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Coping With In-Laws at Christmas


How do you feel about the ‘Outlaws?’  Maybe you shrug and put up with them, maybe you even like them!  But if your heart sinks at the thought of mum-in-law’s nagging, father-in-law’s rude remarks and brother-in-law’s habit of emptying the drinks cabinet, you aren’t alone!  Many people dread Christmas simply because they have to spend it with their partner’s relatives. Why are problems with in-laws so common?





1)    The main problem with in-laws is that they are people!  They are folks that you see in an intimate, domestic setting, yet you didn’t grow up with them, and it’s unlikely that you love them.  Everyone has faults and those of your in-laws are pushed in your face, without you having a choice.

2)    Another common problem with in-laws is jealousy.  You might think you’re above it – but are you?  Maybe you’re used to having your partner all to yourself and it could grate to see him or her being fussed over or monopolized by parents.  There may be bonds that you can’t share, such as memories, funny sayings and little traditions.  Or one or both of your in-laws may resent you, for taking away their little boy or girl.

3)    They can make you look at your partner differently.  It’s fine when you see a lovable curl of the hair or tilt of the nose reflected in your dear one’s folks.  But when an irritating habit or gesture appears magnified in one of your in-laws, it can be scary!  Is that what your sweetie will be like in years to come?

4)    They can make you look at yourself differently!  It’s no secret that we tend to choose partners that are similar to our parents.  Maybe you can see some of your own negative traits or things you don’t like about yourself mirrored in your in-laws.  It can be hard to be honest about this, but if you aren’t facing up to this it can make your dislike even more intense.

5)    They are just a drag.  You don’t love ‘em or hate ‘em, but you could do without visiting them as an added chore in your busy life, or a boring time that spoils your lovely Christmas.

6)    They make you feel uncomfortable – their ways aren’t your ways.  Okay, you coupled-up with their son or daughter and you put up with his or her weird bits, but you find it hard to be close to the uncut version!

7)    They have different beliefs and standards to you.  Possibly they have a different attitude to Christmas, and in fact they may not even celebrate it (which in some ways can make things easier!) 




A great way to cope with other people’s behavior is to put yourself in their shoes.  If you have children, imagine how you will feel when your little one is closer to someone else than they are to you.  What goes round comes round.  Look at it this way – being nice to your in-laws could be a way of getting in karmic credit for when it’s your turn.  But generally, a little kindness, tolerance and empathy will enrich you, too, especially at Christmas.  If things are really fraught, remember these points:

•    BE HONEST WITH YOUR PARTNER.  If you find his or her parents truly difficult, discuss why this is and how you can both work at it.  What you are asking for is your partner to understand you, not to agree to have nothing to do with his/her parents and siblings.  You are being reasonable, so you can reasonably expect support for your attempts to cope.
•    WORK ON YOUR SELF-AWARENESS.  This can be really hard, but be brave.  Are the reasons why you don’t like the in-laws to do with your own insecurities and fears?  Changing this could be the best Christmas present you could have.
•    SORT OUT STRATEGIES.  Going into a challenging situation unprepared is asking for trouble – and the last thing you want is strife over the turkey and pudding.  Identify the major sticking points and make them easier for yourself.  For instance, maybe you can go out for a walk at key times, keep the stay shorter (maybe you can promise another get-together before New Year) plan activities to keep everyone occupied etc.  Be inventive.
•    RESPECT THEIR BELIEFS – AND YOUR OWN.  You might not agree with some of their attitudes or religious convictions, but maybe it’s better to have some beliefs and standards, and the deeper message of all faiths is about the importance of love.  Try to find points of compatibility and be tolerant.
    HAVE YOUR OWN FALL-BACKS.  If it really gets too much, promise yourself you’ll retreat to the bathroom for a soak, escape to the fresh air or plug yourself into your Ipod.  Have an excuse ready if necessary.  Learn to recognize when you are close to breaking point and have time out before that arrives.
•    PLAN YOUR OWN SPECIAL ALTERNATIVE CHRISTMAS.  If the big day is full of compromise and annoyance, accept this.  Make it up to yourself by having your own Christmas Day on another day – preferably afterwards, so you have something to look forward to.
•    IDENTIFY YOUR BOTTOM LINE.  You brace yourself when mother in law gets in a stupid flap (she does it every year) or father in law comes out with the same old jokes – that’s okay.  But when you are criticized, undermined, hurt or ignored it could be time to take action.  Speak up firmly and clearly.  Refuse to get into a fight.  If things are intolerable then maybe it’s time to put your foot down.  You don’t have to give away your self-esteem and peace of mind for Christmas, and maybe your dearest could visit the Outlaws alone.

Sometimes with the best will in the world, in-laws can be impossible.  Dating advice and relationship advice are available with a few clicks, when you contact us at The Circle.  Find support with your love issues, get your relationship horoscope or benefit from psychic insight.  There’s no need to cope with your anxieties alone – put in a call today.

PUBLISHED: 15 December 2014

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