Know your place when you are “The in-law”! Tips & Advice on staying neutral in your Spouse’s family feuds!

As the daughter-in-law of a phenomenal mother-in-law and the sister-in-law to 5 wonderful sister-in- laws, I can’t say I can relate to this blog on a whole, but I have had to remember my place in my husband’s family dynamic on a few occasions over our 23 year marriage.

I’ve had the pleasure… or maybe not so pleasurable moments of having this conversation with not only a few of my friends, but also with my own mother who didn’t have the greatest relationship with her mother-in-law, and one thing I know for sure its’ never a pretty picture.

Yes, we’d all like to think that once we say “I do” that, we are all “family” and all is well in the world, …but unfortunately sometimes that day does come…the day when a family feud arises and your spouse decides get you involved,... Or the day when one of your In-laws decides to cross the line and chastise one of your children and your spouse doesn’t do anything about it. How do you handle this? What do you say? Do you give your spouse a reply?... Do you say something to your In-law?... Oh the stickiness of the whole situation.!....

Well there is no quick answer to situations like this. In certain instances maybe you should say something to your In-law and in others maybe you should just bite the bullet and let things go for the sake of peace in the family.

Listed below are 5 tips that may not keep the most toxic, volatile, or unstable families from going to blows with you or with each other, but if you put these tips into practice before any drama ensues, you just may keep your relationship with your In-laws stable, or neutral, if nothing else!

Tips for staying neutral in your spouse’s family feuds.

1.     Never forget that your spouse will always be blood to his/her family and for them to forgive your spouse for something that was said or done will always be easier than forgiving you. There’s a reason for the saying “Blood is thicker than water.”

2.     Always see how your spouse is feeling about an argument, disagreement or decision made by their family. It may not affect them the same way it affects you. Even if you think your spouse should be hurt by something that was said or done by one of their family members, always check their feelings before you go blindly into a response in their defense. They may not be as upset about the situation as you.

3.     Always take into account your spouse’s family culture and dynamics. This means just because you did things in a certain way in your family when you grew up, doesn’t mean your spouse and their family did things the same way. For example you may have grown up in a house that never poked fun at each, but maybe your spouse grew up in a family that did this kind of joking all the time… making jokes about each other’s character or physical flaws (etc), but in your family this would have been considered tasteless and insensitive! OR maybe your father made all the decision in the family but in your spouse’s family, momma was the head and daddy just listened and did what he was told. These variants in family dynamics can make a big difference in a family’s structure, and understanding them can definitely play a part in how you and your spouse handle family feuds with each other and with each other’s family.

4.     Always remember that your children are your spouse’s children, your spouse’s mother’s grandchildren and even your spouse’s sibling’s nieces and nephews. They will always be family, even if death or divorce takes you out of the picture. So always keep their relationships in mind when responding to family feuds.

5.     Remember there are consequences to your actions. Saying something that’s on your mind or doing something about something you feel was an injustice to your immediate family may seem like the right thing to do at the time of the incident, but always remember that after you say or do something in retaliation that there are consequences to be made and paid. They could include you being ostracized from family gatherings, you could be shunned by family members or worst you could cause a rift between your spouse and their family. This is not to say that you shouldn’t say or do something about an injustice done to your immediate family, it’s just saying be ready for the consequences of your speech or actions.

Understand that not all family’s have issues such as this! The Brady Bunch (The perfect looking family) can be a real thing, even if you’ve never seen them… but if you find yourself in the midst of in-law issues or on the receiving end of one of your spouse’s family feuds, just keep in mind that not every issue in life needs to be address and that there are ways to defuse disagreements and rifts in family feuds;… because you never want a rift to get out of hand and cause a tidal wave between you and your in-laws.

Always Remember

Relationships Do Matter!

Toinette Neube

"When Communicating becomes too much!!!???"

Yes, I said it!!! Everyone knows communication is the key to a “Happy, Healthy Relationship”… isn’t it!?!?  Well in short yes and no! When you hear of a relationship that has gone sour 9 times out of 10 it’s because of financial reasons, infidelity, or a lack of communication; so why would I write a Blog even suggesting that communication could be a bad thing?

Well I’m not; … not really anyway, not if it’s done at the right time, in the right place, with the right tone and… catch this… if it’s not one sided.

One sided communication can be detrimental to a relationship if one person is always communicating their wants, needs, and desires, or always desiring to talk about how they feel.

As a Relationship Counselor I’ve had case after case over the last few years where too much communication was actually the issue. Yes, I’ve found that communication can be an issue when one person feels there is nothing to communicate but the other person feels there is always something to communicate about to make the relationship better! And here is the kicker the other person doesn’t usually view the communicating as healthy, but as… NAGGING! Yup! There is it is, the nasty Nagging Word!  

A few years ago there was a couple I was counseling, let’s call them Jim and Diane, who were having this exact communication problem. Diane always prided herself on the fact that she was a great communicator and definitely not a nagger. Diane grew up with a nagging mother and promised herself to never be a nag to anyone, let alone her husband. Jim always disliked a nag so he tried hard to stay away from women who even appeared to have a nagging bone in their body. Diane being a huge communicator always wanted to talk about everything and lived by the motto, “Never go to bed angry!” especially not with your spouse. This lead Diane to feel like she needed to talk about anything & everything with her husband; if she felt neglected she wanted to talk about it, if she felt sad, she wanted to talk about it, if she felt happy, she wanted to talk about it. Sounds like the “Perfect Marriage” right? Wrong! This much communication to Jim who came from a family that NEVER talked about their feelings let alone about things in general was communication overload for him! Not only did Jim get tired of talking about everything but he also began to feel like Diane was nagging him!!! Yup the Nasty Nagging Word!

