While everyone is out hustling and bustling trying to get the best deals on gifts, some people are just trying to deal period, knowing they are facing their in-laws. The thought of it just makes them tense and sort of brings out the worst in everyone. My best friend calls her mother-in-law Monster-in-Law.
To keep things from spiraling out of control, start by realizing what you are really dealing with, and that's a control issue. Keep this little mantra for yourself -- your in-laws’ comments aren't about you, they're a reflection of them. They don’t like to acknowledge that they are getting older and some of that parental power is losing its luster. Once you recognize this, you can let them know, gently, that this is the way you like to manage your child or feeding schedule or whatever the issue may be. Try to be open, though, to listening to what worked for them.
Here are some additional suggestions:
Be discreet. Boundaries are so important, especially emotional ones. Limit your opinions about things and don't spill your guts about your life. Keep your private life private. Establish some limits as to how much you are willing to reveal and how much you are willing to accommodate others.
Try to listen. Let the in-law have the stage. Don't yawn a lot. You might learn a new joke or if you decide to play golf, how to putt better. Be gracious.
Do volunteer work. If you volunteer for a job like folding napkins or taking the dishes out, or keeping the kids entertained, it takes you out of the line of fire and keeps you busy.
Team up. Get your partner to go in as a united front. Your partner might have to talk to the in-laws alone or come to your rescue when you’re in their company. This may not be easy for them, and try to avoid putting your spouse in the middle but if you do see where conflict can arise, it would be good for your partner to step in and balance it out because parents tend to push our buttons.
Be realistic. Movies are fantasy and Norman Rockwell pics, as lovely as they are to look at, are outdated. Times have changed and you have to deal with what is real, so if your father-in-law eats all the nuts before everyone else every year, and it drives you nuts, plan ahead and buy more. Just remember we all are human and you can't change anyone so try and find one thing you like about them and focus on it for the duration of the visit.
Holidays are about creating traditions and memories and that's what you are there to do. Keep the good from your past and focus on the now and what memories you are making for the future. Just keep your cool -- it's only for a limited amount of time and then it's over.