Family relationships can be tricky even when everyone gets along — and when you marry, you add in another family, their norms, values, culture and history. It's no wonder issues can arise. Miscommunication, cross purposes, assumptions, well-meaning acts — they all cause strain on family bonds. So what do you do when an issue comes up? And how do you keep the peace without relationships falling to pieces?
Sometimes the answer will be a resounding yes, but sometimes it is more of a feared potential issue. Certainly in the beginning of a relationship everyone is feeling each other out and wondering if a situation is a one time occurrence or if the stage is being set for a new norm. You might fear that three Sunday dinners in a row means your Sundays are tied up for life; in-laws might fear your parenting strategy on one occasion means you will overly indulge and fail to ever discipline the grandchildren. So stay in the moment and address only the matter presented not what you fear could happen.
It's okay to have boundaries. Everyone does better when they know what to expect, just like in parenting, and expectations can be laid out kindly. For example, if you find drop-in visits stressful, share that you enjoy the visits, but find yourself less stressed when they call ahead and let you know when they are planning to come over. Explain that it helps you do a quick tidy (ie. shove everything in the closet), set aside the time (pause Netflix) and put the kettle on. It's a veritable win-win for everyone.
What worked for each of your respective families might not work for yours and that is okay. Diversity breeds innovation, Harvard even says so! So as you go through the growing pains, the changes and the disagreements, try to maintain an openness to learn from each other.
Relationships have varying degrees of ease and for the more difficult relationships there might not be any easy solutions. It will be important for you to keep calm, kind and clear in a way that doesn't get you pulled into unhealthy actions. Parenting without Power Struggles and Parenting with Presence author Susan Stiffelman teaches parents to be captains of their ship, navigating rough times with a steady and reliable approach which is a place to draw from in these relationships too. Lead where you can to make these relationships more positive. So keep calm and carry on! And keep being you.