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Sex with Dr. Jess


May 5, 2023

How To Deal With Family Tension

With some high profile family events on the horizon this week, Jess joined Global TV’s The Morning Show to weigh in with a few tips for dealing with family tension. Check out the video and notes below.

5 Tips For Dealing With Family Tension & Difficult In-Laws:

If you don’t want to attend your partner’s family events, encourage them to go solo.

You don’t have to share the same relationships or connections with all of your partner’s friends and family. Just because they’re close to someone doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically feel the same way and that’s okay. You can support their relationships (with their parents, siblings, etc.) in may ways — including at arm’s length.

If spending time with their parents or siblings is distressful or causes additional tension in your relationship, consider opting out of gatherings to protect your own emotional health. Talk about your options together and when you disagree, recognize your triggers, ask for reassurance and tap into your strategies for self-soothing.

Stop idealizing relationships based on bloodlines alone. Not all family relationships will be harmonious, intimate and full of joy.

This doesn’t mean you have to cut family members off, but you can custom-design your relationships in a way that works for you.

This might entail less frequent visits or only spending time with certain people in larger groups (i.e. avoiding one-on-one interactions). You might opt to spend more time shoulder-to-shoulder (i.e. engaged in activities) as opposed to face-to-face (i.e. engaged in more intimate conversations).

Meaningful, loving relationships are essential to your well-being, but you can form these important relationships with all types of people — beyond your immediate family.

Not all relationships are rich, intimate and “fixable”.

Yes. You can always try to repair connections, but be realistic. Not everyone is open to honest, vulnerable conversations, so you may not be able to create the relationship of your dreams with every member of your family. Some things (like their feelings, reactions and desires) are beyond your control.

It can be valuable to speak your mind and express how you feel, but it may fall on deaf ears or trigger a response that exacerbates an existing point of tension.

To come to terms with some relationships, you’ll need to let go of the desire to control outcomes.

Shared celebrations can help to heal past wounds, but they can also be a distraction from the core issues that will continue to simmer beneath the surface. Don’t assume that all harms have been forgiven just because you’re able to smile through a family event.

Make apologies and amends when you’ve caused harm. Learn more about the apology languages here.

Seek the support of allies at family functions.

If you tend to run into the same issues over and over again (e.g. a sibling who throws jabs or an aunt who body-shames), let your allies (e.g. another sibling or cousin) know how they can support you.

Be specific. For example. “If they bring up my weight, could you shut it down and let them know there are more interesting things to talk about?”

Relationships don’t have to be perfect to be meaningful, so give yourself a good amount of grace — and save some for your family members too.

Want specific strategies for conflict resolution and tips for fighting fair? Jess answers some of your conflict-related questions here.