I want to begin this post with a disclaimer. I have wonderful in-laws! They are sweet, generous people who love God, each other, and enjoy loving on others. So, when I felt the need to touch on this topic, I wanted to make sure our readers know it is in no way in a poor reflection of them. ~smile~ When they leave us or we leave them, I feel pangs of sadness and wish we were not 3,000 miles away from each other.
Sadly, many others cannot say this of their in-law experience. Too many times, holidays end in tears, confrontation, or discouragement. Sometimes problems between in-laws are due to fear of change, insecurities, or personality clashes. But, Christmas is no time to give in to those fears. It is a time to come together, put differences aside, and celebrate. When families choose to show love and give each other grace (despite any unpleasant situations which occurred in the past), holiday jitters can slide away in no time at all. A smile, a hug, and a “Welcome!” are all it takes to ease the initial pressure of that holiday visit.
If you are just beginning your relationship with your future in-laws, or you have a rocky relationship with your in-laws, here are a few tips for simplifying your time together this season.
- Discuss boundaries before the festivities begin. If you know you can only handle so much swearing before you get upset, discuss exit strategies with your significant other. If you are uncomfortable around heavy drinking or crude discussions, have a plan in place for when the party gets too rowdy. If you talk about your expectations beforehand and prepare for possibilities (or inevitabilities), you can be united when the time comes. Talk first and avoid the drama! ~smile~ Otherwise, a lack of boundaries might cause conflict between you and your significant other and you might hear these phrases:
- Why are you leaving?
- You hurt mom’s feelings!
- You are acting
- Why did you spend all night in the bedroom?
- People were asking about you!
- Dad talks to everyone that way.
- You embarrassed me!
- Be on the same team! Take up for each other. Back each other up when moments get tense. If one leaves, you both leave. It is so much easier taking on the holidays when you know your sweetheart is in your corner. (Note: Before enlisting your significant other to take a stand for [and with] you, take a moment to evaluate your feelings to make sure your concerns are legitimate and not the result of stress or holiday emotions.)
- Try not to stay cooped up the whole time! For Heaven’s sake, get out of the house! Go to a movie. Go to the mall (if you dare and don’t mind crowds). Play in the snow. Visit a live nativity. Find any excuse you need to escape the four walls. You may discover you like the people you are with 10x more outside than inside!
- Taking some time for yourself is okay. Do you need to go for a walk? Make it an early bedtime? Sit on the porch with a book? Staying in your room all day appears anti-social, but excusing yourself occasionally for some solitude is completely acceptable. When you are with the family, stay engaged, but also take time away when you feel yourself getting overstimulated or tired. It is better to take mini-breaks than risk becoming snarky or saying something you will regret.
- Go on a date alone with your significant other or spouse. To break up the visit, plan a date with your honey. It does not have to be an all-night affair, but something to give you a chance to breathe and reconnect with each other. Sometimes tensions feel less overwhelming when you step away from the family crowd for a bit.
- Expect some hiccups. If you go in thinking, “This holiday is going to be perfect!” you will be disappointed. But, if you think, “This holiday will be good. Some issues will arise, but we do not have to let them ruin our Christmas,” you will be pleasantly surprised when the visit goes well.
- Prepare for off-putting questions. If experience has taught you that your sweetheart’s people will likely say or do something to push your buttons, have your answers and responses ready. Be one step ahead of them. Keep smiling. It is only for a few days and you can make it! ~smile~
- Pray. (Seriously.) Before you see them, ask God to give you wisdom, kindness, and to bridle your tongue. You might be amazed at the difference it makes!
- Have something to look forward to at the end of the visit. Even if you get along great with your (future) in-laws, a lot of togetherness can exhaust even the most hospitable. Before the holiday visit commences, decide on something fun you can do (with your sweetheart or alone) after it is all over. It can be as simple as a pedicure, as major as a Caribbean cruise, or as exciting as sky-diving!
- Keep it as simple as possible. If you plan too much, there will be more chances for events to go wrong. Have some tentative plans but do not try to cram in so much that you and everyone around you get stressed, tired, or overwhelmed. Movies and popcorn, puppet shows, and snowball fights are perfectly acceptable ways to spend the holidays.
Where are you going this Christmas? Who will you see? Do you need to help your nervous boyfriend or girlfriend prepare for a holiday with your folks? Do you need your boyfriend or girlfriend to calm your heart and encourage you as you get ready for Christmas with his or her loved ones?
We all miss the simplicity of Christmases past when all we worried about were presents, time with family, and yummy food. As adults, so much interferes with the basic beauty of the season. We can get some of it back, however, if we prepare.
What makes you nervous? How can you combat that?
What makes you cringe? How can you prepare for that?
What do you look forward to most? How can you emphasize that?
What are you most likely to regret? As much as it is up to you, how can you make sure that does not happen?
Before your trip, or before your in-laws-to-be come to town, have a coffee date with your loved one to talk about concerns and make plans. Put strategies in place. Find out what most worries and excites each other about the impending visit. Try to mitigate each other’s fears and magnify the excitement.
The holidays can be a successful time of family bonding, but don’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself. Put time and energy into loving on your in-laws, but do not neglect yourself in the process. You will be better for everyone if you take those long showers, go for that morning run, make a quick trip to the grocery store, or sit out on the porch with a warm cup of midnight cocoa.
We hope your Christmas is fantastic wherever you spend it; and, if you are with your sweetheart’s family this year, we pray it is a time of growing closer together and creating bonds which will last a lifetime.
How are you preparing for Christmas with your significant other’s family?