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How Do I Deal With the In-Laws During the Holidays?

How to Deal With Your In-Laws Over the Christmas Holidays

Having family over for the Christmas holidays can be a lot of fun, but a lot of stress . . . especially when that family is your in-laws. Even if you and your in-laws get along, the extra company can put an extra burden on yourself and your marriage. Here's how to keep your cool when dealing with the in-laws this holiday season!

1. Remember this is temporary

As stressful as it might be, having your in-laws over or with you for the holidays is temporary. Eventually, everyone goes back to the respective homes. It's not forever, so hang in there, because eventually it's time for everyone to leave.

2. Pick battles very, very wisely

  • Negligible, meaning slightly annoying
  • Inconvenient
  • Offensive
  • Safety hazard

If the actions or words fall into the last two categories, that's when you and your partner will have to intervene. Otherwise, just let it go.

3. Bring some of their favourite foods, or make them

A little butt kissing can't hurt. If you're hosting at Christmas, make sure you ask and make some of your in-laws favourite dishes. If you're coming to them, bring a favourite dish or bottle of wine. A token of tasty appreciation is always welcome.

4. Let your partner handle them

For the most part, let your partner handle his or her own family. He or she will know how to deal with the various discomforts and drama that comes from the family in a way you won't. Plus, any critical feedback will be taken better when it's said by blood, not by marriage.

5. Take a breather

If you're having some serious time with in-laws that you find difficult or taxing, offer to do things that will give you breaks from them.

For example, ask them if you can:

  • Run to the liquor store to get more wine
  • Head to the grocery store for any needed ingredients
  • Walk the family dog
  • Even do the dishes to get a little "social break"

This is when you can take a deep breath and relax for a minute or 20.

6. Turn the conversation over to them

If you find that whenever you speak, your father-in-law has something sharp to say, ask him questions and let him prattle on as long as possible. This will keep you out of the spotlight. Allowing the family to talk about themselves should keep as little drama as possible, even if you're dealing with someone unstable. You just might have to listen to some unsavoury stories.

7. Let old fights die

Yes, last year's blowout with the in-laws over whatever is still fresh in your mind, but it's time to let it die already. Walking into the holidays with a big fat chip on your shoulder is not going to be fun for anyone. Instead, come bearing gifts and a smile. That will go a much longer way than holding a grudge.

8. Offer a hotel

If staying with the in-laws makes your skin crawl, offer to stay in a hotel or have them stay in a hotel.

Explain you have bad allergies to things they have around the home and need an allergy-free space . . . Or, if it's your house, tell them you're not prepared to host people and would feel embarrassed having company here. Leave your home a mess to prove the point.

9. Intentionally choose topics or activities they'll love

Avoid the hot topics like politics and Grandpa's time in Vietnam, and instead break out their favourite games or home videos. Ask them to tell you about their favourite childhood Christmas memories. Set the scene for positive conversation.

Image Source: Everett Collection
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