But they are not, because mine aren't. And I wanted to write about them, if only to put up one story about nice in-laws in a world that seems to be full of horrible ones.
I am from Assam, the Guy from Gujarat. When I told my mom that I planned to marry him, she only asked if I was sure. I hadn't expected any different: my mom had long treated me as a grown-up and left me to make my own decisions.
The Guy was sure his parents wouldn't object either, but I couldn't help being a bit apprehensive. We knew we were going to get married, but we would much prefer to do it knowing that everyone we loved was happy.
The Guy told the GuyMom about me and then invited me to meet her at dinner. It was a pleasant evening, barely awkward at all. After the first couple of meetings, I realised that the GuyMom was as apprehensive as I was: it is a big transition when any mom realises that her son has a significant other in his life and wonders whether this will change him, draw him away from her.
Before going back home, the GuyMom promised her son that she would talk to his dad. Apparently, when she told him, the GuyDad said nothing in reply. That left her rather nervous. In day or two she gathered the courage to ask him what he had to say, and the GuyDad said, "He has made his decision, what do I need to say?" (paraphrased)
And that was it. The GuyDad came over within a month - ostensibly to visit his daughter who also lives in Pune, but actually to meet me and formalise the engagement. And within a few months we were married.
The relationship with the in-laws seemed difficult for the first year or so: I did not know them very well and cultural expectations were very different. I don't mean cultural differences due to us belonging to different communities, but more differences in style of communication: the Guy and his siblings and parents behave very politely to each other - a politeness that had seemed to me overly formal, but that I now realise is perhaps a measure of their respect for each other. Also, I am no good at small talk and bored stiff by housework and other similar topics of discussion: so I had often found family gatherings somewhat uncomfortable. Of course it did not help that much of the discourse took place in a language that I can barely understand now and have not learned to speak (and probably never will).
Given how respectfully the Guy's family treat each other, I have been treated with even more respect. The GuyDad addresses me as 'aap' instead of 'tum', and not in an ironic way. The sister who lives nearby also does the same, and never has she or her husband banked on the proximity or the relationship to make unreasonable requests (and rarely even reasonable ones: they have been unfailingly considerate).
Never have the Guy's parents expressed any disapproval over our lifestyle choices. Never have they raised an eyebrow when they saw me in shorts or other "in-law inappropriate" clothing; when the Guy first cooked a meal for his father, the GuyDad tasted it and remarked proudly that I had taught him to cook. The GuyMom often tells me not to tire myself doing housework, which should be enough to tell you how much she likes me, because she has seen how little I bother with housework anyway.
This isn't to say that we get on famously: the fact is that we are too far apart to understand each other. But we treat each other with respect, and we care for each other, which is enough to make us family. I wouldn't like to live with them, but then I wouldn't like to live with anyone except the Guy.
I had written about my in-laws here, where I said that much of the credit for my in-law-problems-free life goes to the Guy. We have always presented a united front to our relatives, so that no one would feel comfortable criticising either of us in front of the other. We always made our decisions together, and would talk things over until we agreed on them before making an announcement to relatives.
Yet life could have been much worse if our relatives weren't as nice as they are: if his parents and my mom hadn't accepted us and appreciated the happiness we bring to each other.