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Q&A My Perspective: Dealing with Challenging In Law Relationships

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Q&A My Perspective: Dealing with Challenging In Law Relationships

QUESTION

How do you deal with challenging in laws and not let your feelings affect your children’s feelings?

MY PERSPECTIVE

The beauty of life is that we always have a choice.  We choose which clothes to wear (the clean or the dirty), which food to eat (the healthy or the indulgent), and which way we choose to look at our choices (deeming them good or bad).

We can choose to look at our “challenges” whichever way we like.  We can see the tough relationships we engage in as completely worthless or as an opportunity to grow.  Like when your 9th grade boyfriend’s sister decided she didn’t like you and convinced him you were not worth his time, so he broke up with you.  And then you were shattered for 3 days straight until the 11th grade hottie asked you out and then you realized it really was an opportunity to grow!

Okay, but in post high school terms…you met your spouse and fell in love with the aspects of them that were created not only by their personal achievements, but by the way they were raised.  Your spouse’s parents may not be perfect, they may not meet your mold or expectations of what you want in parents, or in laws or maybe even acquaintances, but they are a part of your life for a reason.

You have the choice on how you want to look at that reason.  Will they help you grow and gain clarity on what aspects of the relationship you want to enhance? Or will they help you recognize the qualities in them that you don’t care for that you also don’t like in yourself that you don’t want to flourish.  Identify what you like and what you don’t like—specifically.  And then decide what you want to do with each aspect.

For example, if you like the way they make your spouse feel important, focus on that. Had they not built up your spouse’s self esteem, they may never have had the courage to date you.  If you like the way they buy your child a new outfit for every season, focus on that.  Send them pictures of your child in the outfit to show your appreciation.  Appreciation breeds appreciation…it just does.

If you don’t like the way they ignore you or make you feel like you are second fiddle, notice if that is something you do to others in your life.  If it is, hone in on those relationships and start to pay more attention to those who may feel ignored by you.  You will start to sense a reason why you ignore them and will have a better understanding of why you may be ignored…jealousy, insecurity, feelings of loss of power.  The more you do this and recognize it, the less you will notice when someone is doing it to you, because you will feel your importance regardless of what is happening around you.  And believe me, I get it that it sounds a little hokey, but just trust me on this one.

As for how your feelings will impact your children, it is yet another choice. Will you respect the relationship and accept it or will you reject the relationship and all that goes with it?

Developing a respect for the relationship, despite your personal opinion of it, will create a few different cool things, one being acceptance of the relationship.  You don’t have to like it to accept it.  In fact, you don’t have to like them to accept them.  Nor do you have to be like them or relate to them in anyway to accept them.  You can simply accept that they are who they are and it doesn’t make them horrible human beings, it just makes them different than you. Perhaps that’s why your partner is drawn to you to begin with. 🙂

Embrace the difference, don’t judge it. Because the reality is, whether you judge up close or from a distance, the only person who feels that judgment is you.  And why do that to yourself if you have the option not to?

The more that you accept them and the relationship they have in your family’s life, the more your children will sense your acceptance and feel the same.  You are modeling acceptance, no matter what it looks like.  What we model is what we teach.

Or you can reject the relationship.  You can reject it mildly or you can reject it with every outspoken part of your personality.  Either way, your partner feels the rejection, their parent feels the rejection and your children feel the rejection.  Your children will then question their own relationship with them and never quite know what is okay to feel when they sense the pull of two directions. Do you want them to choose and if you do, who will it benefit?

Not an easy choice, but it does have a definitive solution if you are willing to do the work to get to it.  Sometimes the best way to solve the problem is to fix its root.  And when you fix the root, you are left with the full enjoyment of what blooms.

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My Jester In Shining Armor

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My Jester In Shining Armor

Sometimes I underestimate my husband.  Okay, I often underestimate my husband.  We have been married for 11 years and “together” for 18 and I wonder sometimes if I will ever appreciate him for who is. I think he wonders this too.

So when I was pondering out loud about needing a little inspiration to write something, I didn’t really expect him to give me a response that would be meaningful. Actually, his first response was “how about women who self tan all winter and how it looks weird.”  Yeah, thanks, that’s a great parenting topic. But then he said “or about how great husbands are?”  I probably rolled my eyes because according to him that is my immediate communication response, but then I thought, Perfect!!

My husband and I are very different.  I love talking to people and am a magnet for anyone with a need to talk about their latest problem.  He loves talking to the TV on football Sundays and considers his fantasy team to be his closest and most reliable peeps.  I like to workout at the gym. He likes to workout at home.  I am the Queen of small talk.  He is the Jester in the crowd.  I am scattered and a bit flighty and he is structured and organized.  My ADD and his OCD have had to come to terms with each other, although they still call each other out time and again.  Yet when it comes to parenting, we couldn’t be more in synch.

We have all been told that structure and consistency are important parenting goals to strive towards to establish expectations and for our children to feel safe and secure.   So when one parent is inconsistent and works against the other parent’s rules, our children don’t know what to expect and either follow the rule they prefer, or follow the lead of the parent who is present and change it up for the other parent when necessary.  So what gets accomplished? The children learn to either work the system or they learn to work against the system.  Either way, they are on their own.

When we are on the same page as our partner, our children know what to expect.  They know what we will tolerate and what we won’t. They know that when you say you must do your homework before you go on the computer and then turn your back, your partner will turn the computer off before they have a chance to argue.  Majority rules and you and your partner are always the majority.

In our house, if I have a headache, my husband ensures the kids are quiet.  This teaches my children to respect and care for others and that partners look out for each other.  I also often give my children directives and then forget them 5 minutes later by my own distractions, until I hear my husband say “I heard your mother tell you to brush your teeth.”  Thank goodness someone is paying attention to me and that my husband is reinforcing this. He is supporting me and validating that what I say needs to be adhered to and respected. We are a united front. And nothing, no nothing, makes me love him more than when I hear him say, “don’t talk to your mother in that tone.” My Jester in shining armor protecting me from the harsh tones of the villagers.

I tend to be very opinionated (shocking!) in my parenting views and we often discuss how we want to handle situations with the children.  And thankfully we agree on most of the resolutions.  We are big on trial and error parenting and trying new tactics when old ones are worn.  We support our children’s passions together and talk to them in our own style when they experience their woes.  This is when our differences compliment each other the most.  Our children have parents with two very different personalities, offering two very different perspectives with one message of uncompromising love.

So will I continue to underestimate my husband? Probably. But I will never under-appreciate the role he plays as my partner when parenting our children or the admiration I have for him as their father.  After all, everybody loves the Jester.

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