Once Diane found out that Jim considered her communication nagging she was horrified; her worst nightmare had come to life! She was her mother! Not only did Jim find Diane’s constant communicating nagging but he also said during our sessions that it made him feel like he was a failure! He felt that he couldn’t do anything right in the eyes of Diane. Diane didn’t know what to say, she never wanted Jim to feel like a failure or that he wasn’t doing an outstanding job of taking care of their family. But Diane’s constant communicating was taking the opposite effect on their lives. It wasn’t bringing them together, it was tarring them apart.

Diane never thought in a million years that talking things over with Jim would be viewed as nagging or over communicating especially seeing that she never blamed him for things, never raised her voice and even thought she was finding the right time and place to communicate. But what she failed to realize was Jim’s personality was that of a provider and fixer and anytime she told him about her needs, wants, desires or feelings if he couldn’t fix it for her then he blamed himself and thought he was a failure.

Communication can be an awesome tool for keeping relationships and marriages thriving but there are warning signs that you can recognize when over communication or communication overload maybe happening or beginning to happen in your relationship.

5 warning signs that communication overload maybe happening in your Marriage/Relationship. The list is not all-inclusive, but it’s a starting point!

1.      Only one person is voicing their issues, desires, wants or feelings

2.      The issues you are communicating about are not being resolved

3.      When one person seems sad, irritable, or angry by even the mentioning of “Let’s talk”.

4.      The other person is always trying to fix things even the unfixable

5.      The other person voices that they can never do anything right

Thankfully, after months of counseling Jim and Diane are still happily married and communicating to this day. They both realized that communication is still a MAJOR KEY to a “Happy Marriage” but now they just make sure it’s at the right time, the right place, using the right tone and that it is NOT one sided!

Always Remember Relationships Do Matter!

Toinette Neube, Family/Marriage/Couples Counselor

How to have Effective Communication in your marriage! “Did you hear what I said?”

Guilty, guilty, guilt, I am so guilty of asking my husband this question thousands (okay maybe just hundreds) of times over the course of our 22-year marriage; but what I’ve found over the years is that even though every wife may not ask the question the way I do, many of them feel the same way… UNHEARD!

Now when I use the word “unheard”, I don’t mean you don’t think your spouse really didn’t hear you, but the question is, did they really understand what was being said? It’s like someone speaking a foreign language to you, but you really aren’t understanding them.Well sometimes, the same goes for communicating with your spouse;they may hear you, but did they really understand you; and of course,that’s the goal with all relationships and communication, to be understood.

Not only is listening a goal of effective communication, but so are many other… here is it… “teachable” characteristics. The loveable word here is “Teachable”! Effective Communication does not have to be unattainable or frustrating.Per Everette Worthington author of the book, Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling there are several interventions you could use to improve the communication between you and your spouse. But what I’ve found is that even though the book gives several tips on effective communication, if you just start implementing a few of the interventions, you’ve paved the way to effective communication in your marriage and your life.

Listed below are 5 ways you can make the communication between you and your spouse achievable and effective!

1.       Communicate by loving them the way they need to be loved! In my last blog, I wrote aboutThe 5 Love Languages; find out your spouse’s love language and put it into action.

2.       Communicate by loving them positively!Focus on the positive attributes of your spouse. Yes, we all know no one is perfect, but one of my mottos in life is “Whatever you focus on will grow”, if you focus on the negative that’s what you will always see in your spouse; but if you focus on what’s good and loving and honorable about your spouse that’s what will grow in your lives together. Compliment them on what they do well and not nag them on what they don’t do at all!

3.       Communicate by listening more! This brings me back to my introduction, “Did you hear what I said?” One thing I’ve learned in life that everyone in life,(regardless whether they admit it or not), just want to be loved, accepted and heard! No one likes to be ignored, so this makes listening, one of the most important characteristics in communication to develop. Listening is a Blog all in itself, so stay tuned for my blog on “Effective Listening Skills”.

4.       Communicate by sharing your values! Sharing your values, in opinion is one very important but overlooked communication technique most couples omit in their relationships. Sharing values such as religious, family and even financial values are a big component of effectively communicating with your spouse. 

5.       Communicate by creating time to communicate!We all have heard the saying, “We create time for everything we want to create time for!” Well the saying is true in all aspects of life. There is no better way to make someone feel special than to create time for them in your life. Whether it’s inviting them to an event, scheduling them in your calendar or making a date to just hang out and chit chat; and a spouse or significant other is no different! Creating time can be one of the biggest barriers in the lives of couples or relationships especially where children are involved. So, protecting the boundaries of communication and creating time to communicate is vital to creating an effective communication life between you and your spouse!

As I mentioned earlier, there are several other interventions you could use to help move you and your spouse toward effectively communicating with one another, but the ones listed above, if put to practice in a habit-forming manner, are a great start!

Remember, being married, in a relationship or being coupled is work! There are no perfect marriages and no perfect couples! According to the American Psychological Association, almost 50% of marriages end in divorce and one of the main reasons beside finances those marriages fail is because of a lack of communication.

So, I admonish you, study, yes, I said “study” your partner, learn how they desire to be loved,love them positively, listen to them more, share your values with them, and create time to communicate with them EFFECTIVELY!!

Love, Kisses and Teacups!

Always in His Grace!

Toinette Neube