Thursday, August 28, 2008

Toxic In-Laws

My husband’s parents treat me terribly. No matter how hard I try to be nice to them, they do not reciprocate. In disagreements, they always take their son’s side. I am thinking that it would be better for me if I just kept my distance. Is this the best solution?

Being an in-law truly can feel like being an “outlaw” at times. It is rare for a spouse to really feel like the child of the other one’s parents. You are wise to notice that what you are doing currently is not working in the way that you want it to and you want to find a way to do something differently.

Here are some things to think about :

Set realistic expectations. Don’t think that they will automatically like you. You “took” their child away and now they have to accept someone new, not necessarily of their choosing, into the family. While there are some parents who find it easy to incorporate new members into the family, others find it an intrusion and have a great deal of difficulty shifting relationships, rituals and connection with their own child.

Find ways to befriend them like inviting them to dinner, picking up something small when you are shopping for yourself and your own family, calling occasionally just to say “hello”. Allow the friendship time to develop slowly.

Try to think of some of the things that you do like about them and find ways to call that to their attention. Be as positive as you can around them in your words and your actions and find ways to notice the good things that they do.

It is rarely a good idea to talk with your in-laws about problems with your spouse, even if you feel very close to them. While you might think that it would be helpful to engage them in changing your spouse, unless the problems are very serious ones such as drug abuse or alcoholism, it is more likely that they will not think fondly of you rather than becoming upset with their own child. Find other confidants for yourself.

If you feel that they are truly being mean to you, talk with them about it. Try to have an honest conversation with them about your feelings. Begin in a “soft” way saying things like, “I am sure that I am being overly sensitive, however, it really hurt my feelings when …” or “Can you tell me what you meant when you said …. ?”

Strategize out loud with your spouse about your struggles. He may be able to help you see things from a different place or he may be truly unaware of their treatment of you. Ask him for his support and to speak up if he witnesses and recognizes that they are being disrespectful.

Do not cut off all contact with them unless they are truly abusive to you. They are your spouse’s parents and you, and your family, will be better off if there is contact along the way. You may choose to limit the amount of time that you are with them. You may choose to stay in a hotel when you visit. You and your spouse may agree that you do not have to attend every family function as the two of you build rituals for your own family.

We know that this only scratches the surface of some of your concerns, questions and experiences and would welcome your comments here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tip of the Week of August 25, 2008

Don’t expect that repeating the same attempted solution will get different results. For different results, do something different.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Top Ten Tips for Marriage Maintenance

1. Have regular State of the Marriage discussions. Talk about what is good that you want to make sure to continue as well as the hopes, needs or dreams that you have that might make it better.

2. Treat each other in the ways that you want to be treated yourself. Even if your spouse is having a rough day or has “forgotten” to be nice, continue to be kind and gentle and wait for it to come back to you.

3. Do not “sweep things under the rug”. If there are things that are bothering you in the marriage, or disagreements that you have with your spouse, think about them carefully. Decide if they truly are small things and ones that you can really let go of, then do so. If not, talk out loud with your spouse (not others) about your thoughts and feelings.

4. Try to see disagreements in each other’s eyes.

5. Say “I love you” in different ways every day, with words, your eyes and your actions. Show clear signs of physical affection.

6. Have time for fun. Be sure to laugh and play together on a regular basis.

7. Respect your partner and his or her ideas. You do not have to agree with them in order to respect them. Listen carefully to her/his thoughts and feelings, even if they feel unfair to you. You will have time to express you thoughts and feelings later as well.

8. Have a date every week, even if you never leave home.

9. Find ways to talk every day. Check in with each other about what is happening in your lives. Look for new and different facts about your spouse’s day.

10. Say at least one positive or appreciative thing about your partner every day.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tip of the Week of August 18, 2008

When your spouse has a complaint, keep from offering your alternative view or a counter-complaint. Just get a better understanding about their complaint and why it is a problem for them.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tip of the Week of August 11, 2008

Everyone has complaints about their partner. If the complaint is bothersome enough to talk about, find a way to begin softly, maybe with a compliment or as a request for what you want rather than a complaint about what you don’t like.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Falling In and Out of Love

The way that most people get to our blog these days is through searching out words such as “no longer in love,” “why do people fall out of love” “why do people stop trying” and other variations on this dilemma. We also meet with many couples where one or both of the partners are struggling with recapturing old feelings of love. What a painful time for both people … and it presents such a struggle.

Trying to recapture those feelings of love can be like insomnia … the harder that you try to fall asleep … the more awake you feel. The harder that you try to fall back in love, the more you may notice times of not feeling in love. The more that you try to push those thoughts and feelings of distance out of your mind, the more present that they seem.

The more someone struggles with these feelings, the harder it becomes for the spouse because she, or he, feels that distance and the natural inclination is to try to pull their partner closer. Then the pursuit begins and couples engage in a dance that involves one trying to get closer and the closer that one tries, the more that their spouse pulls back as he or she feels pressure.

Bill and Sandy struggled with this when their children were very young and both were working a lot of hours. It seemed that there was no time to devote to their relationship and they felt distance develop. Both were also tired a lot of the time and their conversations frequently turned to nagging and complaining about the common couple issues of housework, child care, money and sex.

Many of their problems were never resolved but they also continued to surface and slowly but surely their goodwill and friendship eroded. Neither of them wanted to give up on the marriage, mainly because of the children, but both agreed that they had lost feelings of passion and love for each other. When one of them wanted to try, the other had little interest and they just became more stuck and more unhappy.

Bill was the one to finally decide that he needed to do whatever it took to change things in the marriage; however, even with the many changes that he made, it took Sandy months to notice or acknowledge them. He found the courage and patience to persist; however, and made the many changes that he knew she wanted. He focused on rebuilding their friendship, not pressuring her, just being open to her much slower progress.

Both are in a much better place today … and can look back on this time as one that might affect many couples at their stage of life. They are very glad for themselves, as well as their children, that they were able to hang in and turn things around.

Do you have stories to tell about your change of feelings … or of your spouse? Please share them with us.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Tip of the Week of August 4, 2008

One advantage of marriage, it seems to me, is that when you fall out of love with each other, it keeps you together until maybe you fall in love again.
Judith Viorst