There are many issues that can cause friction in a relationship, one of the biggest of which is in-laws. Both members of a relationship bring family history with them, and in some cases, one partner’s family may have wildly different views or behaviors than the other’s.
The good news is that, while handling differences with in-laws can be challenging, it doesn’t have to derail a relationship. As a professional in couples’ counseling, NJ-based licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) Chuck Beardsley has helped healthy couples adopt the following strategies for overcoming these differences.
Separate the Partner from Their Family
First and foremost, remember that while your loved one came from this family, they are not the same person as their parents, siblings, or other relatives. While they may share some of the same values, points of view, and characteristics, your partner is entirely their own individual. Thus, any difference you may have with an in-law doesn’t necessarily have to be the case with your partner.
Set Boundaries, But Continue to Make an Effort
Unless a serious, inexcusable offense has occurred, most partners in healthy relationships continue to spend time with their in-laws for their partners’ sake. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set boundaries, however. You still have the right to politely disagree on certain topics, continue raising your children as you see fit, and refuse to put up with insults or other behaviors that are downright inappropriate. You are entitled to have your own relationship with your in-laws, regardless of how your spouse sees things. Negotiating this perpetual problem is one of the ways counseling can help.
Know That Opinions Are Just That
Passive-aggressive or rude comments about the choices you make are certainly enough to grate on anyone’s nerves. But keep in mind that they’re simply opinions. Everyone has them—some people are just not emotionally aware enough to know how the words they use hurt others. Sometimes we may be the only person in someone’s life who can tell them how their words feel-it may be up to us.
Remember They’re People, Too
We’re all humans, and we all have different experiences that have shaped us. A seemingly cold in-law may not have been raised in the same type of loving household you were. Recognizing that in-laws are real people whose lifestyles have made them the way they are may allow you to better put their differences into perspective.
Be Respectful of Attachments
It’s entirely possible that your in-law may do something that really angers or upsets you. While you should bring it to your partner’s attention, he or she may not be the best person for getting support. Consider the relationship your partner has with the person that’s wronged you before you reach out for support. Calling someone else, Journaling to get out all of your emotions or cooling off with a workout before you approach the subject might be better than talking to your spouse. Even if your in-law was in the wrong, your partner still has strong ties to them, so firing off could wind up causing more hurt in the long run. And if it’s a recurring topic, and you’ve been complaining a long time, your partner may grow weary of hearing it. You are responsible for the relationship you have with an in-law. Our partners are not responsible for managing our adult relationships, and this is one of them.
Continue the Communication
Most importantly, healthy couples continue to respectfully share their thoughts and feelings surrounding in-law conflict. Most of them come to terms with the fact that these challenges may arise again, but that healthy coping and communication strategies will allow them to work through them constructively.
If you need help developing strategies to work through in-law issues, you and your partner could be good candidates for couples’ counseling. NJ-based therapist Chuck Beardsley will help you and your loved one develop healthy strategies for working through differences and moving forward in a way that benefits you both. Contact his office today for an appointment.