When You Love Your Partner But Hate Their Family
You've made a commitment and decided to spend your life with your partner. The only problem? Their family is a nightmare. When you marry your partner, the in-laws come as a package deal, but there are ways to work through your concerns without causing conflict in the marriage.
Communicating your concerns
Expressing your frustration to your partner can be a delicate, important matter. Make sure you initiate it at a time when your partner is open to talk. You should also prepare yourself: Depending on your partner's relationship with their family, they may react defensively and you shouldn't take that personally.
Your partner loves their family, and wants you to share that relationship. The language you choose to address your concerns can make all the difference when you bring up this topic. Try to avoid labels like "crazy" and "mean." Instead, be specific and express your concerns, such as, "I would like to get to know your mother, but I'm afraid she might not accept me." This language shows your ultimate goal is familial harmony. Once you express your concerns, you can work together to understand the source of the conflict.
Understanding familial conflict
Untangling a conflict can take time, but can ultimately strengthen your relationship with your partner. When my husband and I discuss familial conflict, we have an agreement to listen without judgment or interruption. We express our concerns and take time to consider them.
This open dialogue allows time to verbalize your emotions, and express fears about your marriage and your hopes of creating a lasting bond with your partner's family. It might be a reflex to get defensive when your partner explains their family to you, but this is actually a valuable insight into their eccentricities. Instead of getting defensive, practice empathy and try to consider their perspective.
Rebuilding the relationship
Once you and your partner process your respective conflicts, you both need to take a step back and consider the bigger picture. Marrying your partner shouldn't mean you're marrying their family, but it's unfair to demand your partner choose between you and them.
Another important consideration is whether or not you and your partner plan on having children. Forcing your partner to cut off contact means your children will grow up without knowing half of their family. This was my situation as a child. My father's relatives and my mother hated each other. Instead of working through their problems, my parents cut out my father's family, and I never got to know them. If you plan on having children, you owe it to your future family to work it out.
Arrange a time to meet with the family member with whom you're having issues. When you have this meeting, express your desire to get to know them and be part of the family. Be very careful not to place blame on anyone, and focus on your goal of building a strong family unit.
It's possible your partner's family may not come around, but this doesn't mean it's OK for you to hate them back. If you continue the cycle of conflict with them, your partner will see you as part of the problem.
The importance of family
Building a strong family unit creates a lasting support system, and while it may be impossible for you to become best friends with your partner's family, it is possible to be respectful of one another. The most important consideration is that you and your partner are building a life together, and you don't want to start this life with unresolved conflict about your partner's family.