Navigating the Holidays When You Don’t Like the In-Laws

Not liking your in-laws might be an old stereotype, but for some people, it’s a very true reality. As the old saying goes, when you marry someone, you marry their whole family. It might not always feel that way, but it certainly can during the holiday season.

It’s the time of year when families get together for big dinners, parties, and events. While you don’t have to attend everything, you might feel pressure to attend at least a few family events. If you don’t, you could end up hurting your spouse’s feelings or even causing discord in your relationship. But, what if you don’t like your in-laws? What can you do to get through the holidays comfortably, even if you have to spend time with them? 

Let’s cover a few tips you can use to enjoy your season, even if that means spending some time with your spouse’s parents. 

Set Realistic Expectations

People tend to set unrealistic expectations around the holidays, in general. You might want things to be “perfect” or at least foster a feeling of warmth and coziness. It’s okay to want certain things for the season, but make sure you’re setting realistic expectations regarding your in-laws. Holidays can often bring out the worst in people due to painful family histories, challenging family dynamics, and/or over-indulging in alcohol. Don’t assume that things will be perfect or that everything will go smoothly. Extended family members will have different traditions and different expectations of their own. Managing yours will make you less likely to get frustrated or angry.

Communicate With Your Partner

While the holidays are supposed to be relaxing and peaceful, they can actually end up causing a lot of stress. There are plenty of events to attend, shopping to do, cooking and cleaning, and so much more. The last thing you want is for the stress you feel around your in-laws to be the thing that causes problems between you and your partner.

One of the best ways to avoid that “last straw” scenario is to maintain open communication with your partner all season. Talk about your feelings, and don’t hesitate to be an active listener. They could be struggling with things, too. Talking about your needs, wants, and emotions will remind you both that you’re on the same team. You’ll be more likely to work together and come up with compromises you can live with to get through the season—and each other’s families. 

Don’t Try to Make Everyone Happy

Maybe you don’t like your in-laws because they feel impossible to please. If they’re coming to stay with you for a while, continue living your life as you normally would. This year, stop focusing so much on perfection. It’s okay to want to spruce things up or take care of your guests. However, if you’re stressing over making things perfect because your in-laws have criticized how you do something in the past, it may add to ruining your holiday season.

Make your in-laws comfortable, but don’t strive to make everyone happy all of the time. Their happiness doesn’t depend on you. Whether you have traditions you want to stick with or rules in your home that you don’t want to throw out the window just because they’re there, it’s okay to have boundaries!

The most important thing you can do during the holidays if you don’t like the in-laws is to nurture your relationship with your partner and immediate family. Chances are, your partner knows how you feel. Don’t let your relationship struggle because of those feelings. Work together to navigate the season, and remember that no matter what happens, you’re on the same team. 

Additionally, remember to take care of yourself. The holidays can be stressful enough even without the in-laws involved. Prioritize rest, stay in the moment, try to savor the small moments of joy, and remind yourself that self-care isn’t selfish. 

Dr. G specializes in using family systems therapy and the Gottman Method for couples counseling to help support healthy relationships. Please reach out to us, if you would like more support in navigating challenging family relationship dynamics.

Be well,

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