7 Tips for Managing 'In-law Stress' During This Holiday

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Marriage Educator: Dealing With In-Law Holiday Stress
If you can't take one more second with your in-laws, read this now!

This guest article from Psychcentral is written by Terri Orbuch, PhD.

Your mother-in-law takes over the kitchen at holiday time. So what? Your father-in-law drinks too much and sulks in the corner. Big deal! If you're not letting the drama of holiday season roll off your back, it's time for an attitude adjustment. 

Don't let in-laws ruin your family holiday, multiply your stress or leave you feeling defeated and angry. Doing so will make your holiday get-together more pleasant, sure, but there's an even better reason to make peace with in-laws. In my long-term study of married couples, when a husband or wife fails to get along with the in-laws, it's predictive of marital unhappiness down the road. On the flip side, in the happiest marriages from my study, both spouses reported that they felt close to, or at least got along with, their in-laws. Want to be in the later category? Here are some ways to avoid adding in-law stress to your holiday season — and potentially harming your marriage.

1. Expect The Minimum
Don't expect praise, warmth, and approval from your partner's family. Transform into a gracious host and treat them as honored guests. They will either respond or not, but you won't care, because your focus will be on cultivating a sense of placidity and security within yourself..

2. Let Them Help
Ask your father-in-law to build a fire. Ask your mother-in-law to make or bring her favorite dish. People like to be needed, and it gives them a way to contribute. Plus, it takes some of the pressure and workload off of you!

3. Be A Reporter
One of the best ways to keep conversations light is to ask questions and get your in-laws talking. Ask about their work, childhood, hobbies, etc. to get the conversation started. People love talking about themselves, and this will show you are interested and invested in them. 

4. Blend Traditions
Ahead of time, ask your partner to describe his or her family rituals. This can include any special prayers, toasts, foods, or after-dinner games or activities. Then, surprise your in-laws with one of their favorite holiday rituals. It'll make them feel at home, comfortable and cared for.

5. Deflect Negativity
If your in-law criticizes you, your partner, or a member of your family, simply smile and reply with a neutral comment, such as, "Think so?" Later, after the holidays are over and you have more control over the setting, you can share that it hurt your feelings.

6. Set A Time Limit
Set limits on the time you spend cooped up with your in-laws by announcing at the outset that you will have to leave later to take the kids skating, to visit a food pantry, or to deliver cookies to an elderly neighbor.

7. Take A Walk
Everyone understands the need for a walk after a big meal. Get out of the house and take some deep breaths to recover. You will feel better after you do. 

The holidays are a time to celebrate and be with family. Make sure your behavior replicates the joy you want to see in your in-laws and you're sure to have a great time!

More marriage educator advice from YourTango:

This article was originally published at PsychCentral. Reprinted with permission.
Article contributed by
Advanced Member

John M. Grohol

Psychologist

Dr. John Grohol is a mental health expert and founder of Psych Central. He has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues, and the intersection of technology and psychology since 1992.

Location: Newburyport, MA
Credentials: PsyD
Website: PsychCentral
Other Articles/News by John M. Grohol:

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