It can be very difficult for your parents and your spouse's parents to dislike each other. This can lead to awkward or often frustrating interactions. To cope, set firm limits. Inform all parties which behaviors are acceptable and which are not. Find out if there is a way to find a solution or resolution to the disagreement. During family gatherings, try to minimize conflict and give everyone their space. From time to time, give yourself a break on an emotional level. Surround yourself with positive people who lift your spirits.
Part 1 of 3: Set Behavior Limits
Step 1. Take into account past grudges, if any
When trying to set behavioral limits, take into account the feelings of the parties involved regarding the situation. Past grudges or hurts often create conflict in a family unit, so see if there is an underlying reason why your in-laws and parents are not getting along.
- If your in-laws and parents currently dislike each other, something in the past may have created such tension. Try to analyze what interaction or moment in the past may have caused the distance between them.
- For example, maybe something happened at the wedding. If one couple made a bad first impression on the other, this first meeting may still be causing problems. Try to keep this in mind when you set out to set limits. Understand that your parents and in-laws may still have specific injuries and hold a grudge due to an unfortunate first encounter.
- However, it is important to remember that disagreements between families are not always the result of past grudges. These disagreements can stem from elementary cultural differences. If you suspect that a disagreement has arisen because of cultural differences, you could take it as an opportunity to educate both parts of the family. Do it early and often, and make sure your spouse agrees with you.
Step 2. Find a solution or leave it as is
While they can't be made to befriend them, you can sketch out possible solutions after taking their points of view into account. You can try to smooth things over, but you can also try to set clear behavioral boundaries to minimize conflict. However, remember that there will not be a solution for every problem. If things don't seem to be getting better, you can choose to leave them as they are and turn the page.
- Often times, a conflict is due to lack of knowledge. Maybe your in-laws and parents have different origins. Let's imagine that your in-laws come from a culture where hugs are the norm. Your parents come from a culture where personal space is a priority. If your parents, for example, didn't return a warm hug at the wedding, this likely left a sour taste.
- You can try to explain the differences to each pair. For example, “I know you think Laura's parents were rude to you at the wedding, but your family has never been cuddly like us. They are not comfortable with hugs and I don't think they were meant to offend them. "
- Remember that you cannot force someone to give up a grudge. In the event that your parents and in-laws don't get along, find another solution. For example, instead of focusing on your reconciliation, look for ways to minimize your interactions in the future.
Step 3. Make sure you and your spouse agree
If you are both dealing with complex family issues, it is important that you have the same expectations. Talk it over first before introducing the boundaries to your parents and in-laws. Agree on the kind of behavior you expect.
- For example, if you are setting limits for a Christmas gathering, what do you both want and expect? Do you want your in-laws and parents to behave civilly during the meeting? Do you want one of the parties to apologize? Would you prefer to hold the meetings strictly separately?
- Have a clear plan in mind, and be sure to discuss any difficulties you and your spouse have about coping with the problem. If your spouse has a different idea of how to cope, try to reach a consensus. For example, if your spouse prefers separate meetings and you want everyone to be civil during a group meeting, discuss it until you reach a mutual solution.
Step 4. Be direct
Especially when dealing with in-laws, direct communication is key. You should not, for example, ask your spouse to speak to their parents on your behalf. This may seem like passive-aggressive behavior. Nor should you throw hints about the problem. Remember that the idea is to set firm limits and not just suggest changes. Make that clear when discussing the topic.
Both of you should talk to your in-laws and parents separately about the problem. Be sure to tell them what they want to talk about without leaving room for ambiguity. For example, you can say, "We want to talk to you about the problem with my parents and how we can all get along this Christmas."
Step 5. Enforce limits as needed
It is not your duty to make friends with people who do not get along. In fact, it can be stressful. Instead, focus on setting clear boundaries that allow you and your spouse to minimize stress in their lives.
- Determine specific values and expectations and then communicate them directly. For example, you may not want either partner to speak ill of the other to other family members, especially not in meetings.
