How to mentally prepare for serious family time, no matter how irritating the in-laws may be.
In the beginning of a relationship, most women look forward to the day their boyfriend pops the question that takes things to a whole new level. No, we're not talking about that question but rather, "Will you come home with me?"
Being invited to meet his parents is a big step that most girlfriends are happy to take. That is, until she meets his family.
For some women, this changes nothing, but for most, meeting the loved ones of their loved one leaves them worried about a lifetime of holidays, birthdays, and other assorted gatherings with his brood. So, whether his mother is constantly smacking you with insults disguised as compliments or his dad can't find one decent thing to say throughout dinner, we've got you covered. We've grabbed five real-life scenarios and taken them to the experts to help make the holidays with his family a little brighter.
Bah Humbug #1: "I love my boyfriend dearly but he acts so different around his family and it annoys me to no end," Michelle, 29, Ann Arbor, MI
Make Your Season Bright: Remember that different circumstances require us to show different sides of our personality. While it might seem as though your boyfriend is a different person entirely, the truth is that he is likely made up of many sides and you're seeing a different one than he shows to you.
"It is very common for individuals to act differently in front of their families than they do with friends and/or significant others. This can be because they have a different comfort level with their family or because they are trying to project a certain image," says Dr. Candice Seti, a clinical psychologist specializing in family relationships. We're not suggesting you hold in your contempt when your macho man turn into a weepy mama's boy, but give him a break if he's simply toning down his personality or hiding the fact that he usually sprinkles his sentences with four-letter words.
Seti suggests asking yourself why you are having such a strong reaction to this new side of your guy. "If you are just bothered by the fact that he acts differently, but it doesn't have an impact on you, then you need to back off and allow your boyfriend some freedom and flexibility to adapt himself to different situations. But if he treats you differently and that upsets you, talk to him ahead of time and let him know how you feel and why it bothers you," she says. ?
Bah Humbug #2: "My father-in-law is so negative that it ruins any holiday we spend with him. His constant complaining puts me in such a bad mood," Chloe, 27, Cleveland, OH
Make Your Season Bright: Don't personalize bad behavior. There's a lot of pressure for everyone to be "merry and bright" over the holidays but the truth is that unless the Debbie and Daryl Downer's of the world get a seasonal lobotomy, they are likely going to say or do something to bring someone down. The key is to stop going into the same situation expecting them to behave differently.
"Expectations play a significant role in how much things like this affect us. Going into the situation every year, expecting that things will be better and that your father-in-law will not be such a downer. You probably put in the extra effort to make him happy so you end up taking it personally when he is not," says Seti, who advises that you stop personalizing the situation and accept that his personality is what it is and has nothing to do with you.
"Go into the holiday expecting that your father-in-law will be negative and remind yourself not to take it personally. Then, every now and then, when he does or says something nice, you will be pleasantly surprised instead of let down by all of the negativity," she adds.
Bah Humbug # 3: "My mother-in-law is always making passive-aggressive comments about me. She throws a zinger out every chance she gets—but always with a smile, of course," Layla, 32, New York, NY
Make Your Season Bright: Consider yourself a betting woman, and turn it into a game. It often seems that when a woman becomes a MIL, she's given a special handbook full of one-liners that can knock their son's wives out cold in 30 seconds flat. Since tossing the carving knife in her general direction would likely be frowned upon, make a game of it, says Jennine Estes, a marriage and family therapist intern and the author of the relationships blog, Relationships in the Raw.
"Passive-aggressive comments are like being stabbed in the back but, on the other hand, if she is passive-aggressive, she probably isn't open to taking a look at her actions and does it because that is the only way she knows how to communicate. Instead of allowing the comments to hurt, play a game with it. Count how frequent the comments come out, make bets on the frequency and look at it with humor," she says. That said, don't be a doormat. "If a family member truly gets out of line, it is up to your spouse to step in and draw a boundary," she notes.
Bah Humbug #4: "My fiancé's family does not approve of me because of my social and cultural background and seems to have waged a war against me since we became engaged," Elizabeth 29, Long Island, NY
Make Your Season Bright: Unite with your partner. There are few things more painful than not being accepted by the family of the person you have chosen to create your own family with. When the reasoning is based on your background or culture, it can be downright devastating. Though your partner might feel caught in the middle, Dr. Seti says there is a good chance the family is testing the strength of the relationship, which is why it is essential to maintain a united front.
"Unfortunately [they] are trying to weaken you and push you away, most likely