Building positive family ties with your in-laws

| Kate Soucheray | August 31, 2020 | 0 Comments

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Family is at the heart of our happiness in life. St. John Paul the Great reminds us, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” When we have disagreements with family members and in-laws, we can find ourselves in opposition to what our Catholic faith proposes is the building block to living a good and holy life.

We may not know what to do when we have difficulties with those to whom we are closest in life and how to resolve misunderstandings before they become too complex to address easily.

Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their exhausted parents, offers a few suggestions for building a more positive relationship with in-laws. First, she reminds us not to blame our spouse for his or her family’s behavior. Spouses grew up with these shortcomings and are likely as frustrated as you are by what has happened.

Second, if your relationships with your in-laws are affected, try not to escalate the situation further by saying something you will regret later.

Third, keep your expectations of your in-laws reasonable and realistic. Don’t expect something from them that is unlikely and impractical. Rather, extend grace.

Fourth, you may want to give your in-laws a role in your lives, which gives you an opportunity to offer appreciation, which everyone enjoys.

Fifth, try to find the right amount of time that is satisfying to spend with in-laws. Rather than an entire weekend at the cabin, perhaps a drive up for the day is best for your family.

ACTION CHALLENGE– Offer your in-laws empathy and compassion rather than judgment and negativity.
– Be on your best behavior with in-laws, thereby facilitating the best possible relationship.

Greenberg states that taking the high ground and working to see the best in others, assuming that their intentions were honorable, is always a better approach than looking for ways to blame someone for an infraction. If we look for the best in people, it’s much more likely that we will find it rather than continuing to feed an overworked negative narrative. In addition, children benefit from positive contact with healthy adults in their lives, so do all you can to keep your interactions positive and enriching. Finally, try to arrange an activity that everyone will enjoy, whether that involves a visit to grandparents for movie night, or an outing to a local park with fun activities. Be aware of preferences, and do your best to include your in-laws when possible, facilitating a more positive outcome, thereby cultivating the next family outing.

Encouraging positive interactions with family members who are new to your circle will help everyone feel included and valued. You may have some idea of the history your new in-laws experienced in their ancestry, but we can never know the full story, because what we know will always be second-hand knowledge. When we hear stories, we must use compassion and empathy for people who are new to our family, and do all we can to understand the impact of the legacy they carry throughout life.

When I was in college, I was struck by this quote: “Everyone has a reason for what they do.” This quote has come to me many times throughout my life, especially when interacting with someone who was difficult for me to understand. When I illumined the interaction with these words, I was able to relate to them through curiosity rather than judgment.

When your in-laws act in ways you don’t understand, try to use understanding and curiosity rather than judgment and hostility. You will find that building a more positive present and future through extending good intentions benefits everyone involved.

Soucheray is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a member of Guardian Angels in Oakdale. She holds a master’s degree in theology from The St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul and a doctorate in educational leadership from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.

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Category: Simple Holiness