FM Holidays inlawsAre you nervous about the holidays this year?

Spending the holidays with your in-laws may not excite you, as a matter a fact you may be dreading it, or feeling nervous about it.

Maybe you got into a dispute about politics and now things are tense. Maybe you feel like your in-laws just don’t like you.

In an interview with CNN, Dr. Gottman explains that, “every marriage is a cross-cultural experience regardless of whether people are from different or the same cultures. They come from different families and the family they create is a brand new culture that has never existed before.” The holidays can bring mixed feelings and expectations about this new family culture, especially when it comes to in-laws.

Here are some suggestions to help you:

  1. Your spouse comes first
    If you are feeling apprehensive about anything, approach you spouse in a loving and kind manner. Share how you feel in a constructive way. Let your spouse know the non-negotiable boundaries you may have during family gatherings. Make sure you are both on the same page and ready to support one another. Maintain respect and open communication throughout this process and remember this is your spouse’s family.
  1. Check your expectations
    Sometimes the holidays bring out the worst in people. This time of year, can create high levels of stress. Recognize that you are engaging with people who have their own feelings, thoughts, and behaviors separate from you. Recognize that your partner’s family traditions will be different than yours. Have a good attitude about it and bring a mindset of curiosity to your family gatherings this year, you may learn things about your partner and their family (and yourself!) that you never knew before. Nobody is perfect, so don’t pressure yourself to be, and don’t expect to receive that from your family. Knowing this can help you not take things so personally.


  1. Don’t try to make everyone happy
    People-pleasing your way through the holidays will lead to you feeling drained, anxious, and resentful. It is understandable to want to walk into holiday get-togethers on your best behavior, but you don’t need to filter your actions to the point of putting everyone else’s needs and wants before your own. When it comes to in-laws, it is vital that you focus on being yourself. Allowing your partner’s family to get to know you the way your partner does is the first part to developing authentic relationships with them. So, don’t say “yes” when you mean no.


  1. Pick your battles
    The holidays really don’t need to be about confronting family issues. If you foresee family drama occurring over the holidays at any of your get-togethers, sit down with your partner beforehand and create a game plan together. Come up with the exact things you will say to shut down any confrontation or fighting with other family members, especially in-laws. It’s simply not appropriate. You are allowed to set boundaries!

Here’s some great starters:

“I have decided not to discuss that today. If you’d like to call me sometime next week to talk about that, I’ll be available then.”

“This is not something I’m comfortable discussing right now.”

“Sorry, but I won’t be getting involved in this conversation right now. We can talk about it another day after the holidays.”

You do not have to accept an invitation into an altercation or family feud. You can be the bigger person, even if you are not the older person.


  1. Have an exit plan
    When all else fails, especially if your partner comes from a high-conflict family, have an exit plan. You get an A for your effort in trying to be there for your partner’s family on special occasions, but you also do not have to stick around to engage in unhealthy, abusive, or extreme situations where you don’t feel comfortable. Create a code word or phrase and agree to remove yourselves from any potentially scarring situations before they get too out of hand. Believe it or not, there are many people who feel that dysfunctional and abusive family dynamics are just something they have to endure and get over, which is simply not true.



  1. Nurture your relationship
    That’s right, consider how you might actually lean into your relationship with your in-laws this holiday season. You never know how a simple, playful idea could actually mend the gap between you and your family and bring you closer. Commit to trying some new ways to respond to, and connect with, your in-laws this year. Growth begins when you step out of your comfort zone. Take this opportunity to dive into some new ways of relating to the people who will be in your life for years to come.