With the holidays upon us, it’s very likely that you could be spending a significant amount of time with your significant other’s family. For some, this may be an occasion to celebrate. If this sounds like you, then consider yourself very, very fortunate. For others, spending time with their in-laws may feel like more of a chore… or even torture.
It’s been said that when you marry a person, you also marry their family. The one “present” that comes with every wedding is in-laws.
If your in-laws feel more like out-laws, then try these tips for surviving the holiday season and actually building quality relationships with the family you married into.
Plus, your spouse will thank you for your efforts in loving and accepting his/her family. Trust us.
- Keep an open mind.
If opposites really do attract (and we’re not so sure about that), then it’s highly probable that your spouse’s upbringing was very different than yours. Perhaps you’re from the east and he’s from the west, maybe he came from an affluent family and your family struggled to make ends meet, or maybe he has 5 siblings and you’re an only child. Even if you and your spouse seem to have a lot in common, there are surely some differences in your respective parents’ outlook on life, and those differences impacted the way your spouse was raised.
So, when you’re with your in-laws, the key is to keep an open mind. It’s okay that they do things differently than you, or that they see things differently than you. That doesn’t make them wrong. In fact, those differences can actually add a lot of flavor and color to your family tapestry.
- Don’t criticize.
We know your mother-in-law’s Paleo diet style of cooking just doesn’t quite measure up to what you’re used to. We know your father-in-law is a little loud and brash at times. We also know that your wife’s 45-year-old brother who still lives at home has some disgusting habits. And we know that your husband’s grandma keeps commenting on things the kids should be doing differently. We get it. However – you can’t change other people. You can only love them for who they are. So rather than criticize and nit-pick, try observing the good (even if you have to look really hard) and appreciate them for who they are – your family.
- Take the good and leave the bad – but learn from both.
When my wife and I were newly married, my Dad gave us some great advice about establishing our own family. He encouraged us to “take the good and leave the bad, but learn from both.” Essentially he told us to incorporate the positive qualities from each of our respective families into our new family going forward, while leaving the negative behind.
It may be that your wife’s family was really good at keeping their home in order, and your family was really good at spending quality time together. Or maybe on the flip side her parents spent way too much money and were always in debt, and your family dealt with conflict through the silent treatment.
Together with your spouse, observe the things you like and don’t like about how each of your families did/do things, and then work together to create the marriage and family life you both want.
- Make an effort to develop real relationships.
If you are finding that your in-laws are a little hard to deal with, then maybe you should remind yourself that life isn’t all about your comfort, happiness and enjoyment. Maybe it is time you forget about how little you enjoy being with your in-laws and instead start working on your people skills. Do your part to show an interest in your brother-in-law’s life. Talk with him, play a board game with him, and ask him about that video game he loves so much.
If you think your mother-in-law is frazzled and stressed, then find a way to help instead of just rolling your eyes. Go put on an apron and listen to her tell stories while you wash the dishes side by side. It may surprise you how good you feel when you forget about yourself and focus on serving others and developing relationships.
Plus, this kind of generosity on your part is a sure way to let your know spouse know how much you love him/her.
- Remember that YOU CHOOSE how you view your in-laws.
At the end of the day, you get to choose how you think, talk, and act around your in-laws. You can choose to love them, speak highly of them, and enjoy being with them. You can choose to relax and smile when they say something that offends you, and to let it go. You can choose to treat them with the love and kindness they deserve – since they are family now.
We know it won’t always be easy, but your choice to be positive and focus on the good will go a long way in creating a happy life for both you and your spouse.