In-Laws Or Out-Laws?
For some, the time spent with his family or yours is an extremely joyful time, for others it?s filled with anxiety and resentment. The bags for the trip are over-packed. They might be filled with missteps, hurt feelings, vengenance, insecurities, disrespect, and a plethora of old feelings from times before. These items can be found scattered in his bags and yours, and when the family visits you?they have their share stuffed in their luggage. Some of us promise ourselves we?ll lighten the load, but have a hard time discarding our unforgiving spirit. Some of us refuse to carry smaller baggage because we are afraid that as soon as we leave our resentment behind some in-law will ?ask for it? and we won?t be able ?give it to them?
We come packing and loaded for the big show down, without any idea of how to lighten our load. Maybe if we consider the casualties, we could find a way to let it go. Casualties? What casualties? Your partner, (and maybe your children) is a casualty.
Let?s take an empathic look at the difficulties you could be experiencing with your guy?s family. Your man, as with all the rest of us, has spent many years being a part of a messy, kooky, mixed-up family. How do I know his family is that way? All families are that way, but when you are a part of one you never realize it until you have to invite outsiders to see your family life. Once the two of you become a couple, he introduces you to his family and you may say, think, or somehow show ?ugh, what a mess.? He instantly (and maybe secretly) feels ashamed. His reaction may be to get angry with his family, to get angry with you, to assume only one role when is around the two of you, that of ?son? or that of ?your man.? Whatever action he takes, he will inflame either you or his family, and so the war begins. You win some battles, they win some, but ultimately, your guy and maybe your children lose because they must choose a side.
The question is how do you change it? I am asking you to change it because you are the newcomer. His family has established ?their way? of doing things and each member has ?their role.? They may not acknowledge that they have a way or be willing to change their way for you. He has entrusted you with an honest view of his messy family, now you must treat his screwball family, the same way you treat your screwball family. When his mother says something insensitive, rude, or obtrusive, imagine your mother doing the same. Do you shoot her a nasty look, or sass her with mean words? Probably not, you may not like what she is saying, but I?ll bet you usually ignore it, accept it, or gently reject it. Eventually, you forgive it and move on. If your family is like most, you accept each other?s shortcomings with love. You probably make huge allowances for you own family?s infractions, and the same should be made for his.
If you make an honest effort to accept his family in love--not controlled suppression of hate and resentment--but true love, you will experience a loving in-law relationship. It won?t be instant! Love will have to grow especially if the hate has existed for a long time. Your first step is to stop hurting your partner. All negative words or feelings you have toward his family should be put into a journal from now on until you have no more use for it. Do not bring those negative feelings or incidents up to him any longer because you might lose your relationship over it.
Your journaling should go like this:
1. What was the incident?
2. How did it make me feel?
3. What was my part in it?
4. Let it go!
I realize that you may not be a ?warrior? in your in-law woes, but a ?casualty.? Your man may be the one engaged in a war against your family. Here?s what I suggest for you: journal your feelings in the same way as above. You may have feelings of vulnerability, embarrassment, resentment, confusion, and exhaustion concerning the people you love getting along happily. Explore and talk openly with your man about your feelings without placing blame. It may be a good idea to share your journal with your partner, so he knows that your are aware of the issues. Many times the ?warring partner? feels that the ?casualty of war? is unaware of the battles, but most times that is far from the truth. Talk to your family about making space for your loving partner, but do not force them or argue over it. Say something like ?John makes a delicious gravy, I would love it if we could include it on the holiday menu this year??
Mostly importantly, rely on pray to soften hearts and enlighten souls, and have faith that is can all work out?It did for me.
About the Author: Brooke Brimm has a Master's degree in Professional Counseling and 8 years of experience in the field of Human Science. She has been married since 1993 and has two beautiful daughters. Ms. Brimm authors an ezine, Loves Gumbo, in which she discusses love, relationships, and friendships in today's society. To join email: email@example.com