It’s that time of the year, again! You can finally wear your new awesome boots. If you have kids, you can finally spend time with them now they’re done with school. You’ve already tried out the new gingerbread recipe, picked up the eggnog, found a turkey (or ham or tofurkey), and, if you’re married, you get to visit . . . the in-laws. Relax! Whether you’re worried about making a good impression or you’re worried about that fight you had in July, below are just some tips on relaxing and having fun with your in-laws.
Feel the warmth and energy of the holiday spirit. Calming, isn’t it? Consider it a relaxation exercise to shake off whatever tension you feel before you leave home. There’s no reason to be so tense about people who love you! Even if your in-laws may not be the best at expressing love in the way that you’re used to, cut them some slack, this year. Everyone has a past, a history, a chain of events and experiences that made them who they are. Look forward to hearing those stories—you may just find yourself on the edge of your seat. Better yet, consider what you are looking forward to about the visit. You may be surprised by how much you wanted to see their bathroom renovations, dinner menu, or hear them play the piano!
It’s guaranteed that you can’t agree on 100% of the topics that will arise in conversation. Maybe you don’t spank your children. Maybe you go to church. Maybe you’re lactose intolerant. It doesn’t really matter! Just be prepared come as you are and take away what gems of conversation and memories you can. You don’t have to people-please and agree with them just to avoid an argument. On the other hand, you do need to be respectful of people’s opinions. Don’t lie, but do avoid a topic of conversation if you think it will be damaging to your relationship. Just because I don’t really value hunting for sport doesn’t mean I won’t sit in a room with a mounted stag head—it just means I don’t join with the guys for their annual August “fire and firearms” camping trip! Maybe ask about their bridge games, the football score, how you can help in the kitchen, or their vacation plans. If nothing else, there’s always the weather! If you can, you should avoid triggers. Don’t let them get to you, don’t become defensive, and don’t antagonize them! There is always a compromise, it’s just up to you to reach it.
Prepare yourself if you need to as you walk the steps to the door, but make sure there’s a smile on your face when it’s opened! From the minute you greet your in-laws, put a genuine effort into having a great time with them. Whether you’ve spent much time together or not, there’ll be things that come up organically that you can learn about each other or that will help you in the future. When it comes to the actual visiting, dress appropriately, bring whatever you can for the meals (homemade, if possible), and don’t forget to bring your can-do attitude. Lend a helping hand wherever you can without invading their space. In short, be kind, courteous, and positive!
It isn’t disrespectful to set time limits on visits. Be clear on how much time you've allotted to familial get-togethers, and make the most of the time you've got. Regardless of whether you’re looking forward to this year’s visit, they are still family. Mind their space, don’t use good intentions as a crutch, and let them live how they prefer (to each his own, right?). But most of all, don’t forget to be kind, especially when your father or mother-in-law confides in you; be there for them like you would want someone there for you. Lean on that last reserve of energy, positivity, and especially patience. You could end up with life-long friends as well as family!