How many times can you think of that you yourself have had difficulties seeing eye to eye with your in-laws? Do you feel like the relationship with them is difficult and stressful? Well you are not alone! Let’s look at the common stressors which come from the in laws.
Holidays: The Ultimate Obligation
First and foremost, holidays tend to be a big source of stress for individuals, couples, and families alike. Every year we build up how we need to create perfect holiday moments and have the Norman Rockwell-esque type of experience. Often this drive to have these moments of perfection are thwarted by stress and the in-laws.
Arguments for couples can come from:
- Being stressed and not feeling like your needs are being met as in-laws take time and attention at any given moment.
- Feelings of obligation to be present with the family and potentially being shunned or scorned for not taking the time and doing what your in laws believe you should be doing.
- Dividing time between families. Sometimes the fights start between a couple with “we spent the last two Thanksgivings with your family, it’s time to be with my family for this Thanksgiving.” “But we always do Thanksgiving with my family.” Does this sound familiar? If so, this is pretty common!
- Old traditions vs. new traditions. It can be hard to break with tradition and often being the one who changes the norm is met with frustration and pressure from in-laws and family stick to the holiday status quo. I know how hard this can be to be the trailblazer in a family unit.
The key is making sure you and your spouse are on the same page with your expectations for the holidays. If you want Christmas day to be only for you and your immediate family, then make that be the priority regardless of what your in-laws may say. Having your spouse’s back and supporting each other can help create a unified front and ensure that you are reducing the potential for a fight with your spouse.
Parenting: You vs. Them
Another area of conflict regarding in-laws is how they comment on parenting. Do you feel like you get the little comments like: well if you just did it this way, little Johnnie would listen more, or that’s not what we did with you kids! The in-laws want to be a part of your life and your children’s lives, and may feel entitled to give their opinion.
Sometimes taking the comments they give at face value and saying, “Thank you, I’ll consider that,” can help reduce comments about how you parent. If this happens behind the back of your spouse, make sure you include them in the conversations so they are aware of the stresses that you are experiencing. If the comments and feedback continue to happen and the frustration levels grow and grow, consider sitting down and having a mutual discussion with your spouse and your in-laws to set boundaries with what you find frustrating. Address the current issues so your in-laws know exactly what it is that you are being affected by. This way, they can hear a bit more about how and what they do comes across to you, and make changes in their behavior.
Your Spouse, Your In-Laws, and You: One vs. Three
Another area with in-laws that tends to cause fights is one spouse feeling like their partner is taking their own parents’ side and instead of their spouse’s. When an in-law puts pressure on a spouse to do something different or change in a way that is more attacking, the spouse expects their significant other to step up and come to their defense.
If this doesn’t happen, it can lead to hurt, rejection, pain, and feelings of abandonment. The other spouse is stuck in a difficult spot as well, not wanting their spouse to hurt but also not wanting to have their parent hurt either.
In-laws tend to be critical of their child’s spouse for a variety of reasons, but one common reason can be they don’t want the changes that happen to their parent-child relationship. As a result they will push the new spouse away or put unfair expectations them in an effort to keep you out of the fold.
As you and your spouse continue to grow and move forward, it will take work to learn how to have your new family’s values, traditions, and desires separate from both of your original families. Have conversations about what is important for each other, and start to build limits and boundaries for your family around what is important.
Bottom line is, be unified and open to discussions with your spouse about how you can both support each other and not allow the in-laws to come between you both. There comes a point when each person in the relationship will have to confront their parents or their respective families, which can be a very difficult thing to do. Above and beyond all else the relationship between spouses should be the priority and the main focus.
Until next time – live truly, love fully!