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You Can Have Healthier Holiday Relationships with Your In-Laws

You Can Have Healthier Holiday Relationships with Your In-Laws

Some tips for planning and being together
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As this holiday season arrives, perhaps you long for healthy family relationships even more than the perfectly set table and crisply roasted turkey.

Extended-family relationships, especially those with our parents-in-law, often seem fraught with complications and challenges. We want things to go well; we long to honor our in-laws and celebrate the holidays with humor, joy, and intentionality … but every year that issue or that person pops up and things go downhill quickly. Is this sounding familiar? Let's talk about some practical ways to create a healthier holiday for everyone involved.

First make a plan with your spouse. Not with your mom or your siblings—with your husband or wife. Robert Wolgemuth, author of the marriage guide The Most Important Year in a Woman's Life, says, "Parents, without trying, can set you against your spouse … you and your husband need to talk through [your plan]. If you don't, questions can be raised that can turn you against each other." So make some quiet time for you and your husband to outline a plan together and then present it as a united front to both of your families.

Be empathetic. The holidays are full of expectations and hopes that have deep emotional meaning to each individual. Take a minute to imagine that someone you love is telling you that things aren't going to be as you had hoped this Thanksgiving or Christmas. Be empathetic, and give your parents or in-laws a chance to express their feelings. This can root out issues that might fester if not addressed. Wolgemuth suggests using language like "My guess is that this is a very hard thing for you to understand or deal with." This can effectively open the door to an opportunity for sharing.

Say it. Wolgemuth suggests, "More often than not, these kinds of things break down based on what is not said, not what is said." Think about that huge tirade that you save up for your spouse as soon as the car door shuts and you're pulling out of the driveway at your in-laws' home. Examine the recurring themes, and prayerfully consider what you might need to address with your in-laws. None of us like conflict, but without conflict and resolution, healthy relationships do not exist!

Deal with it early. November and December are not the times to spring plans or sit down for a "discussion" with your in-laws. Let your in-laws know about your holiday plans in the late summer or very early fall. If you have issues that need to be addressed, make a phone call or write a letter now so you can spend the holidays celebrating.

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December 13, 2012  10:14pm

JE... I don't think this writer is singling out this incident as more worse than the other, but instead writing about some various situations that could be a challenge for different individuals and this could certainly be one. We have that in our own family & while that may have not related to you it does to others and it is another reality that may be difficult for some so I appreciate that it was written. Uncle toney could mean anything but it basically means that person who arrives who makes the reader tense & maybe a significant other.... As much as we love & accept them as Jesus does it also doesn't mean we will never feel tense about it. And this article is just what you're hoping for, how to deal with such tense feelings so we can accept others. Bashing an article just because one point doesn't relate to you doesn't mean it won't relate to others & help them have a restored relationship with their uncle toney, whatever that means. I appreciate article so much thank you!

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December 03, 2012  7:12am

Thanks for the article, it is perfect timing for this Thanksgiving & Christmas season!

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November 23, 2012  3:14pm

Uncle Toney bringing his special friend is something that can ruin your holiday? Regardless of how you feel about Uncle Toney or him having a special friend, shouldn't he be able to be apart of the holiday and participate with the family? It doesn't feel right to me to categorize someone coming to dinner in the same category as a turkey prep issue or a child's tantrum. If I had an "uncle Toney" who had a "special friend" (whatever that means) I would hope that having him be with our family on the holiday would add to the togetherness and specialness of the day. I don't think this is an example of an imperfect holiday that should be used in a publication for Christianity Today. Surely Jesus would be the first to invite all of our "Uncle Toney's" to dine with him.

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