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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

In-Laws and Outlaws

My in-laws arrive tonight for a visit. My wife is very excited to see her family again, and this next week should be a lot of fun. And while we have tremendous support from both our families in adopting and homeschooling, I know this isn't a reality for everyone.

Much like the quintessential annoying mother-in-law.

I've never experienced that myself. I get along "famously" with my mother-in-law. I think it has something to do with the fact that, over my life, I have found that girl's mothers like me before their daughters. Ah well.

But some people do have bothersome in-laws and relatives who "get in their business" and are generally troublemakers.

How do you deal with that?

I'll give a few ideas, but without experiencing it myself, I feel a little out of my league. Though, there is a great support resource for this (and other woes) on the Sonlight Forums.

First, as with most troublemakers, we need to keep our cool. I have proven, time and time again, that responding with blood boiling doesn't lead to any kind of resolution. It may feel good to blast someone, but it certainly doesn't bring about peace. Trust me.

Second, we need to become okay with living our own lives. I talk with a lot of high school and college aged kids who struggle with the transition from child to adult. This transition can be equally difficult for their parents, and learning to work together on this can help a lot. Unfortunately, I realize this problem sometimes crops up again when we go through another major life change (often involving kids).

Third, communicate--even if that means asking people to step back. I have a tendency to go after people who bug me, pointing out their errors. Others simply withdraw, convinced it is better just to sever all ties. Both of these approaches are really about ending communication. My approach has the goal of silencing the other person permanently when they see that I am right. The other approach hopes that people just leave them alone forever. Instead, we must strike a delicate balance between these two extremes and really talk the issues over. Sometimes that does mean strongly arguing your case, and sometimes it means you need to ask them just to "lay off" for a while. But we should communicate to get to an understanding, not just jettison the problem.

So, there you have it: My three tips for dealing with both the "in-laws" and the "outlaws" you come across; relative, mortal enemy, or bothersome person on the internet.

~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father


Unknown said...

good tips. I find the hardest time was when we had our own children and had to start 'parenting the parents'. This has been a very difficult journey when the in laws are not following Christ. That communication thing becomes very hard, it seems sometimes cutting it off would be easier, less uncomfortable, but in the long run we all need each other in our lives.

Marjie said...

To use the words of one of my sons, "Nod and smile." If necessary, remind busybodies that this is your life, not theirs, and if they feel that strongly about something, then they should feel free to do it. One Christmas, when my second son was one week old, my mother criticized my house for being dusty. I went and got her a dustcloth, and told her to make herself happy and take care of the dust. With a 7 day old baby, I had other things to do, like sleep. She has never dared criticize me again.


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