YOUR LIFE How to deal with dif­fi­cult in-laws

There is a way to cope with ten­sion between your­self and your part­ner’s fam­ily

Move! - - CONTENTS - By Mandla Khu­malo

RE­LA­TIONS between women and their part­ners’ siblings are often a mine­field – one filled with ten­sions, fights and gos­sip against each other. This can be a hot po­tato for a mar­ried wo­man or girl­friend to deal with. It is a well-known phe­nom­e­non that it is usu­ally very dif­fi­cult for a makoti to get along with her mother-in-law and the man’s siblings. The ten­sion may even spill over to rel­a­tives and stepchil­dren.

But it is im­por­tant to deal with th­ese ten­sions as a mat­ter of ur­gency, es­pe­cially if you hope to build a life­time re­la­tion­ship with your part­ner.


Nox­olo Speel­man, a life coach and the di­rec­tor of Gqama Com­mu­nity Ser­vices, is an ex­pert on th­ese is­sues. She does not only give out ad­vice – but as a mar­ried wo­man, she also takes the medicine she gives to oth­ers.

“The first thing, and the most im­por­tant, is that the wo­man must know that the hus­band’s siblings are her part­ner’s rel­a­tives and not hers,” says Nox­olo.

“When we en­ter into a re­la­tion­ship and get in­tro­duced to our part­ners’ siblings and fam­ily we tend to think that they will be­come our fam­ily, of which they are not. And they will never be.” Nox­olo says it is im­por­tant for the wo­man to es­tab­lish a per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with her part­ner’s siblings rather than rely on her part­ner to be a link between them. She says this helps the wo­man and the siblings un­der­stand each other in or­der to re­solve any prob­lem that may arise.

“You need to en­sure that you have a per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with your part­ner’s siblings,” she says. “This is your own re­la­tion­ship which has noth­ing to do with your part­ner – it’s between you and his siblings. This helps a lot when there is a con­flict between you and your sis­ter-in-law or brother-in-law, if you are mar­ried, you can have a cor­dial con­ver­sa­tion and re­solve it.”



Nox­olo warns against a ten­dency of es­ca­lat­ing con­flicts to one’s part­ner.

“If you re­port the con­flict to your part­ner, it could be in­ter­preted as if you want him to take your side. You should not put him in that sit­u­a­tion, it’s a painful sit­u­a­tion,” she says.

“He may choose to de­fend one of you, but he will al­ways go back to his blood. This will leave you out in the cold, hence peo­ple must es­tab­lish their own re­la­tion­ships, more so if they marry into the fam­ily.”

She says a wo­man needs to cul­ti­vate the re­la­tion­ship with her part­ner’s siblings to a point that they are able to dis­cuss things openly.

“You have to make them un­der­stand you and your val­ues,” Nox­olo says.


Many peo­ple often feel pres­sured to change them­selves, their be­hav­iour or be­liefs in or­der to im­press their in-laws, but this is a strat­egy that will lead to more cri­sis than good.

Nox­olo says that it is im­por­tant to be true to your­self be­cause you can­not main­tain a fake or pre­ten­tious per­son­al­ity for the rest of your life.

“Es­tab­lish your­self and be your­self. You should not pre­tend to be some­one you are not,” she says.

“If your part­ner’s sib­ling is an­gry with you, take him or her out or even go for a walk and talk about it. Al­low them to un­der­stand you and over time you will find that your re­la­tion­ship grows and they also be­gin to be more re­cep­tive and even open to you.”


Iron­i­cally, Nox­olo ad­vises women not to shy away from con­flict.

She says it is part of ev­ery re­la­tion­ship – and peo­ple should deal with it head-on rather than leave mat­ters un­re­solved.

“Con­flict is healthy for any re­la­tion­ship. Our weak­ness is we shy away from it. We were raised to avoid con­flict but it is one of the things that strengthen a re­la­tion­ship, if prop­erly dealt with, be­cause peo­ple get to un­der­stand each other and avoid the things that hurt the next per­son,” she says.

“Learn­ing to re­solve per­sonal con­flicts with­out throw­ing toys out of the cot is a strong char­ac­ter trait.

“Some peo­ple think be­cause I work with re­la­tion­ships, I don’t get hurt. I deal with th­ese things like any other wo­man: I cry, I fight and sit down and face them. Mar­riage brings both beauty and strife.”

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