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Difficult in-laws at Christmas

Updated: Apr 2, 2021

Hello lovely people,

Hoping you’re all looking forward to Christmas, whether you are in isolation or in a bubble this is the time we wish to be with family and friends. Some this year will find it hard not being with loved ones due to the virus and others have been able to organise the family into a safe bubble for Christmas. Many see Christmas as loads of fun, but to others it can also be extremely stressful, especially if you have relatives who don’t like each other or worse, in-laws that are controlling and don’t like you. It doesn’t matter what you do, your in-laws just don’t care for you and you feel the same about them. No matter what you do or what you try it’s clear it’s never going to be good enough. And now you’ve realised you can’t please everyone all the time.

This month I look at ways around this issues, to avoid the unpleasantness and upsetting your partner, but sometimes there is just no option. If your partner and you have been together for a while, you will both probably know the reasons why you are not liked by their parents and if there seems to be no hope of changing this then it’s best to accept it.

One way you can avoid the drama, is to sit with your partner and talk about the issues openly. Then suggest that at an appointed day (let’s say Christmas Eve) you both see your relatives separately. If you have children, this can still apply by setting visit dates for Christmas eve and Boxing day, children shouldn’t lose out on a relationship with their grandparents just because the adults don’t see eye to eye.

If you must be present at a visit from your in-laws and can’t get out of it without hurting your partner’s feelings, then be realistic with your expectations and this will help you manage your anger and frustration. Don’t try changing them or assume that this year will be different, all you can do is try to find some common ground.

Try and include your in-laws in the planning, whether that be asking your mother in-law to bake that lovely cake she did on another occasion or ask your father in-law to help with the Christmas music or helping to sharpen the knives for carving. This may allow them to feel like an important part of the meal or party.

When taking comments from in-laws that are personal to you, like parenting style, marriage or work situations, remember this is not about you but more about losing the control they had on your partner and seeing if they can still have influence on them. In-laws can see you as the person who took their power away. So see it for what it is: a control issue. So they don’t like the way you run your household, you can let them know gently that things are done a certain way for after school activities and the availability of one parent or the other. But always stay open to the possibility that they may have helpful advice to offer.

You can’t change anyone’s behaviour or opinion, so be that role model and show respect for everyone’s point of view. If there is a subject that should not be touched on like politics, steer clear of it. Remember you don’t have to agree to an opinion, you just have to respect that people see things differently.

You can enlist your partners help, as they may need to step in and have a private chat with their parents or rescue you when in In-laws company. Your partner may have to start a conversation with “Dad, this is how you make my partner feel when you talk about this issue. Please respect him/her. It’s important to me that you two get along”

A final thought: remember your in-laws are the people that raised the person you love or are married to and that is a strong connection, this may be difficult and challenging for you, but try a little empathy.

I wish you all a great Christmas

Zena Finn


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