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November 6, 2019

Managing Holiday Strife & How to Deal with Difficult In-Laws

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If you slept in this morning, you likely missed Jess’ appearance on The Morning Show, so check out the notes and video below.

A Global TV viewer asks: My father-in-law interferes in our relationship to the point that I think it’s driving a wedge between me and my wife. He undermines us with the kids, is manipulative with money and criticizes our relationship. How do I get him to back off and how do I talk to my wife about this?

Start by asking your wife how she feels about his behaviour. Does she share your concerns? Don’t start with complaints or criticisms; instead open up a discussion so you can better understand her perspective on the same interactions. Your perspective may be coloured by your own experiences, your relationship with your parents and other personal sensitivities. And chances are that she is likely dealing with some similar concerns, because you share the same values and goals for your kids and relationship.

Once you’ve considered your wife’s perspective, discuss your preferred boundaries with specificity. Do you want to pick certain days of the week when he will visit? Do you want to set a specific time frame for time spent with the kids?

When you say he’s manipulative with money, is it because he’s involved in your finances? Does he help to support your family? Can you change this arrangement? If you don’t take money from him, he will likely have less power with which to manipulate.

Another Global TV viewer asks: My wife and I are already fighting about how to spend the holidays in the city. She wants to split time evenly between our families (we’re all in the same city), but I have a bigger family, so I want to allocate more time to my family. How do I convince her?

I’m not sure you can convince her of anything, but you can plead your case. I’m not sure it’s fair to suggest that you allocate minutes, hours or days based on how many family members you have — especially if they could combine events to ease the pressure on everyone’s schedule.

Having said that, there are circumstances in which one family will take up more of your time over the holidays — for example, perhaps you have two sets of parents because they remarried. It follows that they may not agree to celebrate the holidays together.

Some couples opt to take turns switching sides between holidays; they spend Thanksgiving with one side and the December holidays with the other. Others swap sides each year. Others give up and run away to someplace warmer and more remote.

I ran into a similar issue with a couple last year and I had them make a list of all the things they want over the holidays from time alone with their immediate family to every event they’d like to attend. They then ranked their wish list from 1-10 and took turns going through commitments. You get to choose one event from your list and you partner gets to choose one from theirs. If one cancels another out, at least you’ll make an equal number of so-called sacrifices. Sometimes simply putting what you want in writing can help you to see whether or not you’re being reasonable. A list of wants can help you consider whether or not you’re asking too much or giving in too easily without consideration for your own needs.

I think it’s important to remember that you have 365 days to invest in your relationships with extended family — the holidays are not the only time you can get together and the dates themselves are only as relevant as you make them. If you celebrate Christmas for example, you can enjoy the same connection and celebration whether you get together on the 24th, 25th or 26th.