“No one should come between you and your spouse. They should come alongside you but not between you.” —Ashley McIlwain
When our son was 4 months old Tony’s dad took our little family out for lunch. Everything was going well until he offered our baby some of his Coca-Cola ®. As Alisa’s eyes were about to pop out of their sockets and Tony stammered with the right words to speak, we saw the potential for tension and conflict across our families.
There are stages and layers of relational tension with in-laws. It begins at “I do” as you leave your birth family and cleave to your spouse, but as holiday logistics are planned, children are raised, finances are handled, and parents require more care the intricacies are only compounded.
From a recent Instagram poll we heard that 85% of you plan to spend time with your in-laws over the upcoming holidays.
Tackling shared time, traditions and preferences is something that can derail the entire purpose of a holiday, but it doesn’t have to. Let’s talk about what you can do to make the most of time together. And let’s face it – some of us have fabulous relationships with our in-laws. Sure, sometimes that’s natural and easy, but most often it’s the result of hard work, honesty with your spouse, and boundaries.
It’s not just in-laws, sometimes its sibling in-laws. Maybe the challenges stem from cultural differences, power struggles for attention or recognition, lack of boundaries. While “boundaries” may seem harsh, when done right they can be the most liberating tool in your in-law tool box.
Assuming you and your spouse are willing to work together, here are some questions to guide your discussion:
- Where are we spending the holidays this year, and how long will we stay? Sharing timing expectations is crucial to success.
- What is our plan for handling tough situations? If you’ve been married any length of time you know there are certain topics that are more likely to become problematic.
- Are there any expectations we should discuss with our in laws beforehand?
- How will we build each other up, defend and protect one another?
If all else fails, at least remember you have something to be thankful from them: “My in-laws are great people: they gave me the gift of my [spouse].”
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