Having a strong marriage is hard work every single day and what many happy couples report struggling with are a cluster of similar issues that exist in most relationships. Some common themes that challenge a relationship are sex, money, kids, and relatives.
The saying that when you get married, not only do you marry your partner, but you also marry his/her family is often true. Sometimes, this isn’t a problem (rarely). However, it’s more common than not that your spouse’s family causes you frustration on some level. There are many situations that are particularly challenging to deal with. For example, how do you handle if your partner’s family mistreats you? What about if they mistreat your spouse? Or your children? What if there are fundamental value differences that you just cannot seem to get past?
What I commonly see as a response to the above questions is avoidance. However, avoidance doesn’t work because these issues don’t go away.
There’s only one way to handle these situations; through open, clear communication. When speaking about each others family it’s critical that you remain sensitive to how each other is interpreting your words. If you are too direct then your partner may get defensive or offended. Even though your partner may have the same feelings you do, it is not uncommon for them to still feel uncomfortable. Think of marriage as being on the same team and while communicating utilize the teamwork approach.
Finally, one rule of thumb that I recommend is that you are in charge of the direct communication with your problematic family member. You have to protect your partner from that person. Never allow your family to be in a situation where they can judge your partner to mishandle something because that can be used against your partner for a lifetime. You and your partner are a team but the actual communication, is a one man show.
If you require more assistance with handling your relatives or there are any other issues that you would like to discuss contact Goodman Therapy for your free first session.