Surviving the Holidays and Your In-laws

Reviewed Mar 17, 2017

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Summary

  • Work out a plan with your spouse before the holidays arrive.
  • Provide opportunities for your in-laws to contribute.
  • Avoid "hot" topics.

For many of us, spending time with the in-laws isn't our idea of "happy holidays." But in-law relationships can be improved with just a little effort. The following scenarios show how small changes can bring peace to your family this holiday season.

Scenario #1

Every year, John feels pressure to spend the holiday with his family. His wife, Susan feels selfish for wanting to stay home with their kids. Motivated by guilt and the pressure to spend equal time with each other's family, John and Susan spend every Christmas in their minivan, commuting from one family to the other.

Holidays don't have to be this hectic. Work out a plan with your spouse before the holidays arrive. Ask yourself the following:

  1. Which holidays do you want to spend alone and which do you want to celebrate with your extended family?
  2. Are there any holiday traditions such as attending midnight mass or Christmas Eve caroling that are of particular importance to your in-laws?
  3. Which family customs are you willing to change or combine?

As a team, John and Susan asked for their families' input and came up with a plan that will work for everyone. This year, they will travel to her parents for Thanksgiving and host his parents for Christmas. They will alternate each year thereafter.

Scenario #2

During Hanukkah, Rich and Carol have Rich's side of the family over for a special dinner. Carol goes all out to make sure the evening is perfect. Still, her mother-in-law makes remarks such as "The chocolate pie was delicious, but the crust was a little overdone," or "Don't you think it would be better to seat the children at a separate table?"

Like Carol, many of us bend over backward to prove ourselves to our spouse's family, but end up with feelings of resentment and hostility. Try these suggestions the next time you plan to host a family gathering:

  1. Include your in-laws in the planning. Ask your mother-in-law to prepare her favorite dish. Or make a "to do" list for such things as "clean up" or "serving coffee." Providing opportunities for your in-laws to contribute will give them a sense of ownership and take some of the pressure off you.
  2. Rather than clinging to what is customary or routine, try something new. Suggest meeting at a restaurant. Or shift the focus of your family get-together from a meal to an outing.

Scenario #3

No matter what Allen says, his father in-law always disagrees. "He's always jumping down my throat," says Allen. "And before I know it, I'm in some heated conversation about something I don't even care about. He brings out the worst in me."

Just because you love your spouse, doesn't mean you have to like your in-laws. Still, personality conflicts don't have to ruin family get-togethers. Avoid frayed nerves by keeping the following in mind.

  1. Don't drink. Alcohol can exacerbate in-law issues.
  2. Don't bring up "hot" topics such as money or politics.
  3. Plan an activity that everyone can do together. Play a game or volunteer in a soup kitchen.

Just a slight adjustment to your attitude or situation will help you survive and maybe even enjoy in-law get-togethers during the holidays and year round.

By Christine P. Martin

Summary

  • Work out a plan with your spouse before the holidays arrive.
  • Provide opportunities for your in-laws to contribute.
  • Avoid "hot" topics.

For many of us, spending time with the in-laws isn't our idea of "happy holidays." But in-law relationships can be improved with just a little effort. The following scenarios show how small changes can bring peace to your family this holiday season.

Scenario #1

Every year, John feels pressure to spend the holiday with his family. His wife, Susan feels selfish for wanting to stay home with their kids. Motivated by guilt and the pressure to spend equal time with each other's family, John and Susan spend every Christmas in their minivan, commuting from one family to the other.

Holidays don't have to be this hectic. Work out a plan with your spouse before the holidays arrive. Ask yourself the following:

  1. Which holidays do you want to spend alone and which do you want to celebrate with your extended family?
  2. Are there any holiday traditions such as attending midnight mass or Christmas Eve caroling that are of particular importance to your in-laws?
  3. Which family customs are you willing to change or combine?

As a team, John and Susan asked for their families' input and came up with a plan that will work for everyone. This year, they will travel to her parents for Thanksgiving and host his parents for Christmas. They will alternate each year thereafter.

Scenario #2

During Hanukkah, Rich and Carol have Rich's side of the family over for a special dinner. Carol goes all out to make sure the evening is perfect. Still, her mother-in-law makes remarks such as "The chocolate pie was delicious, but the crust was a little overdone," or "Don't you think it would be better to seat the children at a separate table?"

