Going home for the holidays? Many people do. If you are close to your in-laws, consider yourself lucky and enjoy your holiday season. For the rest of you, keep reading. There are ways to minimize difficulties with in-laws if you and your partner prepare upfront.
Many couples in our practice are doing just that – talking with each other about how to manage and reduce the stress around visiting each other’s families. It’s especially complicated when there are blended families. The best defense is a good offense. So, set time aside for you and your partner to create some holiday harmony.
Here are 5 steps to keep holiday harmony with your in-laws:
1) Have Realistic Expectations.
Anticipate the issues that will arise and plan for them. You can predict who is going to be the backseat parent, who will talk your ear off without asking you one question about yourself, who will comment on how you are dressed, or worse yet, how much weight you’ve gained, who will gossip about other family members in the room.
The good part about being able to predict this, is that you can anticipate and prepare responses up front, instead of being caught off guard and reacting emotionally to things that you should have known were going to happen.
2) Plan Your Responses.
- Pick your battles: Sometimes the best response is “no response” – walk away, go to the bathroom, or bite your tongue.
- Acknowledge and redirect: When your mother-in-law tells you how to discipline your son, say “I understand that’s how you see it.” This acknowledges you’ve heard her, and shuts down the conversation. Then move on to another topic.
- Assert yourself: When appropriate, be authentic and direct. If your husband’s grandmother says, “I liked your hair long. Why did you cut it,” you can say, “I appreciate your opinion; my husband loves the new style.”
3) Don’t Take It Personally.
I remember a quote from Wayne Dyer that I have often thought of at times when I felt someone was judging me: “What you think of me is none of my business.” Keep that thought in your back pocket and use it.
Remember, we can’t pick our families and we certainly can’t pick our in-laws. Marriage is a package deal and that’s what we sign up for. Whatever they think about you or say is more of a reflection about who they are, than of you.
4) Stick Together.
Operate as a team. Maintain your empathy for each other and look at things from each other’s perspective. Your partner needs to not make you wrong for your feelings and reactions; you must be mindful that no matter what the baggage is, most people still love, and feel protective of, their parents and other family members.
5) Plan Your Exit Strategy.
Decide up front when you will leave, but maintain flexibility. Remember, it is only one day, and you are doing this for your partner.
Preparing for holiday visits to family is a great way to head off difficulties; work on communication and listening skills; create a deeper sense of connection with your partner and set yourself up to have a wonderful time.
My motto is, “Hope for the best and plan for the worst.” We wish you a wonderful holiday season!
If you are in a relationship that hurts and feel disconnected, have difficulties communicating, and/or are experiencing a crisis, Bob and I can help. Call us at 410-363-2825 or email email@example.com.