Are you one of the lucky few who gets along with your in-laws? Dr. Terri Apter, a psychologist at Cambridge University, recently wrote a book titled, “What Do You Want from Me?: Learning to Get Along with In-Laws”. In the research for this book she interviewed hundreds of couples around the world. During these interviews, she found that nearly 75% of couples report having some sort of trouble dealing with in-laws. If your relationship is already strained, dealing with your in-laws during the holidays can really put a damper on your holiday spirit. Luckily, there are some steps that you can take now with your partner to make managing the holidays that much easier.
Boundaries are very important when dealing with unfamiliar situations with your spouse. There may have been times in the past that you felt uncomfortable with your in-laws. You might also feel worried about how they might affect your relationship with your significant other. Important boundaries may include things that you do not want to talk about or things that you do not want to do. Make sure you and your partner know what each other’s boundaries are and how you can support each other.
Set realistic expectations.
One of the hardest things about the holidays is wanting to be with everyone at the same time. Unfortunately, that is usually just not realistic. Even if it is, it may mean keeping visits shorter than you would hope they could be. Setting expectations about the amount of time spent with in-laws during the holidays, as well as how that time will be spent can be helpful. First off, it allows the partner who’s family it is to set realistic expectations with them about how much time they can expect to spend with you. Secondly, it prepares you for what the holidays with the other side of the family look like. Knowing what you are getting into may help you mentally prepare for the new traditions and celebrations and increase your chance of managing it successfully.
Try to be involved.
It may sound difficult or awkward to do more than show up during the holidays, but it can actually be an amazing way to foster a better relationship. This is a time where you are oftentimes forced to be together, so why not make the best of it? Look at this year’s holidays as a time to step out of your comfort zone and offer some help. Maybe plan an activity for the family get together or offer to help with the cooking. Engaging with your family in a respectful way creates things for you to talk about. It also shows that you want to be there and be a part of their celebrations.
Last but definitely not least, support your partner.
It is very normal for there to be some adjustment when it comes to dealing with your in-laws. This is true no matter what season it is! But at the end of the day, supporting and respecting your partner through communication and being there for one another is the most important part. Whatever that means within your relationship, maintaining this respect and love during the holiday season will keep the sentiment positive and merry. It can also help you feel closer to your partner.
Dealing with in-laws during the holidays can be very stressful. There is a lot of added stress during this time already and if you aren’t prepared for the stress your in-laws can add, your holiday season might feel pretty bleak. If you and your partner are really struggling with relationships with in-laws, reach out to Family Therapy Associates. I recommend this group of highly trained therapists. They can help you and your partner get back on the right track to healthy in-law relationships, expectations and communication.