It’s early November and Miranda feels her tension levels rising with each passing day. The Holidays are approaching, and she dreads this time of year because she knows she’ll eventually have to see her Mother-in-law. Miranda doesn’t exactly know why her relationship with her Mother-in-law is strained, but whenever she sees them, she seems to make it abundantly clear that Miranda is not part of their family. For example, even though she’s been married to her husband Sean for eleven years, whenever there’s a family photo taken, her Mother-in-law asks her to step out of the picture so she can have one with “just the family.” Then there was that Christmas that Miranda’s Mother-in-law went on and on about the beautiful Christmas card she received from Sean’s ex-girlfriend and how she was “so disappointed” when Sean broke up with “that beautiful girl.”
Miranda’s Mother-in-Law is never overtly hostile to Miranda. In fact, if you only had an hour to sit in on one of these holiday dinners, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell there’s a problem at all. Miranda’s Mother-in-law is very sly when she takes her digs. When she says something mean to Miranda, she waits until there is no one else in earshot so later in the event she is confronted about her behavior, she can conveniently claim Miranda is “too sensitive,” or she “misunderstood.”
Eleven years of this behavior has led Miranda to dread the Holidays. Come November, she feels her shoulders tense up and starts to have difficulty sleeping. She’s tired of her Mother-in-Law's passive-aggressive digs. She’s tired of feeling like she’s an outsider to a family she’s been a member of for over a decade, but what can she do?
Family problems can be difficult to manage at any time, but during the Holidays, the stress that surrounds them seems to be worse. All around us we’re bombarded by images of happy families and there seems to be a societal pressure for everyone to live up to these images. Sometimes though, that’s just not possible to do.
Do you know that the busiest time of year at my counseling office starts in early November and ends just after New Year's Eve? It’s true and the main issue people seek counseling with me for this time of year is what I refer to as Holiday In-law Management. So, if you're experiencing similar problems to Miranda's, rest assured, you're not alone.
Here are some tips to help you survive the Holidays with your In-Laws…
1.) Talk to your husband. Let him know how you feel. No one is a mind reader so it’s unrealistic for you to think he should “just know.” Be clear and specific about what your issues are and what you would like your husband to do about them.