Finding it hard to get along with your in-laws, or do you just dread every family occasion that brings you all together? It’s time to start dealing with these worries. Here are 7 Practical Tips on How to Handle Stress Caused by In-laws.
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I have to confess I have no in-laws. I never met my father in law as he was long dead before we married and my mother in law was very elderly and lived 6,000 miles away during our early marriage, and then died at a good old age without causing me any stress whatsoever. My only direct experience is how my husband views my parents, his in-laws but of course I am biased here as I think they are faultless!
In-law stress is a very real issue for many of you, though, and we see it on a daily basis with our clients. The issues are many and varied, from in-laws that are too involved, critical and judgemental, to those that offer no help or support.
In-laws can be a huge drain on your emotional and physical resources, especially if they themselves are emotionally needy or if they have health issues. The in-law issues can extend too beyond parent, and include brothers and sisters in-law.
#1. Be Less Sensitive
A lot of the problems arise when we have different expectations and we are too sensitive.
That may be easy enough for me to say, but if you are secure in your own marital relationship and have some solid self-esteem and resilience, then the chances are you will be able to handle some in-law stress as part and parcel of life.
#2. Ask Yourself Tough Questions
If your mother in-law’s criticism is really getting you down, or the snide remarks of a brother-in-law or his wife bring you to tears, than maybe it might be worthwhile asking yourself a few questions:
- Why does their opinion matter so much?
- Do they have a point?
- Are you by any chance over-reacting?
No one likes to ask or answer these questions, but they can really help you re-frame the problem, and see it in terms of how you deal with it.
It is unlikely you will be able change them, but you can change how you react to them.
#3. Practical Solutions
There are practical solutions too… I am a great believer in ‘attack is the best form of defence’.
- Visit: If your parents-in-law are always complaining you never visit take the initiative and arrange e.g. two visits over the next three months. You don’t have to make every visit yourself send your partner with the kids.
- Stay in Touch: Find other ways to stay in touch.. send a card, make a quick call even a text to check in, will take no effort at all and may well be appreciated.
- Remember Important Dates: Remembering birthdays and other important family dates is an easy way to show you care without over committing yourself.
- Meet at Neutral Venue: Sometimes it can be good to meet on neutral territory if you can. Everyone tends to be a bit more relaxed, no one person is in charge of the house/situation, and it also offers you the opportunity to make a quick escape if necessary.
#4. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Take the time too to put yourself in their shoes, and consider if what you feel is criticism, is really coming from a negative place, or if they simply have a very different perspective from you.
My kids don’t always like visiting an elderly aunt, but we tell them the world is full of people you may not like, so this visit is great practice. We also tell them they owe it to their family to treat the older generation with some respect, even if the visits are not ‘fun’.
#5. Have a United Front
Having a united front with your partner also helps, but you do need to compromise. Remember your partner may be close to his/her parents or siblings and can’t understand what the fuss is about.
Unless you live very close to your in-laws, these interactions are unlikely to be any more than once a week so try to keep it in perspective.
#6. What is Best for Your Children
Sadly, we hear form a lot of grandparents now who are having problems dealing with their children and their grandchildren, after a divorce or separation.
Grandparents can be a great source of additional love and security for you and your children, so try to do your best to let them meet up even if you dread the hand-over or pick-up time.
#7. Let Go of Stress
Finally as we say to all our clients dealing with any issue, it is a function of how you view the problem and how much control you allow it to exert over your own feelings.
Sure there are truly terrible in-laws out there but most are just ordinary people with their own hang-ups and viewpoints. Unless there is something truly destructive going on, we suggest you try hard to let this stress go.
Go on try it and see.
Over to you! Share your practical tips on coping with in-law stress in comments below.