The saga of the love-hate relationship with the in-laws lives on and at times can tie knots in your relationship that more difficult to undo. Whether it is the embittered brother or sister who never found love quite the way you two did, or the mom or dad that just doesn’t seem to “get you” or understand why you are in their life, these relationships can be difficult to navigate with grace and tact. Here are some fast pointers for navigating the swampy waters of the dreaded in-law talk and extra-curricular family activities.
#1 – Be “True Blue” To Your Partner
Nothing is more loving and supportive than deciding to come along side your partner for the sake of him or her. This bold move goes a long way. Talk is cheap. Show your love by the actions taken to be in support of the family dinner, or the siblings baby shower (even though there may have been hurtful words exchanged in the past). Loving your partner in this way is a simple way of showing exclusive love and commitment.
#2 – Remember In-laws Influence Your Partner
Whether it is apparent or not in your relationship, your partner is influenced deeply in unconscious and conscious ways. He or she has patterns that stem from his or her siblings and parents. No matter how weird, unusual, or intimidating the in-laws may be, being able to accept and appreciate them for who they are and the influence they have had or still have in your partner’s life is the beginning of genuine understanding of your partner. Once you can accept them for who they are, you will be building an unspoken bridge to having stronger influence of your own. Also, the traits you fell in love with are present in the in-laws. Attempting to see them as part of your partner may just make you feel you love them more.
#3 – Tread Lightly On Topics That Are Controversial
When in-laws have personality or mood disorders (clinically diagnosed or not) it is a sensitive subject. It will only wreak havoc in your relationship if you go pouring forth judgments or hurtful words to label them as anything less than normal human beings. For your partner, it was his or her normal. Offering grace and a covering of understanding will be a way to heal and strengthen bonds that may have been broken in the past. If things get heated at a family event, choose silence or uplifting peace making words. Such words may be something that reminds everyone of why they are gathering in the first place –to share a good time and have fun connecting in a meaningful way.
#4 – Supporting Your Spouse In A Neutral Way Is Freedom
Being the “eye” that sees and yet doesn’t offer an opinion allows for your partner to make his or her own choice about whether or not hanging out with the in-laws is helpful to his or her goals and values. Stating objective observations about the patterns or behavior changes you witness after hanging with the in-laws is valid. In a healthy relationship, this would be received as eye opening and supportive. In addition to stating and objective observation, offering soulful support whatever he or she may decide is considerate and loving.
#5 – Protecting Yourself From Toxic In-Laws
Every now and then, in-laws can be toxic to you and you must consider ways to protect your mind from allowing the words or behavior to change you or your relationship with your partner. Whether they are telling lies, gossiping, manipulating you and your spouse, or indulging in obscene family history you will need to set up boundaries for yourself so that you can enjoy your time, but not let it go too far. Talking with your partner ahead of time about appropriate table conversations and where to draw the line conversationally is a great starting point for setting healthy boundaries. You may also consider setting an amount of time that you are willing to be present and supportive without throwing yourself under the bus so to speak.
When you find yourself choosing to support your partner and the good old in-laws, not because you have to but because you love your partner enough to show him that you care for him and his family bonds, you are genuinely demonstrating true love. Supporting your spouse in family activities and conversations is one of the ultimate aims in a healthy relationship. Why not deal with the in-law situation right away so that there will be no question of division between the two of you? Use the tips above and give it a go. You will start to become increasingly aware of the transformation you can facilitate simply by loving the in-laws as you love your partner.