A taboo subject….in-laws. Why does no one e v e r want to talk about their in-laws? It’s no secret that dealing with in-laws can be a source of incredible frustration and some of us would rather face dragons than to smile and nod at the next barbeque you were forced to attend. I know ya’ll feel me. Just for transparency purposes, I always aim to be completely honest and since this is my house, I don’t feel like I need to hold back or put glitter over my words. Nah. That’s not to say that I am going to write an entire post airing a bunch of dirty laundry…. that wouldn’t be fair. But what I will always is tell MY truth. There’s a ‘contact me’ button for anyone that feels some type of way about that. 🙂
When I first got married, I knew that it would take some time to feel even remotely comfortable around my new family. After all, they had known each other a life time and I was basically imposing. I went in to it with an open mind and tried my best to be myself. I did all too often feel judged and I sometimes caught a whisper or two, but at the time I didn’t view it as a major issue. I figured with time and a few more family get togethers, things would smooth themselves out. I like to think of myself as a likeable person who enjoys the occasional or not so occasional inappropriate joke so I just assumed that it would take time. This was my first marriage, so what the hell did I know about real grown up things like the intricate workings of in-laws? To make a very long story short, it’s been eight years and let’s just say I am no longer going to the barbecues. There just comes a point where you get tired of feeling singled out, you get tired of sitting alone at every function and you just get tired of feeling ostracized. In the earlier years, I went to everything (almost) we were invited to, I had his family and mine over for every single Christmas, we alternated Thanksgivings and I feel like I did my very best to mesh our families together. Why, then, did I still feel dread going to all the events? Three years, five years, seven…. why did that uneasy feeling plague me every single time we had to make an appearance? Why did I cling to my husband and despair whenever I was left alone at the picnic table? And then one day my husband said, “Babe, if it makes you so uncomfortable, then why do you go?” I looked at him like he had just announced that he was changing his name to Diane and had been secretly wearing my bras. I literally didn’t even know how to answer him. He looked at me so sincerely and said, “I know you want to support me, but you don’t have to do it like this.” And then, just like that, I no longer went to anything. Sometimes he goes without me and sometimes not…but the most important thing to me is that I no longer feel bothered. For so long I stressed about driving a wedge between him and his family and I cannot tell you what a relief it was to realize that that was not my burden to carry. I had done nothing wrong so what was I so worried about? He never made me feel like I was in second place, not ever. He let me know from day one that OUR little family will always be his first priority. I forced myself to shed my vision of a perfect little blended family where everyone loves everyone. This is not a sitcom and in the real world, people don’t always come together like a jigsaw puzzle…and that is okay. Would I love for my relationship with my in-laws to be better? Abso the hell lutely!! My husband gets along with my family so well that it’s like he has always been around; I have envied that for the entirety of our marriage. My mom brags about what a wonderful son in law she has to anyone and everyone she meets and she is so proud to call him her son. It warms me to know that they have such a great relationship whereas my relationship with my mother in law consist mainly of strained hello’s and parenting criticisms.
And that brings me to….kids. Children add a whole other element to the dynamic and I think that most everyone with children has faced that battle. I realize that people mean well but it has got to be the most annoying thing to deal with other’s criticisms disguised as advice. You just want to stand on the roof tops and scream, “THESE ARE MY DAMN CHILDREN!” There are literally very few things that infuriate me as much as someone telling me how to raise my children. As parents, we do the best we can with what we have. Everyone has their own parenting style and those individualities should be respected. In a perfect world right? But even among everything else, my children love, love, love their family and that is worth more than anything to me. The fact that they have so many people out there that love them and care for them warms my heart so much. No matter the relationship between myself and anyone else, the fact that my babies are fortunate enough to experience a love that surrounds them on all sides is so beautiful and I am incredibly grateful for that. There will always be someone there for them if my husband and I are unable to be and what could be greater than that? There will always be someone there at every football game, every dance recital, every school play. They will always have someone in their corner and that is worth any number of strained relationships to me.
It is so important to do everything you can to work things out between yourself and your in-laws. Remember that there are lots of differing personalities, family dynamics, morals and a host of other things that make you different from each other. Those differences don’t have to pit you against each other; they can be ways to learn more about each other and cultivate real, meaningful relationships with your new family. There will always be obstacles but before you give up and declare, “They just don’t like me,” make sure that you have done everything in your power to foster a positive and healthy relationship; always remember that these things take time and relationships are not built overnight. BUT, on the other side of that, don’t lie awake at night worrying about what you’re doing wrong, don’t stress over how to make things better, don’t force yourself to sit through uncomfortable gatherings. Keep an open and honest dialouge with your spouse about your feelings; their support and understanding is so validating. If you have done everything you can and the situation is at a standstill, then the best thing you can do is let it go. Two tears in a bucket….and you know the rest.
Have any of you had difficulty getting along with your in-laws? Or are any of you fortunate enough to have a wonderful relationship with them? I want to hear the good, bad and the ugly!
Until next time, keep smiling.
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