If you've got a spouse, you've got in-laws. There's really no way around that, and luckily some are better than others. But even the best in-laws need a place to stay when they visit you for the holidays. Unless you live in a tiny apartment (and that's very smart of you, if so), you're going to have family bunking with you from now until the end of the year.
Needless to say, your love life could take a hit. But it doesn't have to!
Ian Kerner, renowned sex and relationship therapist and publisher of Sex and the Baby Years, has some solid advice when the family comes knocking. So if you don't want to end the holiday season screaming, "You're just like your mother!!!" and swearing off any future family visits, take a deep breath, and follow his sage advice.
(If all else fails, pay special attention to the last line. I know I will.)
First things first, Kerner says that "prior to their arrival, you need to sit down with your husband and set ground-rules."
Why are in-laws such an issue?
The main problem with in-laws is not the in-laws themselves, but rather a spouse who won't speak up for you or doesn't have the spine to defend you and the principles of your home. Holiday visits from the in-laws leave a lasting relationship hangover and contribute to ongoing resentments. So, again, make sure you and your spouse are on the same team and set clear rules.
How do you handle a slight from your MIL without losing it?
During their visit, if you have an issue, tell your husband first and give him the chance to deal. Same goes for your parents. Avoid group confrontations, and go for one on one interactions.
Even with a house full of relatives, be selfish about your personal time and your relationship. It's okay to get in the car and run errands. It's okay to find pockets of down-time.
Is it possible to have a stress-free family holiday?
For all the chaos and layers of communication, focus on the holiday you want to have. What is the experience you want to give your children? Also, remember that the holidays mean different things to different people. It may be super-important to you to celebrate one way, and your husband may not care. So focus on the holiday experience you want for you and your children and define clear milestones. Put you and your family first, and others will experience your holiday joy, not your holiday stress.
After the holidays, take a deep breath, reconnect with your spouse and your family, and do something that's simple and intimate and just about your family: a few extra little presents, a dinner out as a family, a morning sleeping in while you let the kids play with their presents and watch TV.
And, of course, nothing's wrong with spiking the eggnog as needed!
What's your game plan when the in-laws come to town?
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