Wednesday, 25 July 2012

In-laws Can Redefine Dysfunctionality

I am quickly coming to the conclusion that we all emanate from a dysfunctional family of sorts, even if only mildly so.  I am also becoming painfully aware of how a somewhat toxic environment can indelibly etch its mark on us.

We get married and realize that our in-laws redefine dysfunctional.  This can cause some significant problems either in terms of the long-term effect it has had on your spouse and/or on your ability to relate to them.

In spite of their bizarreness it is important that you do whatever you can to fit in.

Amy Morin, LCSW offered the following basic suggestions in her recent blog.

1.    Participate in family functions – From reunions to backyard barbeques, your willingness to attend family functions shows your interest in getting to know your spouse’s family better.

2.    Be open to new traditions – Be willing to learn about your spouse’s traditions it is important. You don’t have to embrace them all as your own. You and your spouse can discuss which traditions you want to carry on and which ones you might choose to leave behind. Your spouse may be more willing to leave some of them behind if you’ve shown you are open to learning about them.

3.    Don’t complain to your in-laws about your spouse - Sometimes people go to their in-laws to complain about their spouse in hopes it will help create some change. However, if you think your husband is lazy, telling his mother about it isn’t likely to help. If you think your wife spends too much money her mother may not have a sympathetic ear.  Remember, your in-laws raised your spouse. They will likely be offended by your complaints.

4.    Set healthy boundaries - You don’t have to be a doormat to your in-laws. If your mother-in-law comes to your house every day and criticizes your housekeeping; or your father-in-law seems keeps hinting that you are not doing enough to provide for your family, you need to set boundaries.  If you say nothing, you’ll likely grow resentful.

If you decide to set some boundaries talk to your spouse about it first. Then present a united front in explaining your request to your in-laws. It’s healthy to set some reasonable expectations, especially about your own house or your children.  It is the responsibility of the child to take up the issue with his or her parents not that of the daughter-in-law or son-in-law, i.e. deal with your own parents.

5.    Don’t compete - If your mother-in-law brags that her pecan pie is award winning, let her brag. Or if your father-in-law claims to be the best fisherman in the land, don’t respond by telling him about the fish you caught last weekend.

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