by Dr. Randy Gilchrist, LDS Psychologist
www.LDSdimension.com (FREE LDS online dating site)
It is said that when you marry someone, you also marry their entire family, for better or worse. To date and marry someone, it can be wise to pay attention to who and what you may be taking on with their extended family. Some in-law relationships are easy and harmonious, others are contentious with a lot of friction, and yet others are minimal or even non-existent, especially when they live far away. Whatever your future or current in-law relationship, it can be improved and you can make the best of it.
Assessing the Future In Laws
If you are dating, you have the opportunity to figure out what you are potentially signing up for. If you are already married, you can learn more. In any event, if you pay attention to your partner's interactions with their parents and siblings, this will learn a lot of information. How often do they talk on the phone, text, and visit and what are these communications like? Do they seem close, distant, harmonious, or contentious most of the time? How does your partner usually talk about his/her parents and siblings? Is it positively or with complaints? With compliments or criticism? Of course, what you don't notice in the other's interactions and words about their family, the rest you can ask about and have discussions to get your questions answered. But observation reveals a lot.
Some possible additional questions you could ask to learn more about your potential in-laws could include things like the following: Who are you closest to and why? Who are you the least closest to and why? How often do you see you parents? What kind of advice do they give you? When you argue, what do you argue about? How involved are you in your parent's lives? How involved are they in your life? Are you close to your brother(s) and sister(s)? In what ways are you similar or different? Basically, these and any number of similar questions are good to ask that help you learn more about the important dynamics and traits of what you are about to take on in your life (potentially).
Dealing with the In-Laws
Whatever your dating or married status, you will likely have the opportunity to interact with your partner's family to some degree. The main thing to remember is that however they treat you, whether they are friendly, distant, or contentious, their main loyalty and priority will generally be towards their son or daughter, not you. Understanding this going in will be helpful. Please try not to take it so personally. Sometimes the things they say or do will not seem fair. Perhaps they judge or criticize you in ways they wouldn't with their son or daughter. This difference exists because their blood (or adopted) relative will be looked at as a stronger bond than the in-law relationship. Hence the old saying "blood is thicker than water".
Many people in family therapy ask with bewilderment, "how could they treat me like that?" "That's not fair!" "They wouldn't treat you like that!" And so on. Yes, double standards and different loyalties are common with how the in-laws treat their son or daughter versus how they will treat you and what they'll expect from you. I'm not saying to not be bothered by this, but just know this difference will most likely exist going in, so be prepared. It's common. They just want the best for their son/daughter/sibling, and they hope and expect you will give that to them. However, they will usually focus more on that more than how their family member will be needs to make you happy.
To the degree to which you have friction, resentment, irritation, or other difficulties with your partner's family, you will need to talk out and work this through with your partner. It may or may not be worth talking out your difficulties with the in-law themselves (or potential in-law), depending on how reasonable they are. Maybe or maybe not. But because the relationship you have with your partner is the main relationship in question, having productive, constructive conversations with them about their family is important, especially when friction develops.
A big complaint of many partners when the other complains about their family is that "I don't want to be in the middle". Fair enough. However, this is largely unavoidable. Complaining about your partner's family needs to be constructive and productive, versus just criticizing and putting them down. Search for understanding. Ask for suggestions to improve things. Try to be a peacemaker. Ask for recommendations. Ask how they (the other partner) has dealt with them with similar problems in the past/growing up. Try to find ways to make things better, and ask your partner for their help.
If your partner's parent(s) or sibling(s) are actually bullying you and you aren't able to be a peacemaker, standing up for yourself and asking your partner to do stand up to their family member to protect you is appropriate. It is not your job or position to be highly disrespected or to suffer verbal abuse or other mistreatment. If your partner is not willing to stand up to their family and you are unable to get their cooperation, perhaps this issue would be best talking out and worked in the office of a properly trained and experienced psychotherapist.
In-law issues commonly rival other top issues are some of the most challenging in a relationship--along with topics like money, communication, sex-life, and so on. However, if you strive to understand, address, and work through this tough issue with collaboration in a constructive manner, you can have success. Things can improve and be tolerable. Remember that Jesus said: "For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away." (3 Nephi 11:29-30). Jesus also said "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." (Matthew 5:9).You can work through this and preserve your relationship. Because "…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:11). Good luck.
**To readers: to submit a question to Dr. G for a future Q and A column, please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please register for a free account at www.ldsdimension.com for access to previous and future Dr. G articles.
|2016-11-27||Randy Gilchrist||Dating, Healthy relationships, Marriage preparation, Conflict resolution|
About the author
Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (www.dr-rg.com), practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to email@example.com. Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at www.dr-rg.com/lds; email me questions to firstname.lastname@example.org).