Dealing with the In-Laws
oes a weekend at the dentist office sound more appealing than a weekend with your in-laws? Does your husband's mom win the Smother-in-Law of the Year award year after year? If so, you're not alone. Weekends and holidays spent with in-laws are notoriously packed with stress and can be anything but joyous for most people. But does that mean you should try to out-law your in-laws? Not at all, say the experts. In fact, your inner frustrations can be used to your advantage and maybe even improve your relationship. Here's how:
- Accept the fact that they frustrate you. The first step in approaching a weekend with the family is to recognize their shortcomings. "By virtue of this acceptance, one's angst begins to dissipate and therefore one is more likely to handle the situation in a manner that does not produce more frustration," explains Donna Tonrey, PhD, a marriage and family therapist who directs a clinical counseling program at La Salle University in Philadelphia.
- Enter with a positive mindset. Don't look for the negative or judge your in-laws for doing things differently. "Allow them to be different. Loosen up and focus on having a good time," says April Masini, who writes 'AskApril.com,' a relationship online magazine, and the critically acclaimed 'Ask April' advice column. "Fun is often contagious."
- Give them a time out. If the weekend is going along nicely and then you get a one-two punch of insults from your mother-in-law, then this is the time to institute the adult time out. What is this exactly? It is withdrawing "by being pleasant yet distant," says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page Books). Eventually the offending person should ask you what's wrong, and at that point you have the opportunity to tell him or her what the problem behavior is and why you don't like it.
Christine McLaughlin, a mother of two young boys, is a freelance writer, editor and author of the newly released "The Dog Lover's Companion to Philadelphia."
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