In-Laws and the Holidays

family blog sex with emilyMost people agree that relationships are work. We all have to find a way to manage the challenges of life, work, our intimate relationships and family obligations.

Once we have that balancing act managed, we usually find that we have very little energy left to take care of ourselves. Add extended family, in particular your partner’s family, into the mix plus the stresses of the holiday? You may well reach your breaking point. 

It doesn’t have to be that way. With some strategizing, communication and planning, you can make the most of that family time while still maintaining your sanity and the love you have for your spouse. Yes, when we marry the love of our life we also marry into their family, for better or for worse. So here are some tips for keeping your cool when the pressure builds up and you feel yourself ready to hop a flight to anywhere-but-here. 


1 – Plan Ahead

If there are certain patterns you’ve noticed over the years you’ve been together, like the women head to the kitchen while the men gather around the TV, then it might make you crazy to expect things to be different. All families fall into certain patterns of behavior when they gather. Sometimes it’s important to strategize in advance.

Communication is incredibly important to keep a marriage working, so tell your spouse ahead of time (like, a week ahead, not on the drive over to his mom and dad’s house) what would make you more comfortable. Be a united front against those awkward moments. 

Maybe bring a surprise cocktail that you make for everyone (Moscow Mules, anyone?) a board or card game to keep everyone together but distracted. (His mom can’t ask about your reproductive plans if she’s plotting a take-over in a game of Risk.) If you’re staying overnight for a few nights, schedule some time for just you and your honey; find a fun local Ghost Tour or Beer Tasting event in town and disappear for a few hours. What are they going to do, ground you for breaking the rules of family lock down? Just come home with a box of donuts or bottle of chablis so everyone knows you were still thinking of them. 


2 – Delegate to family members

Have the whole brood coming to camp out on the sofa for three days? Do they expect you to prepare all meals and snacks? Make lists and check them twice, then put someone’s name next to every task so that you are sharing the burden of responsibility. 

Uncle George is responsible for keeping the booze stocked and glasses filled. Cousin Sheryl can chop veggies and assemble a crudite. Mom can wash towels and sheets. The kids can take out the trash as it gets filled. In general, people want to help, they just don’t know the rhythm of your house and don’t want to get in the way, so if you’re clear up front with how you need help, everyone wins.  


3 – Focus on Them

Do your in-laws ask questions that make you uncomfortable? One quick trick is to turn the table. Make your father-in-law the most interesting person you’ve ever met and ask him everything about his job at the factory— from uniforms to union laws. Ask your mom about her favorite holiday memories, ask your sister-in-law about her skin, hair and makeup routines. You’ll find that people love to talk about themselves and tend to feel flattered when you take notice of what’s important to them.  


4 – Bounce

Whether you’re staying with his family or they’re taking over your home, set aside time for yourself every day. Get out to the gym (or just say you’re going to the gym), go for a walk or run, take a receipt out of your purse, call it a list and say you have to pick up a prescription or get some tampons. The point is, you and your spouse will both be happier if you are taking care of yourself.  


5 – Communication and a Code Word

Part of planning ahead includes telling your husband or wife that there are certain conversations or situations that push you beyond your comfort zone, and you expect them to help navigate those waters. Explain that every time your sister-in-law asks about why your career isn’t going the way you want it to, it makes you feel small and demeaned.

Now have a code word between the two of you that indicates you need some intervention. “Honey, what was the name of that Shakespeare play we saw in the park last summer?” “Babe, I just remembered I was supposed to email that spreadsheet to Linda.” Take a moment, walk away and let him handle the confusion in your wake. 


6 – Secret Sexy Times

If you’re sleeping on a blow up mattress on the living room floor, your sex life is on hold for the duration. Similarly, if his parents are sleeping on the other side of your headboard wall, he’s probably not going to want to get it on. Can you duck out for marshmallows and have a quickie in the car?

If tension is high, why not just practice some solid self care. Everyone takes a shower, right? No one will notice that cunning little necklace you’ve been wearing all weekend is actually a discreet vibrator for those alone moments you’ll need. The device is whisper quiet, but keeping your moans of pleasure out of earshot is up to you.  

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