Dealing with the In-Laws-to-be

Preparing for a wedding is fun, after all this is a party, a celebration of two lives coming together.  Preparing for a marriage is entirely another event; it is not fun, rather it is work.  Any time you take two different view points, two different personalities, and two different backgrounds and merge them together, there is bound to be tension.  One of the often overlooked areas of preparing for a marriage is dealing with the in-laws to be.  They are likely to be involved in your lives going forward so setting the parameters now before marriage decreases the potential conflict.

The new “we”.  Before you walk down the aisle or go to the courthouse, you should begin the practice of changing your perspective from “me” to “we”.  More importantly, the “we” means you and your spouse to be, not “we” meaning you and your parents.  For some this a hard adjustment as even the most simple of decisions were discussed with your parents, for others this is a no-brainer.  Nevertheless, if you begin this process now, before the wedding, your parents are more likely to adjust to the new perspective as well.  This is not a perspective that you want your in-laws to adjust to after the wedding as it may cause frustration and resentment.  Rather, practice it now.  When you say “we”, it is only you and your spouse; no parents allowed.

Mine are mine, yours are yours.  As a rule of thumb, communication is best received from you to your parents.  Parents are more likely to receive good or bad information if given directly from you to them without any interference.  You talking to your in-laws can create a question of whether or not their child, your spouse, really agrees with the decision.  This question then lives in the minds of your in-laws for the duration of your marriage and will likely be brought up an inopportune time.  When the two of you finally agree on an issue, you tell your parents and your spouse tells his/her parents.

Mark your calendars.  One of the most common disagreements that an engaged couple find themselves addressing is where to spend the holidays.  This may not have been an issue while dating, but when engaged each set of parents are basically staking out their claim on a particular holiday.  They know that the plan you set the first year is going to be very close to the one you will follow every year including when you have their precious grandchildren.  So plan carefully.  Keep one holiday for yourselves, at your house, to begin your own tradition and then divide out the rest amongst everyone else.   You don’t have to communicate your plan ahead of time but if both of you agree now, there will be less tension later.

Keeping these tips in mind will reduce the in-law tension in your home.  Remember, future decisions should involve you and your spouse; not you, your spouse, your parents, and your in-laws.  The more people involved in a decision, the more difficult it is to come to an agreement, just look at congress.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

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