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By Daniel Bates
PUBLISHED: 13:50 EST, 27 November 2012 | UPDATED: 14:36 EST, 27 November 2012
They have a reputation as being nothing but trouble for married couples.
But it seems that getting on well with your in-laws actually be good for your marriage - so long as you are a man.
Husbands who are close to their in-laws - and, yes, that does include your mother-in-law - are far less likely to divorce.
Boost: Getting on well with your in-laws could be good for your marriage - so long as you are a man
Researchers have found that after 16 years of marriage men who make the effort with them have a 20 per cent higher chance of staying wed.
In a surprising contrast, in cases where the wife is close to her in-laws, the couple have a 20 per cent higher chance of breaking up.
The researchers suggested that wives in such situations may find it hard to set boundaries and in the coming years may feel the in-laws are meddling.
Men however do not seem to share such anxieties.
The researchers looked at 373 same-race couples between the ages of 25 and 37 who were in their first year of marriage when the study began in 1986.
Lead researcher Dr Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and research professor at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, asked each of the couples to rank out of four how close they feel to their in-laws.
She has followed them ever since and now has 26 years worth of data.
Reputation: For decades, the in-laws have been portrayed in popular culture as an unwanted baggage which comes along with a marriage - and can even break it up. This was highlighted in the film Meet the Fockers, pictured
Dr Orbuch said that men getting along with their in-laws is a good thing because ‘these ties connect the husband to the wife’.
For women, however, things were very different.
She 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.’
The research could perhaps go some way to dealing with the stigma associated with in-laws, and mother-in-laws in particular.
For decades they have been portrayed in popular culture as an unwanted baggage which comes along with a marriage - and can even break it up.
In the film Meet the Fockers Ben Stiller endured the nightmare of an ex-CIA operative father-in-law, played by Robert de Niro.
The BBC show Brown’s Boys features Irish matriarch Agnes Brown, played by Brendan O'Carroll, who loves nothing more than meddling in the lives of her six children.
Comedian Les Dawson was also fond of making endless mother in law jokes such as: ‘I can always tell when the mother in law's coming to stay... the mice throw themselves on the traps.’
Dr Orbuch’s advice to parents of a son is to tread carefully as daughters will probably be more sensitive to your interference.
Parents of a daughter should look forward to bonding with their son as it will make their wives happy.
Wives should be careful about sharing details of their marriage do that everyone respects each other’s boundaries.
Husbands should make sure to treat your in-laws as ‘special and important, Dr Orbuch said.