Fighting with your in-law isn’t a new thing. It actually happens quite often. Recently we have seen and heard about the heated exchange in an elevator between Jay-Z and Solange. While this incident has brought a lot of attention and speculation to Jay-Z, Beyonce and Solange, it also highlights a complicated issue that many couples and families experience.
Ideally, when couples get married or are involved in long-term relationships, there is a hope that everyone, including family on both sides, will get along. The truth is that it can already be challenging for the two people in the relationship to get along, much less their parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and even close friends. Even with this, each member of the couple hopes that their partner will love and accept the qualities they love/admire in their family member(s). Some couples will try to orchestrate “meet-cutes” between their partner and family members hoping that they will hit it off. The goal for some is to have the best of both worlds (I love my partner and I love my family) and for others the goal is to keep the peace (I love everyone, especially when they don’t argue or put me in the middle).
When the relationship with in-laws goes bad it can create a hostile environment for the couple and make family gatherings difficult. Couples with troubled in-law relationships argue often about related and unrelated issues, most of the time the heart of the argument is an attempt to protect their respective family members. Making decisions about going to family functions (like whose family should we go to for Thanksgiving) can be ticking time bombs. In addition, there are many issues that can create a battling in-laws situation. Some of these issues include loaning money or owing money to family members; thoughts about a cheating partner; having family members live with you or living with family members; or having unsolicited advice about how to live your life (what to do with your partner, how to raise your children or time spent or lack of time spent with family).
Many couples go wrong when they allow the in-law struggles to pull them apart. The first way to work on this is to be a united front, a team. In-law issues pull couples apart because the attack on a family member feels like an attack on them. The best way to stay united is to remember that how you talk about your partner’s family feels personal to your partner. There are ways you can say what you are thinking or what you want to do differently with your in-laws without insulting them or belittling them. Some in-laws can be difficult, overwhelming or even a burden. As a couple, it is important to create boundaries and to let your respective families know your boundaries (for example, showing up unexpected is not accepted, family members speaking harshly to your partner is not ok, we will discuss if we ask for money or loan money before making the decision).
Having difficult relationships with your in-laws can negatively impact your relationship. It will not go away without you and your partner working on it. If the battles with your in-laws continue to happen or you have had these battles for a long time, it might be time to get some help. You do not have to do this on your own, but some action is needed to turn your battling in-law situation into the supportive couple & family life you’ve hoped for since the beginning of your relationship.
If you are currently in a relationship where you are having trouble with your in-laws and need some help resolving the conflict in your relationship, find a therapist and let him or her help you by being your neutral party.
George James is a Licensed Couple & Family Therapist
and CEO of George Talks, LLC,
Where Your Relationships Matter!
For more on this and other topics, please visit www.GeorgeTalks.com,
Email: [email protected]
TED Talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z18pYhxRXFA&feature=youtube_gdata_player