- Communicate these values to both couples directly. For example, “Mom, Dad, we know you have problems with José's parents, but we would appreciate it if you could keep them to yourself. Please don't complain about them to my sister anymore, especially when everyone is in a meeting together. "
Part 2 of 3: Coping During Family Reunions
Step 1. Have a positive attitude
Before going to a family event, try to take things positively. Even if there has been animosity between your parents and your in-laws in the past, anticipating the worst can set the stage for disaster. If you arrive tense, it can be passed on to others. Try to hope for the best before the big event.
- Think about your intention to be happy in advance and express it unambiguously. For example, think "I intend to enjoy this Christmas gathering, no matter what."
- This attitude can come out even during negative interactions. If your in-laws, for example, say something negative about your parents, you will be more likely to take it easy if you have decided to be happy. This can prevent you from feeling upset and accidentally aggravating a problem.
Step 2. Encourage everyone to put differences aside
Disagreements between parents and in-laws can disrupt the celebration of holidays and other events. Before an event, let everyone know that you would like them to put their differences aside for a day.
- Discuss possible difficult situations with both partners in advance, while mentioning that you understand their feelings and frustrations. For example, “Mom, Dad, I know you think Jose's parents are snooty. We understand that sometimes they feel frustrated. "
- Then ask them to put this grudge aside, at least for the duration of an event. For example, “But this is our son's first birthday party, so we want everyone to get along. If you could just put this grudge aside during the party, we would appreciate it. "
Step 3. Create rituals to minimize conflict
If your family tends to fight a lot during the holidays, you may need to create new rituals to minimize the fights. Often times, if a family meets only once or twice a year, old patterns of behavior and stresses forgotten during those days can resurface. Try to create new rituals that help minimize conflict and arguments.
- For example, you can keep everyone busy with a task at a family gathering. If, for example, you play board games all the time, your in-laws and parents will have something to focus on other than themselves.
- You can also consider rituals that help minimize interaction between parents and in-laws. For example, if you have a very large family, set up two tables for Christmas dinner and put your in-laws and parents at different tables.
Step 4. Hold different family gatherings if they get too stressful
Another option is to divide your time with each group into two separate meetings. You and your spouse can decide the days and times to celebrate with each group separately.
For example, you can invite your in-laws to dinner for Christmas Eve and then invite your parents for Christmas dinner
Step 5. Respect your own needs and limitations
It's not your job to make sure everyone gets along. Your parents and in-laws have to be willing to be mature and smooth things over. If you don't see any progress, acknowledge what you may be experiencing, such as sadness, tension, and frustration.
There is nothing wrong with taking time to vent. Express your feelings instead of holding them back. For example, if you're feeling overwhelmed, sneak out for a while to text a friend with complaints about your family's fights
Part 3 of 3: Managing the Emotions of the Parties Involved
Step 1. Listen to everyone's perspective
You must ensure that all parties involved feel heard. If your parents and in-laws dislike each other, let everyone express their feelings about the problem. Thus, no one will feel that you have taken any side.
- Let your in-laws and parents express any frustrations they may have. When they talk, genuinely listen to what they share.
- Try to put yourself in the shoes of others. Think about the unique experiences that could lead someone to the perception of the problem. Reflect on how you would feel if you were your parents or in-laws.
- Remember that you do not have to solve the problem. Often times just being heard makes someone feel recognized. This can encourage your in-laws and parents to be more polite in the future.
Step 2. Create escape plans
Some tensions just don't go away. At family reunions and holiday celebrations, have escape plans in place. This way, if someone is feeling overwhelmed, they will have the option to run away for a bit. This can keep emotions in check if conflicts don't seem to have a clear resolution.
For example, you and your parents may agree to have a secret word or phrase that you can use if you need a break from your in-laws. If they say "We are very tired," it means that they have to leave the meeting early to avoid an argument
Step 3. Surround yourself with positive people
You also have to deal with your own emotions. After difficult interactions between your parents and in-laws, surround yourself with family people who do get along. For example, if you and your siblings get along, hang out with them after arguments break out between your parents and in-laws.
Step 4. Develop your sense of humor
Laughter can help put a problem in perspective and keep you positive. Laugh at negative interactions and make jokes with your spouse about the problem. Humor can help minimize stress during stressful confrontations and discussions.