Like Carol, many of us bend over backward to prove ourselves to our spouse's family, but end up with feelings of resentment and hostility. Try these suggestions the next time you plan to host a family gathering:

  1. Include your in-laws in the planning. Ask your mother-in-law to prepare her favorite dish. Or make a "to do" list for such things as "clean up" or "serving coffee." Providing opportunities for your in-laws to contribute will give them a sense of ownership and take some of the pressure off you.
  2. Rather than clinging to what is customary or routine, try something new. Suggest meeting at a restaurant. Or shift the focus of your family get-together from a meal to an outing.

Scenario #3

No matter what Allen says, his father in-law always disagrees. "He's always jumping down my throat," says Allen. "And before I know it, I'm in some heated conversation about something I don't even care about. He brings out the worst in me."

Just because you love your spouse, doesn't mean you have to like your in-laws. Still, personality conflicts don't have to ruin family get-togethers. Avoid frayed nerves by keeping the following in mind.

  1. Don't drink. Alcohol can exacerbate in-law issues.
  2. Don't bring up "hot" topics such as money or politics.
  3. Plan an activity that everyone can do together. Play a game or volunteer in a soup kitchen.

Just a slight adjustment to your attitude or situation will help you survive and maybe even enjoy in-law get-togethers during the holidays and year round.

By Christine P. Martin

Summary

  • Work out a plan with your spouse before the holidays arrive.
  • Provide opportunities for your in-laws to contribute.
  • Avoid "hot" topics.

For many of us, spending time with the in-laws isn't our idea of "happy holidays." But in-law relationships can be improved with just a little effort. The following scenarios show how small changes can bring peace to your family this holiday season.

Scenario #1

Every year, John feels pressure to spend the holiday with his family. His wife, Susan feels selfish for wanting to stay home with their kids. Motivated by guilt and the pressure to spend equal time with each other's family, John and Susan spend every Christmas in their minivan, commuting from one family to the other.

Holidays don't have to be this hectic. Work out a plan with your spouse before the holidays arrive. Ask yourself the following:

  1. Which holidays do you want to spend alone and which do you want to celebrate with your extended family?
  2. Are there any holiday traditions such as attending midnight mass or Christmas Eve caroling that are of particular importance to your in-laws?
  3. Which family customs are you willing to change or combine?

As a team, John and Susan asked for their families' input and came up with a plan that will work for everyone. This year, they will travel to her parents for Thanksgiving and host his parents for Christmas. They will alternate each year thereafter.

Scenario #2

During Hanukkah, Rich and Carol have Rich's side of the family over for a special dinner. Carol goes all out to make sure the evening is perfect. Still, her mother-in-law makes remarks such as "The chocolate pie was delicious, but the crust was a little overdone," or "Don't you think it would be better to seat the children at a separate table?"

Like Carol, many of us bend over backward to prove ourselves to our spouse's family, but end up with feelings of resentment and hostility. Try these suggestions the next time you plan to host a family gathering:

  1. Include your in-laws in the planning. Ask your mother-in-law to prepare her favorite dish. Or make a "to do" list for such things as "clean up" or "serving coffee." Providing opportunities for your in-laws to contribute will give them a sense of ownership and take some of the pressure off you.
  2. Rather than clinging to what is customary or routine, try something new. Suggest meeting at a restaurant. Or shift the focus of your family get-together from a meal to an outing.

Scenario #3

No matter what Allen says, his father in-law always disagrees. "He's always jumping down my throat," says Allen. "And before I know it, I'm in some heated conversation about something I don't even care about. He brings out the worst in me."

Just because you love your spouse, doesn't mean you have to like your in-laws. Still, personality conflicts don't have to ruin family get-togethers. Avoid frayed nerves by keeping the following in mind.

  1. Don't drink. Alcohol can exacerbate in-law issues.
  2. Don't bring up "hot" topics such as money or politics.
  3. Plan an activity that everyone can do together. Play a game or volunteer in a soup kitchen.

Just a slight adjustment to your attitude or situation will help you survive and maybe even enjoy in-law get-togethers during the holidays and year round.

By Christine P. Martin

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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