The #1 Thing That Matters When Struggling With Foreign In-laws

That amazing Winter Solstice dinner you had at the family home in China? Nobody gives a damn about it.

Over the years, I’ve written a lot about the struggles for interracial couples here in China. One topic that never seems to go out of style is this – the struggle with your foreign partner’s in-laws (or future in-laws).

My post on The Troubling Chinese Mother-in-law Relationship remains one of the top ten for this site, and it continues to generate discussions. Most recently, Becky wrote a guest post titled Nothing Can Prepare You for Living with Chinese Relatives.

When it comes to solving these problems, though, I’ve found that some things matter a LOT more than others.

IMG_2836I’ll never forget when my husband Jun first broke the news to his parents that we were dating. When he returned to our apartment, he gleefully announced the not-so-subtle response from his dad: “You can be friends with a foreign girls, but don’t date them.”

While I was on the verge of tears, certain his parents were going to break apart our perfect relationship, Jun’s smile remained. So did his steadfast belief that his dad’s opinion didn’t matter at all.

In the end, he was right.

We stayed together.

We got married.

We found our own happily ever after.

017_2Sure, it didn’t hurt that Jun’s parents turned out to be more flexible – and nothing at all like that stereotype of the “strict Chinese parent”.

It might have helped that my husband was the youngest of three sons (instead of being an only child) so there was a lot less family pressure on his shoulders.

But I think there’s a more important reason why we were successful. Jun was willing to stand up for me and support me before his parents.

He was determined to stay with me, no matter what they said.

IMG_190448When you have a partner like this, it’s so much easier to manage any differences with the in-laws. You never have to worry about fending for yourself before the family. Instead, your partner has your back. You can relax, knowing you’re not alone.

It matters a lot.

If you’re struggling with the potential in-laws or other foreign family abroad, sometimes the best solutions come from your partner first. A partner who will stand up for you and your relationship.

What do you think?

5 Replies to “The #1 Thing That Matters When Struggling With Foreign In-laws”

  1. Such lovely pictures of you both – you both look blissfully happy 😀 😀

    My situation is the same, with my other half being the youngest of three sons. Much less pressure this way!

    My experience with my in-laws has actually been really positive (and with my own family as well). I think the main reason is there are plenty of failed marriages between people of the same race in my family, as well as difficulties within Chinese marriages among my in-laws, so I think people have learned not to judge!

    I understand that problems with in-laws must be tough though and totally agree that turning to a supportive partner is the best solution.

  2. I completely agree with you. If your partner does not support you and his parents’ opinions are always more important than yours, that sounds like a recipe for disaster. Personally I don’t think I would stand it for long as I don’t believe parents should influence the life decisions of their adult children.

    I have been very lucky with my in-laws. My husband has a strong character and that might be part of it, but they are also pretty nice and I have received zero pressure about getting married and having babies. And he is the only son!!

  3. I’m really loving “Speaking of China” and all the posts about AMWF relationships. About 30 years ago I met my Chinese parents in law, I was terrified and very shy,they were very excited to meet me along with many assorted family members. My husband had 10 brothers and sisters and they all had wives and husbands and kids. My mother in law, although she told me she didnt want me and her son( he had become the eldest son since his elder brother had passed away) to be married because I looked odd in the family line up, took me under her motherly wing along with my eldest sister in law and proceeded to patiently teach me Cantonese for daily life and help me overcome culture shock. My mother in law chatted to me happily and matter of factly never minding that at first I didnt know what she was saying. Bit by bit I learnt thanks to her, she was an amazing teacher. She said it like it is, questioned me continually ,made me speak, corrected me, spoke her mind. She kept throwing my husband and I hints about good foods to eat if you were trying to get pregnant, what not to eat, and at Chinese new year gave us massive plump, good for fertility fruits. When I was pregnant with my first child she came to all the antenatal appointments with me giving me advice all the time as we waited hours to be seen At the time I was young and submissive and my husband and his parents made all the decisions, he told me that his parents came before me and I must respect them. I really had no say in anything.

  4. Any openings at Liying Temple for expatriate Buddhists? Or we could be your adopted kids or something. The US is imploding, and a nice temple in the mountains would be a VERY welcome respite…

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