Many people experience difficulties with their in-laws when the holidays roll around. Why are the in-law relationships so difficult? While some would suggest it's pure jealousy, I think it's more complex.
Generally, we meet our in-laws when we are already adults, so we are accustomed to adult-adult communication which includes acceptance of differences. However, to in-laws, we are on the same social level as their child. Tied to a spouse, we are put back in the position of being a "kid." In-laws might believe they can control, persuade, evaluate, judge and "educate" us as if we were their children.
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If they use manipulative tactics to control their own children—and very few don't—we easily enter a holiday minefield. One nasty comment here, one guilt trip there and the celebration of blessings turns into an avoidance of explosion. Our biological impulse is to react with either flight or fight when we feel attacked.
Fortunately, there is another option available to us: assertive communication, meaning that you stand up for your rights in a way that doesn't violate others. Characteristically, it is a calm, peaceful, determined attitude, confirmed by unambiguous body language.
Keeping that all in mind, here are four steps useful for handling tense, in-law situations:
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1. Consider what's going on behind the scenes. When your in-laws drive you crazy, try to understand what is going on behind the scenes. Is the put-down supposed to put you on the defensive and provoke an action from you? Is the labeling motivating you to prove the opposite? Does the discrepancy come from a completely different priority system?
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