It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again! The holidays are in full swing and it’s going to be a new year before we know it. That’s why I thought this would be a good time to talk about the “F” word. Family. Why, what were you thinking? If you’ve ever wondered how to get along with your in-laws or struggled to enjoy time with your partner’s family, then this post is for you!

Learning how to get along with your partner’s family is almost as important as learning how to get along with your partner. Friction between you and a family member is certain to cause issues between you and your loved one.

This year, as families navigate yet another holiday season that isn’t exactly normal (thanks to COVID-19, vaccines and varying opinions on how to handle holiday gatherings), learning how to get along with your in-laws or partner’s family is more important than ever.

So, in the interest of having a peaceful holiday season, here are some tips on how to make nice with your main squeeze’s people.

How to Get Along With Your In-Laws in 6 Steps

Not getting along with family – whether it’s your own or your partner’s family – is a quick way to spoil a holiday gathering or entire holiday season. And if it goes too far, a bad relationship with your in-laws can even have an impact on your relationship.

So, how to get along with family members (even those who don’t seem to like you very much)? Follow these six tips.

Choose Your Topics Wisely

There’s a reason that people say not to bring up politics or religion at the dinner table. Be mindful not to say anything that might start a debate or broach a topic that is emotionally charged. If others bring up touchy subjects, channel your inner Switzerland and remain neutral.

Though you may have strong opinions, when meeting your partner’s family, keep those opinions to yourself. Smile, nod, and politely change the topic.

There may come a time when it’s appropriate to disagree or share your opinions with your partner’s family. But especially if your relationship is new or you’re specifically trying to figure out how to get along with your in-laws, it’s best to hold your tongue on controversial topics.

Hold On Loosely

One of the biggest reasons for any of your partner’s family members to dislike you is the fear that you are stealing their son or daughter away.

Jealousy can run rampant when a mama’s boy is suddenly paying more attention to his girlfriend than his mother. Sisters can also become protective when their baby bro gains a new love interest. Similarly, dads and big brothers tend to watch over the girls in the family like hawks.

My advice? Don’t engage, be humble and be deferential. Refrain from getting into a power struggle about who he or she loves the most. Realize that you are the significant other and that gives you special perks, but don’t rub it in his or her family’s face.

At the end of the day, if you want to figure out how to get along with your in-laws or your partner’s family, then it’s important to respect the special role they play in his or her life.

Learning how to get along with your in-laws at the holidays can make for a better Thanksgiving dinner

A Compliment Is Worth A Thousand Words

Another reason that family members can be sketchy around significant others is because they fear that their loved one might get hurt. Complimenting your partner in front of his family or even complimenting his parents on what a great job they did with him, can help ease these worries. Remember, this is someone’s baby you are dating!

Getting along with family becomes a lot easier when they know you truly care about their loved one – and their family as a whole.

Play Fair

As much as possible, try to spread your time evenly between both of your families. Clearly, if one family lives out of town, this may not be easy, but make an effort to include each family in your plans.

Maybe spend Thanksgiving with one group and Christmas with the other, or vice versa. If either or both of your parents are divorced, you might have up to four families to divide between and this can get complicated. Just do the best that you can, and try to double up when possible. Maybe your Mom gets along with his Dad? Excellent! Two birds, one holiday!

While not getting along with family may make the idea of spending a holiday with them challenging, it’s important not to create a divide between you, your partner and their family. That will only make getting along with your in-laws (or potential future in-laws) even more difficult and hurt your ability to have a truly healthy relationship.

Channel Your Inner Zen

What happens if there is a certain family member you just can’t stand? You’ve tried every which way to get along with him or her and it’s just not working. You have 2 choices. 1) You can refuse to be around this person and make your partner choose between hanging out with you or family or 2) you can learn how to channel your inner zen and let the resentment go.

How does that work? Glad you asked! Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches us that it’s not the circumstances that make us feel a certain way but our thoughts about the circumstances. How we feel and how we react is directly related to our thoughts and expectations about a situation.

Let’s use an example. Say you hate your girlfriend’s brother. You think he is arrogant, difficult and unpleasant to be around. He’s always trying to show you up and prove that he is cooler than you.

Naturally, this is annoying. No one disagrees with you there. However you don’t have to let it ruin your time with your girlfriend or her family. Rather than think things like “ugh that guy is such a jerk!” or “doesn’t he have any decency?” you can think things like “there he goes again trying to get a rise out of me. Isn’t that interesting? I wonder why he feels so threatened by me.”

Pretend that you are an archeologist studying a foreign species and approach the situation with wonder and interest rather than anger. If you have no expectations of how someone “should” act, you can allow yourself to become unattached to the outcome.

When you are unattached to the outcome and let go of the way you think things should be, you will feel more entertained and curious when interacting with the difficult family member and your anger will dissipate.

Figuring out how to get along with your in-laws or your partner’s family is much more pleasant when you focus on enjoying the company of the people you do like vs worrying about the ones you don’t.

The reality is, there is almost always going to be someone you don’t like in your spouse’s family, at work, and pretty much everywhere else you go. Learning how to disconnect from your expectations and enjoy yourself regardless of who is around is a skill that will serve you well everywhere you go.

A couple decorates the Christmas tree while discussing how to get along with your in-laws

Opt Out

Just because these are the holidays, does not mean that you have to say yes to every family outing that you are invited to. It’s okay to skip some get togethers if you are feeling overwhelmed. By taking care of your needs, you are making yourself a more giving partner to your loved one, and isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

Did you find this article helpful? I bet your friends would too! Use the social media share buttons below to spread the knowledge.

Still, be careful not to pressure your partner to opt-out along with you if they want to be with their family. There’s a difference between prioritizing your needs and causing a divide with your partner’s family. If your ultimate goal is to figure out how to get along with your in-laws, asking your partner not to see them is certainly not going to help.

Need Help Navigating How to Get Along with Your In-Laws?

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, it’s nearly impossible to get along with our partner’s family. Perhaps there are challenges between your partner and their family that preceded your role in the dynamic. Maybe there are situations in your own childhood that make family relationships difficult for you.

If you follow the tips outlined in this post and still struggle with getting along with family this holiday season, it may be time to seek some professional help. 

With both online individual therapy and online couples therapy options available, Couples Learn can help you determine the issues at play in your family (and in-law) relationships and find new ways to understand and handle the issues at play.

Want more help getting along with your partner’s family? Contact Couples Learn to book a free 30-minute consultation and get started today.