Facing Off Against In-Laws on Holidays Is a Fine Art

monster in law jane fonda jennifer lopezThis may be the "most wonderful time of year," but the holidays also happen to be one of the most stressful ... especially where family is involved. You could plan on having a perfectly lovely celebration, and out of the blue, here comes dysfunction to ruin the day! Often, there's no challenge greater than the in-laws. The way they can interfere with your relationship and life (sometimes just by being around too much!) or simply drive you and your partner nuts is a whole brand of frustrating unto itself.

I may not be married yet, but I am well-versed in the "fine art" of dealing with the in-laws ... aka my boyfriend's folks. I've learned by example -- from my boyfriend's sister-in-law, for instance -- and also plenty o' experience. I'm positive certain situations have had (and in the future, will have) the potential to put a strain on our relationship. And of course, that's the last thing any couple wants during the holidays!

Thankfully, there are maneuvers that can save the day.

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For instance, as expert Deborah M. Merrill, associate professor of sociology at Clark University in Worcester, MA, and author of When Your Children Marry: How Marriage Changes Relationships with Sons and Daughters (Rowman&Littlefield, 2011) advises, "Decide in advance how you are going to avoid uncomfortable situations and involve your partner in this process."

The BF and I have often done a run-through prior to heading over to his mom's or his dad's for a holiday celebration. We discuss who might be there, what we might have to talk about, or be confronted with, how are we going to handle potential challenges -- and we figure out how we're going to deal with all of this as a team. The convo sets the perfect precedent that we're going into the situation "united," and I've noticed it can preempt frustration or potentially confrontational exchanges when we're on the same page.

But at the same time, it's important to hold your honey accountable. This can be a toughie ... Merrill also admits:

Setting limits with parents is often harder for the adult child than the child-in-law. Sons, in particular, often try to avoid conflict with their mothers.

OMG, who hasn't been there, right? So, you know, again ... it's a matter, I think, of trying to hash it out together beforehand ... or directly after. For example, if something happens that makes you uncomfortable (like that one time his mom tried to covertly give me a family heirloom for Hanukkah in the very early stages of our relationship, and I felt so awkward about the right thing to do!), you speak up and tell your S.O. he just has to say XYZ to his folks, within reason. The fact of the matter is that they're his parents ... (Or, if roles are reversed, they're yours.)

Sure, it's easier said than done to talk about strategies for handling the in-laws, because you just never know what kinda curve balls they may throw. But the bottom-line is going into and reacting to any situation as a team seems to, more often than not, prevent family-related confrontations from making any significant dents in your relationship. And if that doesn't work, you can always turn to pouring yourself more eggnog!

How do you and your sweetie handle your in-laws during the holidays?

 

Image via JaneFonda.com/New Line Cinema

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