Are you busy planning a future with your fiancé but dreading another night with his parents? Urban myths, clichés, horror stories and comedies abound with references to nightmare in-laws, and everyone knows someone who has a parent-in-law from hell. Look for these signs to see if you're about to join the club.
All they talk about is themselves
If dinner conversation with your future in-laws consists entirely of them discussing themselves and nothing else, you may be in for trouble. Why? because if this early in the game his parents aren't bothering to make the effort to learn more about you, things will only get worse. People who show no interest in other people often live in a land of self-interest and will drive you crazy with their lack of consideration for your feelings, achievements and goals in life.
They are needy and dependent
If your boyfriend is greeted with a list of chores to do as he walks through the door, be worried. Is all of his time with his family spent fixing plumbing issues, fetching boxes from the attic, mending the garage door and cleaning the gutters? Then you may be taking on a new pair of dependents, who constantly need help with day-to-day problems. There might be very good reasons why his parents need help, but think carefully about whether you want to be involved in this situation. Also ask yourself if this dependency is for physical or economic reasons or simply because their son has become a crutch and is the easiest person to call when they need help.
You feel like your personal space is being invaded
Half an hour into dinner with her parents and they are already asking you intimate questions? Is her mother an amateur psychotherapist who wants to casually explore your psyche as you try to enjoy dessert? It might be time to run. You may find yourself becoming more and more agitated by personal questions and attempts to discus topics that are inappropriate, or share information that is none of their business at this stage in the relationship. Don't try to appease her family by giving in to their curiosity, and instead try to diplomatically divert the conversation. Now is a bad time to let them assume that you are comfortable discussing intimate topics over dinner.
They seem to have a totally inaccurate picture of your fiancé
Does your fiancé's mother have a perception of her son that is totally baffling to you? Alarm bells should be ringing in your ears. There are multiple reasons why this could be a problem. You fiancé may be hiding parts of his life from his parents, or even worse, he may have lied to you, or at least presented himself and his past inaccurately. If you notice this, ask him about it later and listen to his explanation carefully. There could be other causes behind this scenario too: his parents may be very poor listeners who have a limited perception of their son and his life, or they could be trying to present him inaccurately to manipulate you or the situation. Depending on the disparity between your knowledge of him and what his mother says about him, this can either be no big deal or a major warning signal that you are entering a bad situation.
Long awkward silences and uncomfortable moments
Does dinner feel like it's lasting longer than the Last Supper? Do you find yourself feeling awkward and uncomfortable with little to say? Is conversation strained and superficial to the point that it's easier to stay silent? If you've tried to initiate conversation and you've done your best to be warm and friendly but the effort isn't reciprocated, be worried. Maybe his parents are a little shy and awkward and just need some more time to get to know you. But it could also be that his family has more baggage than an airport luggage carousel, and this is making it difficult for everyone to feel comfortable. Look for signs of disagreements that may be lingering, and if your fiancé seems to be nervous and uncomfortable, ask him why when you're alone with him. If he gives you no clear answer or avoids your questions, you can assume that there is more going on than he wants to disclose.
You feel guilty for being there
Do you get the feeling that your presence in your future in-laws' house is more of an inconvenience than anything else? Are you worried about asking for a glass of water, and terrified that you may have left mud on their carpet? Ask yourself why his parents can't make the effort to make you feel welcome in their home. In the future, this attitude will likely drive you crazy, and it may be a sign that his parents disapprove of their son's relationship with you, or are simply selfish people. If his family makes you feel this way and makes complimentary comments about his ex-girlfriend, it might be time to run for the hills.
Depending on the strength of your relationship with your partner, these issues may not pose major threats to your happiness. But if they go hand in hand with other problems, and they are often the topics of arguments between the two of you, there is a big chance this will cause you a lot of unhappiness in the future. Don't assume that things will work themselves out, and ask yourself if you're willing to tolerate this aggravation for many more years to come.