My in-laws came to visit my husband and I for the first time since our wedding last year. Although I had no idea what to expect, we had great conversations and did fun activities to make all of us feel more at home in each other's company. By being flexible, allowing for structure, and being aware of your needs you can have a great time with your new family, too.
Have no expectations
If you expect your in-laws to be nice, you may be disappointed by the little hurts that are normal in any family dynamic. If you expect them to be mean or demanding, you might miss out on the funny or sweet moments that explain who your spouse grew up to be. That's why I recommend just keeping your eyes open to the good things about them, and not expecting anything at all.
The scariest thing about my in-law's recent visit was that I had no idea how it was going to go. I'm a newlywed, and this was my first time hosting them. However, my lack of expectations proved to be a blessing in disguise (minus the sleep I lost over worrying about it). It didn't matter to me that we mostly spent our time reading and window shopping. I was just relieved that no one was unkind. In fact, they didn’t mind taking us out to eat when no one felt like cooking.
Make a plan and ask for their input
A plan may sound a lot like having expectations, but it isn't. Having a plan allows you to have some structure, if needed. Check out what movies are in theaters, what days discounted tickets are offered at the museum or zoo, or what's going on at the local library. By knowing this information beforehand, you can make suggestions if it seems the day is starting to drag.
In preparation for my in-law's recent visit, I emailed my mother-in-law a list of ideas for activities. The first night she and my father-in-law were here, we sat around the table and rated the ideas on a scale of one to 10. Discussing what activities could be considered during their stay was a fun way to spend our first evening. I got a candid look at their likes and dislikes, as well as their personalities and the way they interact with each other.
Don’t completely abandon your normal routine
Just because you are hosting your spouse's parents doesn't mean you suddenly have more patience and good cheer than usual. In fact, it's usually quite the opposite. The more time you spend catering to their preferences, the more energy you expend by making things different from your customary methods.
My in-laws were great about understanding this. After a long day of shopping (and trying to be charming), I sorely missed the time I ordinarily get to spend by myself. When my father-in-law wanted to discuss a new project, I told him I would be happy to do it, but I needed some time to myself. This surprised him, but he kindly agreed to it. Thirty minutes later, I emerged from my bedroom much more enthusiastic about helping him than I would have been.
Your in-laws are coming to visit because family is important to them. Now, you are a part of their family. Offer them ideas on what you can do together, and listen attentively to their preferences while still asserting your own. These simple steps will help you to relax and enjoy the people who made your beloved spouse who he or she is today.