How to Bond With Your Father-in-Law

An older man and his son-in-law laughing over a joke on a park bench.

Often, both brides and grooms face new in-law relationships with a bit of worry. While mother-in-law relationships are often forged in the wedding planning process, it can take more effort to draw out a new father-in-law. Both brides and grooms, however, benefit from making those efforts, since they’ll be interacting with this father-in-law for the rest of their lives. It’s great to turn that neutral relationship into a positive and fruitful one. Here’s five ways to begin building a positive relationship with a father-in-law.

Pay Attention to His Interests

An older man and his son-in-law bonding over cooking on a BBQ.

Even as the wedding planning process begins, start noting the kinds of things your father-in-law likes. After all, if he’s a big barbecue guy or loves taking care of his car, you should know that. Take opportunities to express a little interest in the things he cares about. It’s not a good idea to feign knowledge about a topic he knows well (he will figure you out!), but inquiring about his interests and hobbies will create a positive impression of you in his mind.

Suggest Group Hangout Time

Got a pretty taciturn or hard-to-read father-in-law? Figure out how to spend time in groups with him. The group takes away the pressure to have lots of relevant things to say, but gives you time to get to know him without being the only one talking. You will get an easier, less awkward experience with him that still allows you two to grow closer, especially if the group contains some of his favorite people. Focus on simple, fun activities like a game night or family bike ride. Don’t make a big production out of it, but still work to make sure that you and your father-in-law get some proximity time so that your relationship can grow.

Offer to Pitch in With Odd Jobs

A pair of men working in a garden.

One great way to bond without a ton of conversation is to notice when your father-in-law is getting a job done around the home and offering to help. If you can either learn a new skill or put some serious sweat equity into the relationship, so much the better! If you go to weed the garden or chop down some dead tree limbs together, you may also have a shared experience, that you can draw from in later years. Most father-in-laws will respect your willing attitude (even if you aren’t their best assistant ever), and they may be more likely to chat openly when working rather than when sitting at the dinner table with you.

Remember Birthdays and Father’s Day

An easy way to share your feelings for your father-in-law is to remember his birthday and Father’s Day and get small, meaningful gifts that are tailored to his tastes. Even people who aren’t super emotional enjoy receiving gifts and being appreciated, so take advantage of the chance to be thankful that he is in your life and raised your husband or wife. You’d be surprised by how touched a father-in-law can be when he realizes that he is seen like a father in the eyes of his son-in-law or daughter-in-law.

Create Time to Chat Without Pressure

An older man and his son-in-law fishing at a lake.

So many of the first few interactions between soon-to-be spouses and fathers-in-law are marked by tension: meeting the parents for the first time, asking permission/blessing on a marriage, and wedding planning itself. The goal with getting to know your father-in-law as a person is to put less pressure on the relationship: go golfing, bowling, or fishing, where the main point is to enjoy yourselves and if you happen to talk some, then great! Most father-in-laws will never turn out to be your best friend (although it’s great if it works out that way!), so forcing deep or meaningful talks right off the bat isn’t the best way to go. Rather, let the relationship grow through shared positive experiences and know that even a day on the lake where no real conversation happened is a part of cementing that bond.

Becoming close to a father-in-law isn’t an exact science, and it requires patience to turn any new acquaintance into someone you consider family. However, paying attention and offering meaningful gestures can be enough to see your relationship with your father-in-law grow in depth and positive regard.

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