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When you marry your spouse, you “marry” the whole family as well. All’s well if you’re lucky. If not, your in-laws can be a thorn in your marriage, as in the case of graphic designer Rick.

The first few months of his marriage were torture because his in-laws believed that he wasn’t good enough for their daughter, Mei. Rick came from a middle income family and was a diploma holder while Mei was from a well-to-do family and had an honours degree.

“I knew I was in trouble when we were planning our wedding. My family couldn’t afford anything too fancy while her parents kept talking about ‘face’,” says Rick, 30. “They intervened any and every time they felt that the menu, decorations or set-up wasn’t good enough.”\

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Luckily, Rick had a game plan to win them over. “I decided that actions spoke louder than words, so I’d go out of my way to show my love for Mei whenever her parents were around. When we had dinner, I’d peel prawns for her. When we went out, I’d hold her bag for her, etc. Eventually, they started to warm up to me because they could see how much I loved Mei. Now, they are much friendlier towards me.”

Felicia, a 28-year-old assistant manager, faced a “closeness” problem – her husband, Charles, was very close to his mother, which meant Felicia had her new mother-in-law constantly in her face. From their flat renovations to how they spent their money, her mum-in-law was always around to give her two cents’ worth.

“It doesn’t make it any easier that my husband always gives in to her, even when she has no right to butt in, like the renovation of the house,” says Felicia.

“It was difficult dealing with her because I know she means well and wants to make sure we have a good life. But the attention and nagging became a little too much to take.”

So how do you get a well-meaning but overbearing mother-in-law off your back without offending her? Send her favourite person to deal with her.

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“My husband and I agreed that it’s easier for him to deal with her because if she gets angry, her anger towards him will dissipate after a while since he’s the only son. But if I make any noise, she’s likely to hold a grudge against me for the rest of our married lives.”

This article was first published in Her World Brides March – May 2009.