I know we often hear about horrific relationships with in-laws. There are plenty of movies centered on this exact experience — think Monster-in-Law, Meet the Parents, the list goes on — which always paint the soon-to-be spouse's relationship with their in-laws in a terrible light. And while I'm sure there are plenty of judgmental and grouchy in-laws out there, that couldn't be further away from the truth with my experience with my almost mother- and father-in-law. In fact, both of them helped me in more ways than one when my parents got divorced this past year — sometimes without even knowing it — and I can honestly say I'm forever grateful. Here's how:
1. They showed me that time doesn't wear down a long marriage; it makes the bond stronger.
Over the years, I've heard a lot of seemingly harmless jokes about what happens when you grow old with someone. Some people say that you get sick of the person eventually, and even more partners harp on the importance of alone time, but not my future parents-in-law. After 32 years of marriage, they still celebrate their anniversaries, go on regular trips — with or without their grown kids — and consistently make spending time together a priority. I've never in my life heard one of them say anything even remotely negative about the other. Not even once. And as a person whose parents recently split, it's rewarding to see how two people can grow and change together as a team.
2. They regularly show affection to each other.
Growing up in an old-school Irish family, my siblings and I learned to show people we loved them through doing things for them. We were always taught never to forget a birthday and to do little things to brighten one another's days. However, in our household, for whatever reason, saying "I love you" or showing other people affection just wasn't what we did. My parents never held hands, there weren't a whole lot of kisses on the cheek, you get the picture. While there's nothing wrong with this — I think my parents instilled a ton of great traits in my siblings and me, for the record — it's pleasant to see my fiancé's parents go on walks, spend time together, and generally enjoy each other's company. While telling someone I loved them definitely took some getting used to, I'll admit it's a really nice thing to hear sometimes.
3. I was immediately accepted into the family.
There was no clear-cut trial-and-error period with my in-laws. I was never made to feel like I was intruding on their family of four. While I'm sure there are many horror stories that are utterly contradictory to my experience, my mother-in-law in particular graciously accepted me into her home. I was invited on vacations, taught how to cook some pretty delicious food, and treated just like another member of the family. Although it was nice to be accepted for face value at first, spending time with my fiancé's family was especially rewarding when my parents were going through the divorce process. The time spent together was easy. No yelling, no unpleasant conversations, no planning around one parent to avoid hurting the other one's feelings. We were all just happy and together.
4. They gave me hope that some marriages not only last but also thrive.
More than anything, I really look up to my parents-in-law for proving that your love for your spouse can truly grow stronger with each passing year. My mother- and father-in-law aren't phoning it in. They deeply care for each other, and it shows by how they treat each other and by how they raise their children. While I obviously love my own parents more than anything, embracing your partner's parents can teach you a thing or two about life and the importance of family, whether you're related by blood or not.