In a Huffington Post article, Dr. Deanna Brann shares seven great tips on surviving the in-laws during the holidays. Whether you’re dating someone special with an eye toward marriage or formally engaged, holiday family gatherings can be the stuff that nightmares are made of. His mom feels that no one will measure up to her expectations and her dad is sure that his daughter will never be taken care in a way that only he could.
Wrap all of these expectations – most often unspoken – into Thanksgiving, Holiday celebrations, and News Year Eve – and getting through the holidays can match the challenges of managing the national debt.
Consider Dr. Brann’s recommendations:
1. Have realistic expectations:
Remember, you’re going to be spending the day with your mother-in-law. It’s OK to hope for the best, but be realistic. Don’t let inflated expectations ambush you. Never assume people are going to be on their best behavior and act differently just because it’s a holiday. Families are families. They are going to act how they always act — maybe worse.
2. Don’t take things personally:
Despite the Hallmark fantasy many of us have about the holidays, these are typically stressful times for everyone. And that type of tension can cause everyone’s bad behavior to be exaggerated. This means your in-law’s indiscretions are more about her than they are about you, so mounting a defense isn’t really all that necessary. Keeping this in mind can help you keep the peace.
3. Be a team player:
If your potential or current in-law is coming to your house, make sure you include her in the different things that are happening throughout the day. Invite her to bring something for the meal, ask for her help setting the table, compliment her on what she’s wearing, or even ask her for her opinion on some finer point of the feast you’re creating. Try to make her feel comfortable and welcomed, and treat her as you would a friend who is attending your family gathering. On the other hand, if you are going to her house for the holiday, ask her if she’d like some help. And whether she does or doesn’t need your assistance, stay around and talk with her. Again, ask her questions, compliment her, and let her know you’re interested in her.
4. Hunt for humor:
The easiest way to get through the day with your sanity intact is to find humor in what your in-law says or does. Now, I these gaffes may not necessarily inspire true guffaws–far from it!–but search hard for the humor anyway. This approach helps you create enough emotional distance that you won’t take her words and actions so personally. And besides, you’ll end up with some great stories to tell your friends about your wacky in-law.
5. Remember, it’s just one day:
Anyone can make it through one day of just about anything. Knowing that there is an end to the evening — and that in a manner of hours, you’ll be seeing their taillights at the end of your driveway (or you’ll be buckling your seatbelt)–can make all the difference. And if you’ve traveled from afar and are spending the night, you will still get to close the guestroom door soon enough.
6. Plan your exit strategy in advance:
If you’re the ones visiting your in-laws’ house, you and your spouse should agree in advance how long you want to stay — and then be sure to leave at the predetermined time. If one or the other of you really wants to stay longer, then take two cars and let the family know as soon as you arrive that you (or he) will need to leave at such-and-such a time because of whatever excuse you and your husband agree on. And again, if you’re visiting from out of town, consider getting a hotel room or staying with friends or other family rather than bedding down amidst the bedlam.
7. Find some down time for yourself:
Even though the holiday will most likely be hectic, find some quiet time for yourself so you can re-energize. This “catch your breath” time can come at any point during the day. Clean up by yourself, do those few dishes that can’t go in the dishwasher, go watch a movie with your kids or grandkids, or do anything else that will allow you time to recharge.
Keep your focus on your relationship, not your in-laws. And no matter what happens, January 2nd is coming!