You may choose your spouse, but you certainly don’t choose the family they come from. For some couples, the in-laws become near-and-dear almost instantly – but for many others, a connection to the parents, siblings, and extended family of a spouse can be rough going…
You might be from different parts of the world, have totally different interests, or well… You just might not like each other very much.
During the holidays, when many families come together to celebrate, these tense relationships can lead to disaster – or at the very least, some discomfort around the house. The last thing you want during the supposedly cheerful holiday season is to be arguing with your in-laws – especially for your spouse’s sake.
While you’re not going to be able to change their personalities or overcome your differences in an instant, there are steps YOU can take to reduce conflict, keep things friendly, and enjoy the holidays together… Even if you don’t particularly get along.
1. Middle Ground
An extension of the old “don’t talk about religion or politics” rule, you can help keep things on an even keel by finding conversation topics that everyone is interested in – and isn’t too opinionated about.
Maybe it’s sports, movies, or just talking about the delicious meals you’re having. The point is to steer clear of controversial topics, avoid criticism, and keep things relatively “light.” If the conversation starts to wander into dangerous territory, you can make it your mission to get it back to safety.
2. Don’t Criticize
This can be a challenge for many, but even behind closed doors, don’t criticize your husband’s family. Even if he is ranting about them, don’t join in! It might be tough to hold your tongue, but you have to remember that it’s HIS family, and he can badmouth them if he has to – but if you do, suddenly you’re attacking his family.
The next day, he might not remember the things he said, but he’ll certainly remember all the bad things you had to say.
Instead, just keep your mouth shut. If you need to roll your eyes internally, that’s ok, but refrain from voicing your negative opinions out loud. They won’t serve to improve the situation, will only call cause trouble, and will either hurt your spouse’s feelings or bolster them to confront their family – neither of which will make for a very smooth holiday get together.
3. Make The Effort
Even if it’s tough, just TRY to be nice. Even if there’s existing tension, make this year different. Go out of your way to be accommodating and friendly, or at the very least, lead the civility by example. Don’t engage in negativity, even if they are pushing your buttons.
In these moments, remember that these people are your family for better or for worse, and that you owe to it to your spouse to get along with them. If that means occasionally walking away, so be it. If it means keeping all of the conversation “surface level,” then that’s what it takes!
It’s up to you to control your temper, your annoyed expressions, your complaints, and so on. You may not be able to control their behavior, but you can certainly deal with your own!
Everyone is going to have a different relationship with their in-laws, but if you can’t get along naturally, it’s worth taking the steps you can to keep things pleasant during holiday gathering – for your spouse’s sake, for your own stress levels, for the kids, and even as a favor to those extended family members you don’t click with.
Hopefully you can have a happy, calm holiday season. You can make it that way if you try!
For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com