‘You fall head over heels with somebody only to find that you don’t get on with their family,’ writes one of Relate’s counsellors in The Independent.
‘Whether things got off to a bad start straight away or got off to a flying start only to stumble later down the line, dealing with a partner’s family is often a fraught business.’
Our counsellors sometimes see couples where one partner expects the other to take their side in a family dispute and pay no attention to what other people who may be very important to them are saying.
So how do we avoid such situations?
Family ‘rule books’ are probably something we don’t give much thought to. But most families have their own unwritten but fully understood ‘book of rules’ based on things like culture, experience, tradition and gender balance. Understanding your partner’s family ‘rule book’ is a start.
Being in love often makes us emotionally blind for a while and willing to tolerate teething problems with our other half’s family. Everyone is getting to know each other and we’re on our best behaviour. But after a while, where once you smiled politely at the ‘well intended’ comment, now, you just want to run every time his or her mother suggests you could all holiday together. Being prepared can help.
Talking issues through with your partner, even your partner’s family, and coming up with action points, could work for you. There’s a risk your partner may take offence at your comments, so beginning with a softly-softly approach and gauging initial reactions sounds like a plan.
Hopefully your partner will be able to give you advice about how to communicate with your partner’s family more effectively – they’ll be familiar with their own family ‘rule book’ after all.
And nothing is more endearing to a prospective in-law than having their child’s partner spend time showing a genuine interest in, well… anything really. It’s amazing how quickly this can lead to reciprocity. Before you know it, says the Relate counsellor in her newspaper article, issues get replaced with ‘something resembling a relationship that sort of works’.
If you’d like to talk with one of our counsellors about family matters give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.