Holidays with the In-Laws: Tips for Resolving Marital Conflict Don't let parents tear at your marriage, instead try these four solutions to make your holidays merry. BY JENNA D. BARRY
Being loyal to your spouse and finding compromise can be the answer to a merry holiday season.
Do you and your spouse always agree about where and with whom to spend the holidays? If not, then you certainly arenít alone; this is a major source of tension for many couples. What should you do if you want to spend Christmas at your parentsí house, but your spouse wants to spend it with his or her family? The answer to that is a tricky one, but here are a few tips to help you achieve a win-win situation.
1. Make your spouse a priority over your parents. Itís a simple concept, yet a very difficult one for many people to grasp. On your wedding day, you were supposed to transfer your loyalty from your parents to your spouse. That doesnít mean you were supposed to start being mean to your folks or stop loving them. It just means that your spouseís wants, needs and opinions should now be your first priority, even if it upsets your parents. For example, if your wife wants to start a new tradition by staying home for the holidays (instead of spending a fortune on travel expenses, packing up the kids, finding a pet-sitter, etc.), donít tell her she is selfish for not following your motherís traditions. Your behavior plays a key role in how well your spouse gets along with your parents; it is crucial that you become a loyal husband or wife, even if it makes your mom and dad feel angry lonely, or disappointed.
2. All you need is love. Spending time with each otherís familiesóeven if you donít get along with themóis part of the marriage commitment. Itís a way of showing your spouse that you care about what makes him or her happy. Try to see things from your partnerís perspective. If you wouldnít want your husband to refuse to spend time with your family, then donít refuse to spend time with his. If your wife knows you donít enjoy spending time with her parents, but then you suggest spending Thanksgiving with them, she will feel very loved and sheíll probably do something to make you feel loved too.
3. Think outside the box. There are usually more options available than you might think. If you want to spend Christmas with your family, but your wife wants to go on a cruise, perhaps a compromise would be to invite your folks on the cruise. Or if you canít decide which set of parents to visit, suggest that both families rent cabins in the mountains. Another option is to stay at a hotel or with friends when visiting each otherís relatives.
4. Barter and negotiate. Try to reach a loving compromise so that both of you feel happy with the result. For example, spend Christmas Eve with your own family and Christmas Day with your in-laws. Or spend Thanksgiving with your parents, and Christmas with your wifeís folks. Or celebrate this year the way you choose, and next year the way your spouse chooses. You could even lovingly "bribe" your husband with a new video game, or buy your wife that new dress she has been wanting.
It can be extremely difficult to settle arguments about family, especially if your parents try to control you with guilt whenever you try to be a loyal spouse. As with any marital conflict, itís important to unite as a couple and work together toward the goal of having a strong, loving marriage.
Jenna D. Barry is the author of "A Wifeís Guide to In-laws: How to Gain Your Husbandís Loyalty Without Killing His Parents." Married 15 years, Jenna learned how to gain her husbandís loyalty through communication, persistence, and a whole lot of love. She leads a support group for daughters-in-law and has a website at www.WifeGuide.org.