Do you dread family get togethers at the Holidays? Holidays are times when we often feel obligated to gather with people that we may have some tensions. resentments, angers and general sense of anxiety.
This can often cause BIG issues between couples when you feel like you have to get together with people like your in laws. That was the case for one of my couple clients:
George and Linda were in another standstill: she had reluctantly agreed to visit his parents for Christmas, but in the past, Linda always felt criticized by his mother.
George thought he had tried everything: he told Linda to not take it personally; he tried telling his Mom to lay off it (which didn’t work…that’s just the way his Mom is), so Linda would always leave George’s house feeling dejected and annoyed with George for dragging her there. George felt caught in the middle, since he loves his Mom and has learned to accept her… and wished Linda could too.
Tension with In-laws is a common situation, and there are steps you can take to make it better.
There are always unsolvable problems in relationships, but there’s a way for them to bring you closer together instead of drive you apart.
Key Distinction: Your spouse is your #1 Relationship.
This doesn’t mean you have to change your behavior; of course you also show love and attention to your other family members. It’s a way of being. Let me explain.
What I coached George and Linda to do is to join together as a team, and create a plan to feel more connected, EVEN THOUGH his mother was going to be who she is.
Here are the steps I guided George and Linda to take that made last year’s Christmas feel so good for both of them that they couldn’t take their hands off each other when they got home:
- Before they left for George’s parents’ home, they sat down and discussed the challenges that might come up, and what Linda needed from George to feel supported by him
- They agreed to make frequent eye contact to check in with each other, to see how they were each feeling
- They created non-verbal cues for Linda to use to indicate that she wanted George to step in and stand up for Linda, showing his allegiance to her.
- I coached George to appreciate his Mom’s positive intention, while creating stricter boundaries with how she communicated to Linda. This applies to ANY annoying family member.
Later when they were at George’s parents, his mother started saying, “Linda, you really should get your teeth whitened; they’re looking a little yellow.” Linda motioned to George and he walked over to her and put his arm around her.
“Mom, I know you’re trying to help, and can I request that you don’t give Linda advice today? We’d really like to enjoy peaceful conversation today.” His body language said it all. Because he nonverbally communicated his allegiance to his wife, and was still respectful to his Mom, his Mom stepped back like she hadn’t before.
He enforced the boundary with her in a kind way throughout the day, and made sure to check in with Linda frequently to make sure she was feeling good.
Linda told me that even though she didn’t feel close to George’s mom, the way he supported her and checked in with her made her feel closer to George than she had before they visited his family that day! She felt so filled up by George’s care, empathy, love and Presence, that she couldn’t wait to spend private time with him when they got back home!
And George felt connected to both Linda and his Mom for the first time, instead of feeling frustrated afterwards.
You can speak to anyone’s positive intention while creating boundaries with kindness. It can be challenging to implement these steps with your spouse or family members, and it can help to have someone guide you through this process to really make it work for you.
If you are struggling with a family conflict, I can help! I invite you to schedule a free private strategy session with me, so you can enjoy a peaceful holiday season!
Do you want this year to be the year you really have the relationship of your dreams? I can work with both you and your partner of just you to create a plan that can make that a reality!
Set up a time now or schedule a clarifying conversation with me in the new year by clicking here.