In-Laws And Marriage Study: Son-In-Law Key To Lasting Marriage

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The holiday season usually means more quality time with the in-laws, and according to recent research, it's imperative that everyone get along.

A 26-year longitudinal study found that when a husband reported having a close relationship with his wife's parents, the couple's risk of divorce decreased by 20 percent. Conversely, when a wife reported having a close relationship with her husband's parents, the couple's risk of divorce increased by 20 percent.

Terri Orbuch, psychologist and research professor at the University of Michigan, began the study in 1986 with 373 couples in their first year of marriage, and followed up with them over time. She told the Wall Street Journal that she believes the findings are due to the different ways husbands and wives approach their relationships with their in-laws.

"Women value a close relationship with their in-laws but may ultimately view them as meddling, while men are more interested in providing for their families, and take their in-laws' actions less personally," Orbuch said. "Because relationships are so important to women, their identity as a wife and mother is central to their being. They interpret what their in-laws say and do as interference into their identity as a spouse and parent."

Wives also pay close attention to their own parents' relationships with their husbands. In the video above, Wall Street Journal columnist Elizabeth Bernstein suggests that when a husband makes an effort to get along with his wife's parents, his wife feels taken care of, too.

"He has forged a relationship with them, and that reads to his wife as if, boy, he cares about me if he's going to bother with my parents. If he's going to take care of my parents, he's going to get to know my parents, [then] he really cares about me," Bernstein said.

Orbuch advises parents of sons to be mindful of behavior their daughter-in-law may interpret as "meddling," while parents of daughters should be open to bonding with their sons-in-law. Wives should maintain boundaries with their in-laws, and husbands should remember to take care of their in-laws and treat them as important.

Watch the video above for more on the study's findings.

Click through the slideshow below to read readers' least favorite thing about their former in-laws.

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