5 Essential Rules for Getting Along with In-Laws
This Holiday Season
By Mikkie Mills
The holiday season brings a whirlwind of parties, presents and quality family time. This is a joyful time for most people. For some, strained family relationships can make the holidays a tense few weeks. You are probably an expert on handling your own family, but your relationship with your spouse’s family is newer and you may not have learned how to navigate those waters. If your relationship with your in-laws is less than warm, these five tips will help you breeze through the holidays with minimum discomfort.
1. Plan Activities in Advance
A well planned holiday will leave little time for uncomfortable conversations. If you don’t get along that well with your in-laws plan back-to-back activities that take the focus off of family interactions. Movies, shopping, a holiday play or ice skating are all fun activities that direct everyone’s attention away from each other. Be sure to let your in-laws know of the plans ahead of time so they can be prepared.
2. Get a Hotel
If you do not live within driving distance of your in-laws, there will be overnight stays to consider. Whether they are visiting you or the other way around, avoid the temptation to stay in the same house. Booking a hotel means that you will not have to be around each other 24 hours a day. The break provided by getting a hotel room will make a big difference in how much you can tolerate your time together. It may feel rude at first to use a hotel instead of staying in the same house, but both parties will eventually appreciate the extra privacy.
3. Set Expectations with Your Spouse
If you and your spouse are not on the same page about their family before the holidays arrive, the visit may feel like an attack with you versus everyone else. Not only will this make you feel stressed, it can seriously strain your relationship with your spouse. The two of you may not be on the same page with regards to how you feel about your inlaws, but agreeing on strategy is essential. Use well established negotiations training to set expectations for the family visit.
4. Avoid Controversial Conversation Topics
If you do not get along with your in-laws many conversation topics can feel like land mines just waiting to explode. While you may not be able to control criticism of the way you raise your children, your career choice or your fashion sense, you can let your in-laws know that you refuse to discuss certain sensitive topics that can quickly turn into a fight. Religion, politics and finances are all risky topics. Banning them from conversation can take a lot of stress out of the time spent with your in-laws. If they forget and bring up a prohibited topic, calmly remind them that you are not going to engage in that conversation. This should be enough redirect the topic with most people.
5. Practice Calming Techniques
There will most likely be times during your holiday where your emotions will threaten to overwhelm you. Whether it’s a well aimed barb from your mother-in-law or an insensitive comment from your father-in-law, there will be times where you may be dangerously close to losing your temper. If you practice calming techniques ahead of time, you will be able to keep your cool in a sticky situation. Breathing, counting to ten and thinking positive thoughts can all help calm you. You can respond to your in-laws with assertiveness instead of anger and avoid a holiday fight.
Even if your in-laws are difficult, these tips will help you avoid conflict during holiday festivities. You may even be able to improve your relationship with your spouse’s family.