They say that when you marry somebody, you also marry his or her family. And while you love and adore your honey-bunny, you might not have hand-picked your mother-in-law...
Having a baby or small children can increase stress on the relationship with in-laws, especially during special occasions like holidays, birthdays and anniversaries when parents want to be with their adult children and grandchildren. The stress and expense of travel and gifts adds additional strain and much togetherness can send you over the edge. While you might be able to bite your lip and mostly contain your frustrations with your in-laws, it is common for these negative feelings to spill into your relationship with your partner, causing conflict and distress.
As both a married mother-of-two and a therapist who has counseled parents for nearly 20 years, I recommend the following tips:
- Understand that most people are partial to their own families and customs, traditions and ways of doing things. This can apply to big things like religious practices or little things like how to load the dishwasher. Recognize that these differences are neither bad nor good, right nor wrong—they simply ARE. Try not to interpret these different preferences as rejection or criticism either by your partner or your in-laws. Accept that human nature is to like what is familiar and do not take any of this personally.
- Prioritize your marriage over your relationships with your families-of-origin. You are each other’s primary family now. Of course, healthy connection with both of your families-of-origin is important, and the key to success is compromise. There must be “give and take” to achieve a happy balance between time alone as a couple and time with each of your extended families.
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