The holidays are nearly upon us, which for some couples brings excitement and others dread. At the recent request of some readers, I researched ways to improve the notorious mother-in-law relationship. Stress and strain between spouses and in-laws causes a good deal of division and strife in marriage. If your relationship with in-laws or parents is less-than-perfect, maybe this is the year for change.
After reviewing several resources, I came across an excellent post written by Gretchen Rubin, a best-selling author who writes tips for improving your happiness. Rubin’s article “Ten tips for getting along with your mother-in-law” contains a gold mine of sound advice on how you can make your interactions much more positive and pleasant. Give it a read. Even the commenters added more good tips, such as, “No matter how much they drive you crazy, remember that they’ve been driving your spouse crazy much longer. Don’t take out your frustrations on your spouse; they’re probably as stressed out as you are.” If your issue is another family member, Rubin also has a good post on “7 tips for getting along with difficult relatives.”
I once heard the suggestion to act as if you have the relationship you want, and start cultivating that ideal relationship. While that may not always work, Gretchen suggests putting yourself in a friendly, calm frame of mind before you get together with in-laws. Instead of avoiding your mother-in-law, seek her out and be friendly. Basically, put yourself in a better mood before you get there, so you are not so easily offended.
One of her insightful tips is to “mindfully articulate, and act in accordance with, your own values.” She explains, “If you know your own values and live according to them, people’s pointed remarks don’t sting nearly as much, and strangely, they often back off.”
If a difficult situation fails to improve, you can still be in charge of your own reactions and behavior. You may need to bite your tongue for the benefit of your spouse. “Sometimes you can behave nicely for someone else’s happiness, even if you’d be very happy to pitch a battle, if left to your own devices,” says Rubin.
Rubin’s blog has other helpful and tested strategies for improving your own happiness, which can be beneficial as long as you are clear on the difference between seeking happiness and seeking joy.
So, are you looking forward to Thanksgiving with extended family, or are you considering flying to Tahiti instead? Do you have any great in-law tips to share?