Getting the family together to celebrate a birthday or communion can be highlights of our year, especially for our kids who revel in having all of their favourite people in the same place at the same time. But what if the in-laws cause a little stress or anxiety with big family events?
If you dread every family occasion on the horizon, we have a few ideas on how to handle potential stress from in-laws.
Find Out Why
If we pause and take a moment to consider why our in-laws cause us a bit of bother, or mental overwhelm, we can rationalise the arguments before they even happen. Does the criticism your mother-in-law dishes out get you down? Do you feel rejected or criticised by your brother-in-law? If strong feelings come up for you when thinking about your interactions with your partner's family, ask yourself why.
Why do you place a high value on their opinion? Are you over-reacting to their comments? What is making you feel this way? We can reframe the conversation by being gentler with ourselves and balancing our reactions and feelings by trying to understand these questions. We cannot change the people we are with, but we can alter how we respond to them.
Find A Balance
Arguments with family often come out of miscommunication. For example, is there something your mother-in-law is looking for? Would she like it if you visited more often? Is she looking for the kids to celebrate her birthday with her? Would she like to be more involved in family life and have a greater role as your kids' grandmother? Whatever the reasons behind the agro and stress in families, there are often simple ways to mend bridges. For instance, stay in touch by texting, sharing photos of the kids, or arranging a walk together.
Whatever solutions you look towards, make sure they work for you as you make this additional effort to ease the stress.
Find An Understanding
Snide comments, overbearing behaviours, and ownership battles can be challenging to overcome no matter how well-meaning our in-laws are. There is no simple, quick fix, but if someone does not know how you feel, they cannot change their behaviour. Opening up a conversation of honesty with your mother-in-law, which will likely be a tricky chat to have, will give you both the opportunity to share grievances. If your mother-in-law is not ready to have this conversation, you can still tell her how you feel when she comments on your home, your kids, your appearance, or anything else that causes stress or anxiety.
No matter how you try to work around your relationship with your in-laws, ensure your partner is aware of your feelings and has your back. Having a united front will be the best defence! Keep everything in perspective, and remember your partner will likely not share your feelings or experiences but should be open to understanding your stress.