D., a marriage and family therapist who, with her husband Les Parrott, runs the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University.
"We believe that because our respective parents love us and want the best for us, that a relationship between them will naturally form." When it doesn’t, it can be quite a shock.
In my fantasy marriage, I introduce my parents to my prospective in-laws and they immediately find 10 things in common and become fast friends. No; My parents and his parents are two long-married couples who want nothing but our happiness and have no "ex" axes to grind. No; Everyone lives just blocks apart, enjoys the same traditions and is thrilled to make it one big happy-family get-together. But I’m still pretty fortunate: In my real-life marriage, there’s no animosity; everyone’s polite and friendly.
Then again, there are no in-law bridge parties either.
But from what I hear, most couples feel the answers to the marriage and grandchildren questions are ones they'd rather bring to you than the other way around. Whip out the baby pictures and videos for collective "oohing" and "aahing." Just don't.
"Letting go of that myth can be tough." My husband and I come from the same area—we’re both New Yorkers—and share the same religious background. In these days of people marrying across regional, religious, racial and economic lines, not to mention juggling families filled with multiple step-parents, that should have made things a lot easier.
But with in-law relationships, "easy" is a relative term.
Most people do not meet a girl's parents until after they begin dating, and often not until the relationship has become exclusive, according to social psychologist Theresa Di Donato in the Psychology Today article "When It's Time to Meet the Family." If you happen to meet her parents before you date -- if you pick her up before a school dance, for instance -- take it as an opportunity to impress them.
Asking her for information about her parents ahead of time that could help you start a conversation can make an impression, according to the Two of Us article "Meet the Family: Tips for Leaving a Good Impression." If you do compliment them when meeting them, keep it genuine and avoid airing any opinions that could be controversial, such as your thoughts on politics.