It is always a vexed question once we create a perfect little two-some, how well do we get along with our in-laws?
In-laws can be a cause of great strain on a relationship and be the reason behind many fights and disagreements around the level of influence they have in the home.
A simple evening intended as quiet family dinner can quickly escalate into a major conflict, as the stress of dealing with your partner’s relatives kicks in.
Add children to the mix and left unfettered you will soon have overbearing grandparents with no boundaries on discussing how unhappy they are with how the children are being raised. This can at times create a guaranteed path to conflict as one partner defends their parents interference.
Why are in-laws such a cause of conflict?
When we form a couple we form a new family and it needs protection from ‘thirds,’ that is those who are close to the individuals inside the relationship and that includes the in-laws.
That is not to say that this ‘third’ party has any intention of deliberately harming the relationship, the problems arise when one in the couple decide to side with this ‘third’ party against their partner, leaving their partner feeling marginalised.
If such behaviour becomes consistent, for instance if the wife and her mother begin to regularly back each other about how the child should be raised, the husband will begin to feel like they have been downgraded in the relationship.
Such a feeling will quickly turn to disharmony towards the intruder from your partner and if they are a close relation, such as parents or sibling, the “me or them” heated arguments will begin.
So what can you do if you find yourself in a situation where the in-laws are interfering?
It is very important that couples create a pact and work together as a team when there is interference in a relationship and do not ignore or dismiss the issue, as saying things such as “it’s my mum so just get over it” will not work.
Instead, acknowledge that there is a problem and let your partner know you have their back and work with them on creative solutions to help them become more comfortable around your family.
You can create signals and cue words for each other that will highlight when things are getting tough, ensure that you are always seated together at the dinner table and if things start to escalate, have an ‘escape’ plan, which might be as simple as “it’s time to go.”
Make sure your partner is not alone for long periods with your family and regularly check in with them to make sure that they are ok and eye contact is the best way to see if there is an issue.
By supporting your partner and working to make everybody comfortable you will go a long way to taking the heat out of any potential conflict.
Aim to be the couple that is good at managing others and you will become the couple people like to be around.
For the in-laws, well you have a role to play here as well and that is by stepping back from your children’s life a little and letting them find their own way, as that will go a long way to building a good relationship with your new son or daughter in law.
That is not to say that you cannot be there for them, but when you are remember to be inclusive of both couples and respectful that a new family has been formed here and that you should be the third wheel.
If you do find yourself in the driver’s seat of your kid’s relationship, well you are now interfering and it will lead to conflict… So Stop!
There is an upside of course and with that spare time you create you can start ticking off that ‘bucket list’ as your children discover adulthood.
If you do find that an interfering ‘third’ party is impacting your relationship and do not know what to do then seek help from a qualified relationship counsellor as they can then help you and your partner to develop the tools to resolve the issue.
For more tips, daily quotes and information about love, dating, relationships and happiness visit my Facebook page Melissa Ferrari - Psychotherapist & Relationship Expert. Also available is information about couple therapy and how it can help your relationships.