How to Deal with Difficult Family Members
How to Deal With Family Members That Dislike Your Spouse
It is very difficult when you have people you love who don’t get along. In this case, you are caught in the middle between your spouse and your family. You may feel loyalty to both parties and guilty that they can’t develop a good relationship with each other. Help your spouse understand your family and develop strategies for dealing with them to help keep the peace, and find effective ways to discuss your concerns with your family. While your spouse and your family may never have a perfect relationship, you can help minimize conflict at family gatherings and keep things civil and respectful.
Confronting Your Family
Address the concern as soon as possible.If your spouse has complained to you about your family, you want to work to solve the problem as quickly as you can. Ignoring or delaying addressing the issue can result in a resentful spouse.
- Ignoring the problem will make your spouse dislike being around your family even more, and it will also start to impact your relationship.
- Let your partner know how and when you plan to address the issue. For example, you could say, “I’m going to bring this up when my mom and I have lunch next week.” Having a concrete plan of action will ease your spouse’s mind and will hold you accountable to follow through.
Get your family’s point of view.Find out if there is an issue you might need to address with your partner. Your spouse may not be an innocent party to this problem, and you may need to confront their behavior and/or encourage an apology.
- Ask your family for specific instances where they felt hurt or angered by your spouse’s behavior.
- Do not get defensive, just listen and let them know you will talk to your spouse about it.
- Bring it up with your spouse privately and decide on a course of action together.
Use “I” language.When bringing up frustrations you and your spouse feel with your family, focus the conversation on your emotional reactions to the situation (or your spouse’s). Your emotions are not able to be disputed--you feel what you feel--but they will become defensive about their behavior.
- Say you and your spouse are upset about how your spouse was treated at a recent family event. Instead of saying, “You guys were really rude to Ryan at dinner,” try saying, “Ryan was upset about the dinner conversation. He felt hurt that he wasn’t included in the conversation, and he felt that you and Mom would talk right over him whenever he tried to speak.”
- You could say, “It upsets me when I see you not make an effort to include Monica in the conversation” instead of “You don't include Monica.”
- Avoid “always” or “never.” These are absolutes and very unlikely to be true, and are very likely to escalate an argument.For example, “You’re always telling Lindsey to lose weight,” would be better phrased as, “Lindsey and I can think of several times you have commented on her weight. The most recent time was last week at the ice cream shop.”
- Be specific about the upsetting situation. Say it happened “at Greg’s birthday party and again at the restaurant last week” instead of “it happens all the time.”
Avoid nitpicking your family’s behavior.If you see an overall pattern of disrespectful behavior or rudeness, for example, it’s okay to call them out. But one-time oversights and slights may not be worth getting into. Make a mental note of what you see and determine if it is indicative of a larger pattern.
- For example, it’s not worth getting into a fight with your family if they forgot to set an extra place setting at dinner for your spouse one time. “Forgetting” your spouse time and time again, however, is worth bringing up in conversation.
Keeping the Peace
Have conversation starters ready.Give suggestions to your spouse and/or your family ahead of time to help pave the way for better relations. Suggest “safe” discussion topics to both parties.
Discuss an exit strategy ahead of time.If your spouse struggles to get along with your family and finds family events stressful, have a plan in place to leave if needed. You may decide to:
- Give your family a departure time when you arrive. For example, “We need to leave by noon. We have to pick up a friend from the airport.”
- Have your spouse send you a text message when they are ready to go.
- Have your spouse give you a prearranged signal, like a gesture or a phrase that means they want to leave. For example, your partner could stand behind you and rub your shoulders to indicate they want to go, while you are still around your family members.
- Let your spouse know acceptable ways to check out for a bit, if leaving isn’t an option. For example, “In my family, no one cares if we’re all sitting together and someone is reading a newspaper or magazine. You can do this if you feel like you need a break and no one will question you.”
Leave if it gets hostile.If a fight breaks out in the middle of a family event between your spouse and your family, or if your family is consistently treating your spouse poorly, enforce a break and leave with your spouse.Try not to let your partner leave the event alone. You want to indicate to your family that you are supporting your spouse.
- For example, you could say, “I think this situation is getting to be stressful for everyone. Kate and I are going to leave now. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I am getting upset and we need to take a break.”
- If you are at an event where you can’t get away easily (for example, on vacation), call a timeout for a few hours or the remainder of the day. In the meantime, get as much physical distance as you can between you and your spouse and your family.
Limit contact.If the relationship between your family and your spouse continues to deteriorate, consider limiting their exposure to each other, perhaps confined to holidays or important family events.
- Discuss with your spouse how much family time will be acceptable to both of you so you have a plan ready when the next invitation comes.
- You may wish to reveal the reasons that your spouse is no longer accompanying you to family events, but you do not have to. You can make an excuse for your spouse (for example, they have to work), if you feel that will be a better way to keep the peace.
- You may find that a cooling off period is all your family or your spouse require, and they may be able to move forward after a break. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all.
- You may also find your family or your spouse more willing to make an effort after a significant life change, like the birth of a child, a death in the family, or a move.
Helping Your Spouse
Support your spouse.Whether or not you see the problem in your spouse’s relationship with your family, be supportive of your partner and be sure to stand up for their feelings if you need to. You may need to put your marriage ahead of your family of origin, and your family should recognize the importance of the bond between you and your spouse.
- If you have a hard time understanding where your spouse is coming from, consider that they probably want to keep the peace just as much as you do. Most people understand that family is a sensitive topic and do not wish to rock the boat.
- You might not see your spouse’s concerns as a big deal, but consider how you would want your spouse to react if the roles were reversed, and you had a problem with your spouse’s family. Show empathy towards your spouse.
Give your spouse effective strategies in dealing with your family.Families are like little cultures all their own, and what might be acceptable in one family is not in another.Let your partner know how your family handles communication and conflict. Since you likely know both your spouse’s family and your family, you can compare the two and address differences.
- For example, your spouse may be from a noisy family where you have to shout to be heard at the dinner table. Your family may be much quieter. Let your spouse know that yelling would be considered very rude to your family.
QuestionWhat if they blame you and are rude to you?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerHave your spouse discuss your concerns with your family member. Because it's your spouse's family, they can serve as a middleman between you and their family to determine what the problem is. If they continue to be rude and seem to be making no effort to change their behavior, however, it may be best to limit your contact.Thanks!
Video: How to deal with TOXIC Family Members
Nadine Coyle reveals weight-loss secret
Inside Kendall and Kylie’s Insane 27M NYCApartment
How to Help Your Parents Get Along with Your InLaws
Your First Sexual Experience Is Determined By Your Genes, New StudyFinds
How to Answer the Phone when Youre Home Alone
New York Fashion Week FallWinter 2019 Preview
Discover Britain’s Most Fashionable Floral Displays at Chelsea in Bloom
Give Your Wardrobe A Royal Makeover With The New Palace Collection From Hobbs
24 Amazing Benefits Of Carrots (Gajar) For Skin And Health
The snack box that will help you kick those junk food habits
12 Most Nutritious Foods