Six Tips For Spending the Holidays with Your In-laws

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by Jenna D. Barry

Surviving the holidaysThe way I see it, there are two groups of people: those who love the holidays because they love spending time with family, and those who dread the holidays because their family—or spouse's family -- is difficult to be around. I wrote this article for those of you in the second category.

Remember when you promised "for better or for worse?" If your in-laws are suffocating and controlling, then spending time with them is probably part of the "worse." Because spending time with your spouse's parents is part of the marriage commitment, you might as well learn how to make the best of it. Here are six tips for having a better holiday experience.

  1. Less is more, so plan on a short visit. I don't know about you, but I like to limit my out-of-town visits to just a couple of days, even if I'm visiting my best friends; otherwise everybody gets on each others' nerves. The less time you spend with your in-laws, the more likely you will be able to be kind to them while you are with them.
  2. Hotels exist for a reason. See if your spouse wants to have a little romantic getaway instead of staying with the parents. There isn’t any rule saying you have to stay with your in-laws throughout the entire visit. (Your in-laws may be offended at first, but in the future they will accept your new behavior because you are re-defining "normal.")
  3. Friends are fun! If you are planning to spend several days with your in-laws, give yourself some breaks from them by visiting friends in the area. Better yet, maybe you and your spouse could spend a night or two with your buddies.
  4. The more, the merrier! If you don't get along with your spouse's mom and/or dad, then try to spend most of your time with other people there. Hang out with your sister-in-law, your nephew, or even the dog. Suggest that your in-laws invite their friends over, and then spend time talking to them. Ask if you can invite your own friends over, too.
  5. One is not always the loneliest number. You probably get along with yourself, so why not escape the madness and take a long nap or a hot bath? Or you could take yourself on a nice walk, or call a friend to talk.
  6. Don't talk during the movie. Another great way to cope with difficult in-laws is to plan activities that prevent a lot of interaction. Rent a movie or go to a theater with your in-laws. Go to the mall and then suggest splitting up to go to different stores. (If they object, you can always say you are shopping for their Christmas gift.)

During holiday visits, the most important thing you can do is unite with your spouse, especially if your in-laws try to come between you. Treat your spouse's parents the way you want him/her to treat yours. Rather than telling your wife what jerks her parents are, focus on finding loving compromises. Respectfully tell your husband what your needs are, and let him know specifically what he can say and do to communicate that you are the most important person in his life.

Jenna D. Barry is the author of the book, A Wife's Guide to In-laws: How to Gain Your Husband's Loyalty Without Killing His Parents

Copyright © Jenna D. Barry. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.