Common Questions Regarding In-Law Relations With Solutions
I was recently asked to take part in a Question and Answer survery regarding solutions for common relationship issues with in-laws and my solutions for addressing these problems. I've included the resulting article below.
Why do you think getting along with one’s in-laws (spouses’ parents or siblings, children’s spouses, etc.) can be so difficult for some? What makes this topic such a hot button?
Marital communion is created by two compete strangers. Each one of them comes with his/ her own extended families.
What are the most common types of in-law difficulties that you encounter in your practice? What are some typical specific issues or threads? (i.e. an overly intrusive mother-in-law, a distant son-in-law, or whatever)?
Each family has its own unique blueprint of characteristics, interactions, and communications with their familial ,generational, and hierarchical structure.
In addition to the structure, financial familial abundance (or lack thereof) plays its role.
What role do different religious/ethnic/cultural backgrounds play in this area? How does the increasing likelihood of marriage across cultures impact this issue?
Religion and culture is still prevalent and important in many families. Specifically, in Indian, Chinese and middle eastern cultures, family members have clear and defined hierarchical positions ,when it comes to being respectful to family authority and taking care for in- laws.
In our Western culture familial hierarchical boundaries are not as clearly defined compared to the rest half of the world. In addition US society is a melting pot of many cultures. As a result, each Western family has its own unique way of finding creative solutions to co-exist in peace.
We are looking for concrete, specific advice to share with our readers about how to have the most successful/happy relationships with one’s in-laws. These are things you would suggest to your own patients or even family members.
Please list as many suggestions as you can here:
At this point, when I see individual, couple or family, we try to find creative solutions ,for each individual family unit, with its own blue print. When the issue is identified, we create a strategy. We learn how to negotiate, and how to set appropriate boundaries, in order to achieve peaceful and respectful relations with in- laws.
When working with in-laws, allow them to be in a place where they create an understanding to be able to reflect.
My solutions are very general, because, as I’ve repeatedly said before, each family is extremely unique. Marriage and Family therapy is not a science, but an Art form, with its empathic, experimental approach.
Here are a five mini-case histories regarding types of in-law issues. Please offer a few lines of advice for each one.
1. Your daughter’s husband has been looking for work for years, has no problem asking for "small loans" which never get repaid, and never picks up a check. Your daughter is defensive whenever you broach the subject.
In very broad and general strokes, my suggestion would be as such: Her mother, with my help, will be able to communicate to the daughter, that if her choice is to be in such family financial reality, the mother needs to let it be .Only in times of true emergency, the mother can be next to her daughter, as always.
2. Your wife’s sister knows that you and your wife are raising your children in your religion and not the one of her birth family. Yet each year she “forgets” and gives your kids gifts for holidays they don’t celebrate. When confronted, she says, “Why should they miss out on all the fun? I was just trying to be nice.”
With my help guide both parties to have a pleasant meeting in a comforting environment, where warm, sharing, and open discussion will take place. In many ways they will be able to find mutual points in all cultures. Such communications can bring heart to heart feelings about their religions and cultural believes. At this point similarities would connect and bridge them together.
3. Your father-in-law’s new wife is only three years older than your oldest child, his grandchild. You suspect she is in love with his wallet, not him, but he wants her to be fully accepted by the whole family. You’re finding this difficult.
It is all again about family structure. We can have a family majority meeting and vote on how they would feel about her being present at family gatherings.
The majority decision would be presented to the father, heart to heart. Many times some family members are more flexible than others.
4. When your now daughter-in-law was dating your son, she was a darling. Now she doesn’t call, insists your son spend all the holidays with her family, and is snippy on the rare times you spend together. You’d like a better relationship with her but are at a loss as to where to begin. And your son thinks everything is just fine as is.
Create a meeting with all parties involved. At this junction we will try to appeal to each other through the heart. If this is not achieved, we need to try to let it go at present and be in distant communication. With my help we find a way gradually, on how to come together.
5. Your mother-in-law still resents you for “taking away” her son. She'll do anything to let you know, from casually mentioning how she ran into his “still stunning” ex-girlfriend to relating tales of salmonella-laced turkey at Thanksgiving dinner at your house.
My solution is working carefully with the mother in-law on creating healthy and respectful boundaries.