Family Frameworks

Some stresses to consider during the holidays

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Nov 2012

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As I am preparing for the holidays one of the stresses that I feel is how are we going to get together with the families.  It’s really kind of tricky to plan times with my mom his mom & dad and our kids.  Some of this will depend on traditions, and some will depend on time frames and availability.

My son and I were talking last night and I really appreciate how he took into consideration her family and ours showed sensitivity to everyone’s needs.  They decided to spend Christmas this year (their first) with her family.  He knew that his four other siblings that could make it would be meeting with us on the 28th so a no-brainer, but had also spent Thanksgiving with her parents.  His rationale was to put everything on the right schedule for the following years, but he wanted me to know that was his plan.  I really appreciated that he was so willing to communicate that with me and not just let it be assumed, or expect his wife to do the communicating.

Many times in-laws can become jealous about time their married children spend with other parents.  We have to change our expectations a bit and realize that they need to start making their own traditions and they have a lot of people they must consider just as we do.   We hope to be included.  I must say that my husband is especially good about this and not giving the kids the guilt trip.  Both the parents and the children must learn to either set their expectations a bit differently or set their boundaries on how things will be handled.  In the big picture does it really matter which day, it’s mostly about spending time with them.  But that’s my thoughts, and you might have rationale that might be a bit different for what works for your family.

I recently read an article about in-laws and their role with married couples.  Thought this was interesting, when men have a good relationship with the wife’s parents it helps the marriage.  When women have a strong tie with her husband’s parents in the beginning it can lead to a higher chance of divorce.  According to the study done by Dr. Terri Orbuch, and psychologist and research professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research,  women can feel threatened or are more sensitive to meddling by the in-laws than men and this can cause some strong feelings in the marriage.  I don’t think this means that you are not to have a relationship with your husband’s family but I do believe it will be a little more distant.

I’ve noticed in my own relationship with my daughter-in-laws and son-in-laws that it’s important to love them, but not be buddies with them.  I think similar to how we are to be mom’s and dad’s and not best friends with our children.  A fine line we must walk in these relationships.  I dearly love my children’s spouses and appreciate each one for the strengths they bring to our children.  But through time I’m also realizing my place as an in-law and giving the space that each couple needs.  (Not perfectly by any means)

Another thing I have found in these relationships is that the spouse and their parent are the ones to bring up any questions or conflicts not your partner.  When we let that happen and we sit back their can be GREAT problems.  The one spouse cannot fight the other’s battles.  Be empathetic and supportive, in the end it’s their parents and they know the dynamics of the family too well.  When there is outspokenness by the non-related spouse the related spouse can develop resentment toward the spouse rather than toward the extended family.  In other words, each partner must do the communication and the standing up to or for their extended families.  All of that is hard to understand, but it’s important to put this into effect due to the resentments that can unnecessarily build between families.

Another important point is, your spouse’s parents don’t want to hear about the negative things going on in the marriage, they don’t need to know the details, even though we think they should.  That needs to be between you and your spouse.  We don’t need to be saying negative things about either.  It is also necessary that we as in-laws observe and support but don’t interfere.  Encourage them to work out their problems and discourage them from sharing negative thoughts about their partners.

Oh how hard all of this is. But if we can walk these fine lines we will have some conflict, we can’t avoid all of it, but we can learn how to deal with it in a healthy way.  I think of the bottom-line as how would I want to be treated? and am I dealing with this in LOVE.  The basis for all relationships must be a deep love.

In summary:
1.  Don’t expect everything to remain the same as when your kids were growing up, expect changes.
2.  Set your boundaries, what can you do or not do and stick with it but not resentfully.
3.  Don’t expect your spouse to fight the battles with your family,  leave him/her out of it and you deal with your family he/she deals with their family.
4.  Be positive and supportive about everyone.  If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
5.  Deal with the differences respectfully.
6.  Be flexible.

If you would like to read the article on in-laws click here

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Hope this is helpful.  Enjoy your holiday season.
Kathy

One Response to “Some stresses to consider during the holidays”

  1. Matthew Smith

    Great insights! It’s a tough job working and living with people, but you’ve got some good points in there. Nice work, Nurse Kathy!

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