How to Get Potential In-Laws On Your Side

Commentator Lori Gottlieb likens winning potential in-laws over to a political campaign. After years in the dating trenches and a couple of near-misses at the altar, she offers this advice.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Commentator Lori Gottlieb has spent years in the dating trenches. She's been pretty close to getting married a couple of times and she has some advice to share.

LORI GOTTLIEB: As I listened to our country's presidential hopefuls toss their names into the hat recently, all I could think about was Valentine's Day. Okay, I realize that Hillary and Cupid aren't linked in most people's minds, but maybe they should be. Sure, Valentine's Day is two weeks away, but it's never too early to consider the ramifications, because if you got a date on Valentine's Day, it's a serious one. And what comes next is the seriously political business of meeting your date's family.

Oh, I know those of you in love or whatever you call it are probably looking at your radio right now with a skeptically raised eyebrow. But meeting your lover's relative is nothing short of a calculated political campaign. And while your lover may have nominated you for the position of spouse, the family decides whether you'll get voted into office. So here are some tips for the campaign trail.

First, do advance work. To paraphrase Tolstoy, every dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in its own way. There's the mother who sings her grown son lullabies, or the father who calls the family dog son. Do background checks to determine the best course of action. Is it wiser to jump on the not so whacko bandwagon to fit in with these folks, or to stand out as the sole source of sanity? Should your campaign slogan be you complete me or you're a complete lunatic?

Just make sure never to tell your boyfriend how crazy his family really is. Your boyfriend can make fun of his own family, but you should never ever make fun of them, unless, of course, he makes fun of them first. In which case you should heartily agree, even if you don't. Remember the three rules of politics - hedge, hedge and well, hedge. But don't hedge on the important issue. Let's say your girlfriend's father wonders why you've never had a major relationship. Like Barack Obama, turn your lack of experience into an asset.

Say that the people who have been in major relationships are clearly screwing them up. Or let's say your girlfriend got burned by her last boyfriend, an erratic frat boy type. Like Hillary Clinton, play up your stability and level-headedness. Or if your girlfriend's parents question the fact that you're a bit on the older side, follow John McCain's lead and convince them of your maturity. Don't think of this as kissing up to the other camp, think of it as forging alliances.

Smile sweetly and don't reply in a way that might come back to haunt you. As John Kerry knows, one slip could knock you right out of the race. Likewise, never bring your lover's family into a fight. On the ride home from a tension-filled dinner, you might say to your boyfriend something like you know, you're yelling at me when you should be yelling at your mother. You're right, of course, but as my friend Ruthie said, do you want to be right or do you want to be married?

Or as Al Gore might say, do you want to be right or do you want to be elected? Eventually, you may feel comfortable enough with your lover's family to let down your guard. Are you kidding? We have term limits here in America. So enjoy yourself this Valentine's Day, but go easy on the champagne and leave the video camera alone, because as any politician will tell you, you don't want to end up on YouTube.

BLOCK: Commentator Lori Gottlieb is the co-author of "I Love You, Nice to Meet You." She lives in Los Angeles.

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