Much of life is shaped by the choices we make. We choose where we want to work and where we will live. We choose friends and partners. Most of us also choose who we marry (if we choose to marry). When we commit to someone, typically we are agreeing not only to commit to them, but to what—and who—they bring with them. In many cases, family members are part of what a partner brings to a committed, long-term relationship. And although, we can choose our partner, we cannot choose their family.
We have all been told that you also marry your partners family when you marry. But like any new family, they can be more than you bargained for. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that you have to become best friends with your partners family.
For instance, my wife’s family are a crucial part in her life. This makes them a crucial part of my life as well. No one ever said it was easy to balance my needs with the needs of others — especially the needs of an entire new family.
Below are some advice and tips my wife and I strongly believe on how to cope with family:
Working With Your Partner
This is the key rule, numero uno, the whole enchilada. As my wonderful wife always reminds me, dealing effectively with family all starts with working together through with your spouse. Remember, you’re in this together!
Set & Enforce Boundaries
Without being as inflexible as a teenager, stick to your guns. For example, if you don’t want drop-in company, tell your family that you’d prefer that they call before they show up at your doorstep. I’m sure that at some point, we’ve all heard family opinions on “how you should raise your child”, “how your spouse should do things” and etc. – even when you didn’t ask them for it. And it’s annoying, right?! Actually, it’s one of my biggest pet peeves. You have better things to do with your life. Seriously, you do. Trust me. Worry about your own interests instead of mine. That might sound a little harsh, but no one should be spending the majority of their time focusing on what other people are doing. It’s just not healthy.
Avoid communicating through a third party (middle-man). Talk to people directly. If something bothers you, address it as soon as possible. Sometimes it’s a genuine problem; other times, it might be a misunderstanding.
Learn To Cool Off & Be Nice
I tend to jump in where people fear to tread. It’s always headfirst, too. Fortunately, my wife is far more levelheaded. Many times, the best thing to do is nothing. Time heals many wounds. Play nice. Spare difficult family the insults and character attacks. Even then, when we have to grit our teeth, try to say something nice. And when you really can’t, just shut up and smile!
Shakespeare said it many years ago, and the advice still holds today – don’t try to remake yourself into the person your family wants. Family doesn’t always get along. Personalities clash. Everyone grows up in different circumstances, which shapes your experiences and expectations.
One way or another, you have to learn to live peacefully with them, if for no other reason than for your own sanity.