At the beginning of our marriage, my wife was overwhelmed by my family's tradition and I was antsy during hers. (I mean, it seemed so slow—and everyone was watching me open gifts! Awkward.) Now, we recognize our families are just different. We also learned that it's important to have both celebrations—and another. My family celebration, her family celebration, and our family celebration with just our immediate family. That way, we could begin our own tradition as a family, and still enjoy the two extended family traditions that we grew up with.
Tip #3: Set boundaries. This is an addition to the previous tip. Be flexible, yet establish boundaries. We have our family celebration on Christmas morning. Everyone else's celebrations can happen before or after that. It doesn't matter to us, but we do have our very own special time. It's important to us that we continue our tradition, while still honoring everyone else's, too.
Beyond that, boundaries come in lots of shapes and sizes. Perhaps it's saying no to driving your nephew to the airport. If you aren't OK with your mom's new special friend because you don't want to have to explain it to the kids too soon, say so. Explain nicely that she is still welcome, but you'd like to hold off inviting her new beau. If she chooses not to come because of the boundary, that's her choice. The same holds true if you are going to her place. You can limit your visiting time to accommodate when she will be there without her new friend.
Tip #4: Stay on the team. I have this tendency to go into "son mode" when we visit my family. My wife called me out on it several years ago. She noticed that I wasn't thinking like a husband and dad during these visits—I was thinking like a 12-year-old boy. I was inserting myself into my old life, and forgetting my married life. The number-one thing about dealing with in-laws as a couple? You are in this together—and that doesn't include your in-laws. For example, whatever comments your mom says about your spouse are her thoughts. She needs to either keep them to herself, or share them with both of you together so you can have a civil conversation about her feelings. Your priority is your marriage. Speaking of comments...
Tip #5: No snide comments. Ever. Never bad mouth your spouse in front of extended family (or ever, for that matter). If you have a disagreement, go to a quiet place and talk about it. Ideally, you want to present a united front. Conversely, if your spouse is assaulted verbally by a family member, you must come to his or her support. Don't stand for derogatory remarks. When you entered your marriage, your family also accepted your spouse into the family. Celebrating together as an extended family is a privilege. If there is verbal or other abuse, that privilege goes away. You don't have to feel attacked in any way, shape or form. If you feel unsafe, decide on other arrangements for your holiday.
With Thanksgiving behind us, think about some of these ideas when you tackle in-law visits with your spouse. Take the needed steps to have a great time with extended family, because there is no reason to be miserable.