One of the issues couples regularly have disagreements about is extended family. Since we come from a family of origin, periodically problems about extended family are going to pop up in our relationships. Setting limits and boundaries with our family of origin and in-laws can be very hard to do because this may mean a change in behavior - usually saying no. We may also fight over our partner’s behavior toward our family of origin, fearing how our mate’s actions will affect our relationship with our parents, siblings, grandparents and such.
Sometimes we may expect our partner to be a buffer between us and our family by keeping peace, being silent about or complying with some of the dysfunction going on within our original family.
How often I have heard, “If only his mother would” or, “I wish her father would” from couples who are having problems in their relationship.
Focusing on and addressing unresolved issues about the families of origin individually usually resolved these difficulties. It’s also all right for our partner to have his or her own opinions about our family. For us to have expectations as to how partners should behave in family situations is a setup for disagreement and resentment. If our partner complies with our expectations for behavior toward our family, our mate may also be enabling the dysfunction and buffering us from the distress we need to see in order to deal with unresolved past family issues.
Focusing in on our partner’s behavior towards our family keeps us from seeing those issues that need to be resolved by us vis-à-vis our family of origin. Yes, we can even end up fighting our parents’ unresolved battles. The books “Beyond the Chase” and “Learning to Say No” can help couples work through these issues.
It’s All Right to Say “No” or to Disagreewith Our Family and In-laws
By Carla Wills-Brandon
Relationship Tidbit #10