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Moving in with your in-laws is a practice not uncommon in Singaporean society, but that doesn't make it any less daunting. Here are some tips to prevent you (and your in-laws!) from stepping on each other’s toes!
#1 Understand Your In-Laws’ Boundaries and Ground Rules
Get to know each other’s boundaries and ground rules before moving in - if your Mother-in-law absolutely detests the smell of durian, then maybe it’s time to relocate your monthly durian parties or invest in some high-quality air fresheners. Knowing your in-laws’ hard limits and preferences beforehand will help to prevent unnecessary conflicts from arising. Additionally, establish a “private zone” for yourself, such as your bedroom or workspace. Everybody needs their privacy, so politely but firmly inform your in-laws that you’d
appreciate them to knock first before entering your bedroom, or that you’d like some privacy with your spouse in the evenings.
#2 Establish a Set Routine
As you fall into your daily routine living with your in-laws, learn how to work with instead of around them. If you prefer to do your own laundry yourself on a regular basis, or if you intend to use the entire kitchen to cook a special meal for a gathering, make sure to inform your in-laws of your plans in advance and work out an appropriate schedule so you don't end up inconveniencing each other.
#3 Create Clear Channels of Communication
Let’s face it—no family is perfect. Practices and values may and possibly will differ across different generations. One of your in-laws may accidentally touch on a sore spot during a conversation, or may unintentionally let slip a less-than-kind comment. Though you may sometimes be tempted to fire back with a witty comeback or respond in kind, try to let it slide. Chances are, your in-laws probably didn't mean any harm with such comments, and responding will only escalate matters, which may cause greater rifts between your family. However, if someone repeatedly infringes on your privacy, or frequently tries to agitate you on purpose, then you should take it up with them in a civil manner, and explain why their actions have upset you. Or if that's not possible, talk reasonably to your partner. You may be living under their roof, but that doesn't mean that you have to suffer in silence.
#4 Spend Time with Your In-Laws
For those with relationships with their in-laws that can be described as “tolerable” at best, spending time with your in-laws on the precious weekends you have may be the last thing you want to do. But as a new member of their family, show that you care by spending more time getting to know them.
Try investing in some quality time with your spouse’s family—watch and discuss a movie together, or do something that involves a group activity like board games or a team sport. Or, if your in-laws happen to have specific hobbies, try giving these activities a shot together. With time, you’ll discover that the atmosphere at home will develop into a more cordial and welcoming one that you’ll look forward to returning to at the end of each day.
#5 Contribute Where You Can
Household chores - who likes them? Aside from a select few, most of us would never touch a broom if given the choice to. However, leaving everything to a family member is simply not acceptable behaviour. Make sure that you (and your spouse!) pull your weight around the house. If both of you work during the day, play your part by helping out with housework over the weekends, or by performing small tasks daily to help out at home once you've returned from work.
Contributing to bill and grocery payments is also a nice gesture, since you save on rent by shacking up with your in-laws. By chipping in both physically and monetarily, you’ll be able to contribute fairly as members of the household, while letting your in-laws know that you appreciate them welcoming you into their home.
#6 Have Basic Respect
The Golden Rule of living with your in-laws (and surviving life in general): treat others the way you want to be treated. Give your in-laws the respect they deserve, and be sure to help out around the house whenever you can.