another when the children are present and never to influence the kids against the other. This way, getting both parties to agree to respect some boundaries can minimize chances of nasty outbursts if not actually foster love and respect.
Nurture positive feelings
Once you have taken steps to avoid bad blood, you can tentatively explore ways of bringing about a better understanding between your husband and parents. These could be in the nature of occasional outings and get-togethers that both your husband and parents will enjoy. You could all visit a museum one Sunday afternoon or go sailing together. Planning an outing around an activity will give your husband and parents a common topic to discuss and keep the focus on the activity instead of their less-than-perfect relationship.
If things are going well, ask both your husband and your parents to plan some events on their own turf. For instance, one weekend your husband might invite your parents to watch his baseball team play, while the next, your parents could invite you and your husband over to watch their favorite old movies. Sharing their interests with one another may help both your husband and your parents grow to understand and respect one another.
Even if your best efforts do not seem to help your husband and parents get along, it may be better to let go; back off from active efforts to bring both sides closer. Instead think about what might be the cause for such deep-rooted animosity. It could be that they simply aren't a natural fit or that your husband merely never won your mother's approval; perhaps there is a rivalry and competition for your time and affection. In some cases it could be even possible that there are deeper, more complex issues at work here. Your husband’s relationship with his in-laws may have triggered previous family dynamics that revive earlier feelings of neglect or transfer a son's disdain of his parents to his in-laws. If so, by all means avoid playing the therapist – these are issues that only a professional can help sort out; in fact if you feel that your well-being is being negatively affected, you can suggest that a therapist help your parents and husband remove this angry element from their relationship.