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by Kim Lance, associate publisher of Online Dating Magazine

How to Connect with Your Partner's Family

Are you one of those people who get along with your partner’s family as if they were your own? If so, you are one of the lucky ones; many of us aren’t so lucky. In fact, many of us undergo a great deal of stress and anxiety at the thought of having to entertain the in-laws or potential in-laws.

When your partner tells you that his family is coming for a visit, does your blood pressure rise as you imaging the judgments, smart-aleck remarks, or probing questions that will be tossed your way during the course of their visit? If so, you aren’t alone, but, fortunately, there are some things you can do to help ease the pressure and maybe even change the way you view them from here on out.

 

You may be wondering why it is that getting along with the person you love can be so easy when it is so difficult to get along with his or her family? While the reasons can be endless and every family dynamic is different, there are two big reasons that at least partially contribute to many disputes: competition and false assumptions.


Competition and False Assumptions Can Cause In-Law Conflict

Competition can often be pretty fierce between a relationship partner and their partner’s parent or other relative. You can often get quite defensive of the person you love. After all, they are one of the most important people in your life, and you want to be one of the most important people in their life. It may be gut instinct to fight for the love of, attention of, or, in some cases, control over your significant other and one of the biggest competitors in all three of those arenas is a family member. Remember, you don’t need to be the one and only important person in your partner’s life.

False assumptions can also largely contribute to animosity or even fear of a member of your partner’s family. Picture this scenario – you find out that your mother-in-law is coming to visit and immediately start cleaning house in preparation for her arrival. Not long after she walks through the door, she has started refolding socks and wiping off counters. You immediately jump to the conclusion that your mother-in-law disapproves of the way you keep house and thinks you are a total slob. After worrying about it the entire visit you finally vent your frustrations to your husband. He chuckles and tells you honestly that it isn’t your lack of cleanliness, but, rather, that his mother grew up thinking that her home needed to be spotless and just cleans to pass the time. Because you were so worried about impressing your mother-in-law you read into her actions as an attack against you.


Ways To Get Along With Your Partner’s Family

Ok, now that you know some of the reason why you may get anxious at the thought of your partner’s family, understand that it doesn’t have to be that way. There are several things you can do to ease your nerves when interacting with mom, dad, sis, and bro.

1) Vent Your Frustrations to the Right Person
Sometimes the best way to release stress is to vent to someone else. Getting it all off your chest to a good listening friend can be great therapy and they may be able to offer advice or help you get a better perspective on the situation (like in the mother-in-law example above). However, one thing you need to make sure of is that you are venting to the right person. If your partner can empathize with you and doesn’t take your issues as a personal insult, then he or she might be the best person to talk to, but if your thoughts and words might hurt your partner, a friend outside of the family might be your best option.

2) Make Time to Get Away
If you are going to be interacting with your partner’s family for an extended period of time, make sure you plan breaks here and there where you and your significant other can get away from his or her family and have alone time. A break from having to “play nice” can be just the thing to give you the added strength to go back in and face the family again. Go out for a walk or long drive, just the two of you so that you both can have time to reconnect and be yourselves.

3) Have a Sense of Humor
Try and find the humor in some of the quirky things about his or her family that, up until now, may have annoyed you. Isn’t it kind of funny how your mother-in-law feels the need to rewash dishes that have just been run through the dishwasher? Even just a little? Or how about the stories that your girlfriend’s father tells over and over? Try not to take everything so seriously and you may enjoy the family visit much more.

4) Don’t Read Between the Lines
Just because your girlfriend’s mother question’s you about your career goals, it doesn’t mean she disapproves of your current job. She may just be trying to get to know you better. Try to avoid reading into things when it comes to your partner’s family. If you feel that a member of your significant other’s family disapproves of something about you, your best bet is to check with your partner to get the real story. Many people in relationships (especially new relationships) may feel insecure when trying to get to know a member of their partner’s family and insecurity can lead to false thinking. Try to take things and face value, and if you can’t, have your partner set you straight.

5) Share Common Interests
You may not be at each other’s throats, but, you may feel like you just can’t connect with your partner’s family or a member of that family. If so, try to learn more about them. If you spend time talking to his or her family, you may be able to pinpoint some key common interests between the both of you that can help bring you closer together. Once you have figured out what you have in common, try to build upon those commonalities and continually find new things you both share.

If you can learn to look beyond your own insecurities and the natural competitiveness and protectiveness that comes with family ties, you may be able to form a closer relationship with your partner’s family than you might think. Connecting with your partner’s family is another great way to grow closer as a couple and, eventually, as a large, extended family.




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