You may tie each other up every Monday and feel completely comfortable exploring each other’s less traveled orifices, or you may consider doggie style to be “experimental” — but when it comes to the holidays, we’re all just a bunch of overgrown kids hoping to survive extended time with the in-laws (or potential future in-laws). We interviewed therapist Dr. Terri Orbuch, author of the book Five Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great, who says she has found, in her long-term study of married couples, that when a husband or wife fails to get along with the in-laws, it’s predictive of marital unhappiness down the road. “On the flip side,” she says, “in the happiest marriages from my study, both spouses reported that they felt close to, or at least got along with, their in-laws.” We distilled Orbuch’s advice into 10 rules for making sure your relationship survives the onslaught of questionable family members this holiday season.
Make your partner a priority — and stand up for them. You can affect your parents’ behaviors and how they treat your spouse by treating your spouse with respect, dignity, and validation. If your parents love you, they want what is best for you. And the best thing for you is a happy spouse who wants to spend time with your family.
Set a time limit. Short visits may be the happiest ones.
Manage expectations. Don’t expect praise, warmth, and approval from your partner’s family. Realistic expectations reduce frustration.