Although it’s only the end of September, many of us are starting to think about the holiday season. For those who are coupled up, this might mean heading to your partner’s parents house, or hosting them at your place. It also might mean you’re white knuckling it through Thanksgiving and counting the minutes until the Christmas gift exchange is over. If you live close to your in-laws, the holidays may be the least of your worries. Maybe you’re just trying to get through the weekly Sunday dinner. A lot can contribute to a dicey relationship with your in-laws: different values, political views, communication styles, backgrounds, and so on. Despite the frustration you may feel at having to deal with your spouse’s family, it’s pretty hard to avoid. If you’ve had a long-bruised relationship with your in-laws, this won’t be a magic solution, but the following nuggets of wisdom may help ease the pain a bit.
This you when your in-laws’ Buick pulls up in front of your house? (image credit)
You marry the family, not just the person
If your spouse is close to his family, or even just sees them on a regular basis, it is absolutely a truism that you commit to not just the person, but the family as well. Going into this arrangement accepting this fact is crucial. It will prepare you for the long haul. You’ll see each other at weddings, funerals, and holidays. You’ll deal with family drama together. And unless your spouse’s family patriarch is Charles Manson, you should really support your spouse being close to his family–it’s healthy and important to keep those ties.
Find common ground
You can’t change your in-laws. If your spouse’s father is a passive-aggressive type who refuses to addresses conflict directly, and you’re more of a lay-it-all-on-the-table type, it’s pretty unlikely anything you do will change that. Accept that this will always be something that drives you insane. Then try to find something that you do have in common. Do you both like to read sci-fi? Garden? Watch baseball? Cook? Fish? Find something, anything, and connect. Cultivate your mutual interest in it by discussing or doing things related to it. Trust me, it’s a lot better than spending your time together staring at each other blankly and occasionally making comments about the weather.
Apologies to all the awesome mothers-in-law out there…
Ugh, the worst part of being an adult, right? Why can’t we just have what we want all the time? Although it is fair and right to set boundaries, you do have to compromise. A little. That means you can’t ban her parents from your house. It means you do have to go to family birthday parties, and maybe, occasionally, her nephew’s band concert. Grab a pair of ear plugs, gird your loins, and Godspeed.
Mom-in-law comes by without calling to drop off the hideous knickknacks she purchased at the church craft sale? Dad-in-law assumes he’s always welcome to watch his football games on a better television set? Sister-in-law thinks you’ll usually be free to watch her devil-spawn twins? Whatever your partner is accustomed to before you came into the picture, this will have to change, at least a little. Broach the topic gently. After all, this has been the status quo for a long time. Give both parties time to adjust, and suggest small changes. Maybe Dad comes over only every other week, and you convince Mom to call at least an hour before she wants to stop by.
Set boundaries, you say? I have just the thing…(image credit)
Put each other first
Surely you’ve heard this one before, right? Family of origin is important. The people who raised you and made you–if you or your partner treasure those ties as an adult, that’s marvelous. But once you start a new family (which includes picking a mate), that union has to come first. Avoid arguing in front of either set of parents, and never make a beef that you have with your in-laws part of your relationship with your spouse. Be each other’s champions, have each other’s backs.
About the Author: If you’ve got a question that needs the female treatment, chances are you’re not the only one who wants to ask it. Beth is our source for the answers. From opinions on men’s style to decoding the sometimes mysterious ways of women, she’ll take on a different question every Thursday. She also might provide an answer without waiting to be asked. That happens from time to time too. Click here to get to know Beth, then get in touch with her by sending your question to: firstname.lastname@example.org .