“Three out of four marriages are impacted by problematic in-law relationships,” notes Deanna Brann, Ph.D., author of the new book Reluctantly Related: Secrets to Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law (Vision Run, 2012). “Mothers-in-law can fear being shut out and at risk of losing their son or grandchildren. Daughters-in-law can often feel manipulated, judged, or simply not validated. These problems can lead to minor annoyances or stress but can also result in a total family breakdown.”
Brann offers these five tips specifically for mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law – and particularly for those with very strained relationships – to help make holiday time together with extended family memorable, not miserable:
1. Be a team player. Regardless of who is hosting, remember to ask questions, compliment your mother-in-law or daughter-in-law, offer help and let her know you’re interested in her thoughts.
2. Don’t take things personally. Everyone is stressed during the holidays, so as long as you know you’re on your best behavior, you can be certain “it’s not all about you.”
3. Find the humor. No matter what happens, look at the humor in it and tuck it away for a story later on about what she did “this” time.
4. Find some downtime for yourself. Just a few minutes to reflect and re-energize can be just what you need to get your energy back.
5. Establish ground rules in advance. Talk to your spouse and agree on how long you’ll be staying. If necessary, take two cars and let your family know what time you plan to leave.