So, what happens when…
- Your mother-in-law babysits the kids for the day and you realize she re-organized your kids' closets without asking you first?
- You are getting settled on the couch for some TV time and your spouse’s sister calls, interrupting your couple time for the third night in a row?
- Your father-in-law comes over for a visit and makes sly comments about home improvement projects you've done?
- You want to host Thanksgiving dinner but you can’t get the families to agree because it’s always been done a different way?
Relationships can be tricky enough to manage when it's just the two of you! Once you have to start navigating around the needs and behaviors of those around you, it's easy for tension to erupt in your relationship despite the fact that neither one of you are the problem!
The most important thing to remember as you deal with this is that it isn't your partner who is disrespecting your boundaries! Too often, we start the interaction by lumping our spouse with the offending family member: "Do you know what your mother did?" "What does your sister want now? You two didn't run out of things to talk about yet?" Sound familiar?
1. Remember that staying on the same team with your spouse will make everything easier. If you put yourselves on opposite sides, you now have conflict with two people — your spouse and the offending person. Join with your spouse on the issue.
2. Rather than starting with an accusation, start with your upset and why it bothers you. Don't assume at the outset that your spouse agrees with whatever the mother-in-law did. "Hon, I've got to talk to you about something. While we were out, your mom apparently re-arranged the kids' clothes. I had them organized by outfits so they could just pull out whole outfits from the closet and she just went ahead and put all the shirts together and all the bottoms together."
3. Remember that when you marry, you marry into someone else's family. I know. Stating the obvious. However, what this means is, like it or not, you are in some kind of relationship with your in-laws. It may be as close as one in your own family or it might be distant and cordial. Regardless, if it's possible to manage your disagreement with just the offending party and not involve your spouse, that is usually best, at least to start. The more people involved in a conflict, the bigger deal it becomes and the more drama gets added. Keep Reading ...