If it hasn't hit you already, your engagement comes with a lot more than a shiny new ring and a fiancé. You'll soon be a part of your fiancé's family, which means you're inheriting a set of in-laws—and not just a mother- and father-in-law, but also siblings-in-law, too. Whether or not you have siblings of your own, gaining a new sister (or brother!) is incredibly exciting, but it's also fraught with a lot of nerves and insecurities. What if she doesn't like you? What if you two have nothing in common?
First thing first: Don't fret. If your fiancé wants to spend his entire life with you, there's a good chance his family will also love you, and that includes his tough cookie of a sister. To help forge a strong relationship that withstands the test of time—after all, you're in this for the long run!—we asked marriage and relationship experts to share their best bonding strategies for future sisters-in-law.
Remember that she wants to like you.
Whenever we're anxious or nervous in social situations, it can be easy to forget that it's a two-way street. In other words, just as you're trying to get to know your fiancé's sister, remember that she's trying to get to know you, too. Just as you're hoping to like her and to form a close relationship with her, she likely has the same high hopes. "Your goal is not to be her BFF right away—it is to assure her that you will be a good partner to her brother," explains Caroline Madden, Ph.D., marriage therapist and author of How to Go From Soul Mates to Roommates in 10 Easy Steps. "She should be left with the impression that, regardless of how she feels about you, you love and respect her brother."
Invite her to spend time with you one-on-one.
Whether it be a shopping date or a night out, don't hesitate to score some alone time with your future sister-in-law. "Spending time together with both sets of your close girlfriends can help you both feel comfortable and to be yourselves," says Alisa Ruby Bash, Psy.D., licensed marriage and family therapist.
Include her in some of the wedding planning.
Chances are, you've already asked her to be a part of your wedding party, so why not include her in the planning process? It's her brother's wedding after all. Consider asking her to come wedding-dress shopping with you or let her sit in on a meeting with a vendor.
Make her feel like her brother is safe with you.
It can be scary for a sibling to know that the happiness of this person whom they grew up with and love so dearly is now in the hands of someone else. Remember that a good sister will be more interested in knowing that her sibling is marrying someone who is a good person and one who will take care of them, rather than in making a new best friend. "Your sister-in-law wants to know that you love her brother in particular and not just that you want to be married to someone with a good job," Dr. Madden explains. "Be proud of him, be excited around him, do little nice things for him, don't put him down in anyway."
Avoid telling her anything your fiancé told you in confidence.
If you do become close friends with your future sister-in-law, you might be tempted to spill the beans to her about something your fiancé told you that you think is harmless. But experts warn to be weary when it comes to sharing information either sibling has told you in confidence. "You may feel that this is a way to bond with her, that you already 'know' her, but this could backfire quickly," Dr. Madden says. "Not only will one of the two feel like you violated their trust, but it will also cause problems between your fiancé and his sister."