Nothing’s worse than tension with the in-laws. Except maybe tension with your own family! But there’s a way to eliminate any conflict within your own home and marriage and set yourself free.
When I was pregnant the first time and planning a home birth, my sister called and said she planned to visit (from out of town) with her 2 year old right before my due date.
Dilemma! I immediately became really stressed out. I wanted to see my sister and niece, and was grateful she was willing to go through the expense and trouble to come visit.
On the other hand, this was my first baby, we were planning a home birth, and our apartment is tiny (two rooms, no door). Plus it was the dead of winter, and I was phobic about germs from daycare and the plane.
What to do? My sister was so enthusiastic about coming – I hadn’t seen her for my whole pregnancy – and yet it just didn’t feel like the right time for us.
A wise friend from Maine (just growing up in Maine seems to give one a certain sensibility) immediately said it was a no-brainer.
“It’s not a good time for you, so just tell her to come later,” my friend said matter-of-factly.
Your own family first
Then she gave me the absolute KEY to all future family issues of this sort, which has especially been helpful in our marriage:
“You’re a family now, you and Bob and the baby,” she said. “Your first loyalty and responsibility from now on is always to you guys, your own family. You always come first.”
She explained that these issues would keep coming up – and that we would never be able to please ourselves, and my extended family, and Bob’s extended family. It would always be a problem that came up again and again, unless we made one rule:
Always do what’s best for your own immediate family.
Everyone else will have to understand, and if they don’t, just don’t worry about it. There’s no more taking sides, feeling the push and pull of your families of origin. The only “side” now is our own family, the one we make together.
I couldn’t believe it was so straightforward, but it struck me as making total sense. Here was a neutral guidepost we could use to do the right thing without arguments, tension or struggle!
One Rule for Household Harmony
If you and your husband can agree to that one policy – your own family first, always – then it will eliminate so much angst!
Hard to do? It can be, yes, because most of us are loyal and attached to the parents who raised us and the siblings we grew up with. That’s family too, and it’s our support system.
This by no means is a policy of shunning your family! It simply means that when conflicts of interest arise, your own family always comes first.
Your own extended family and your husband’s family will always be important of course, but the most important thing for your marriage and your children is harmony in your own household.
What if you and your husband (or you and your wife, sorry gentlemen) disagree over visits from or going to see your inlaws? Well, tough as it might be, if that’s a source of tension between you, it needs to be eliminated – not by winning the argument but by dropping the rope.
Your own family first, always
If relationships with inlaws are causing tension between parents, that’s not best for your own marriage and children. Your own household comes first.
Especially if you’re someone used to pleasing others (I’ve actually never had this issue), just try for a while always relying on this policy.
It has worked beautifully for us, as a guide to decision-making any time our own family needs conflict with pleasing the rest of our families.
You can do this!