Our partner is a reflection of their family. Their family may be different to the family you were raised in. This doesn’t mean their family is wrong, just different. In fact if we really look around we will find most all families operate somewhat differently.
We are often different in the way we communicate to each other, the way we settle a disagreement, eat meals together perhaps some are loud or boisterous or quiet and food orientated. We are often different in many ways.
What is important to remember is your partner is a reflection of their family and you are now both a part of their family. Any negative comment, complaint or criticism you make about your partners family can be taken as a direct attack on them. This is where caution is needed if you are experiencing an issue or concern.
There can be so many things that bother us about their family, anything such as their over involvement in your life, impeding into your personal time and space, child raising issues, looking after their child in the way you do, the way your speak or address them, the time you are involved in outside activities that they may see as neglecting their child, the way you look after your home, and the list just goes on and on and on.
An essential point to be aware of is just because their family may annoy you does not mean your partner, or others, agree with your perception. Our perception is our reality and if their family is doing something that bugs you, is it something you can relax about and accept as simply a difference? If this is not the case and it is something important that you feel is infringing in your relationship then there are some steps to take to ensure you do not offend the family or your partner.
Use of the Sandwich technique is essential. This means you start with a compliment or positive comment about the family, raise the concern softly without being too harsh or conflictual and finish with another positive and hopefully a solution you can both work towards.
Let’s say you have a problem that your partners parents are always infringing into your space and time together, they always seem to be around or calling in or wanting you both to come over when you really want to just spend time together.
I suggest you arrange a quiet uninterrupted time to speak with your partner about what it is that is bothering you. Let your partner know you wish to talk about something, sit together and look at each other, no phones, no cooking, no television.
Start with that positive comment such as “You know I love your family, they are so great (or kind or loving, etc) and I want to share with you something that is bothering me and I would appreciate you listening so you can understand how I feel, thank you sweetheart”.
This prepares your partner that you are going to discuss something important to you and being prepared is far better than having something thrown onto us in an impromptu manner.
You then proceed to let them know how you feel, remember this is about your feelings, not a blame scenario. Once you have shared and answered your partner’s questions, start to speak about how the issue can be resolved. I always suggest to give your partner two choices on how they can help you resolve the issue and allow them to select the choice they feel is best. The two choices of course will both allow a resolution to the problem and when your partner chooses their best solution, they own it; it then becomes theirs.
I suggest your partner speak to their parents instead of you. And the main issue then arises, they should never ever say “Their partner has asked them to say……’ This is dangerous and often ends badly as the parents will think you have complained to their child about them. Your partner needs to understand anything you feel has a direct affect on him or her as well.
When your partner does speak to his parents or family it must be spoken from a me or us prospective, never a her or him perspective. If asked, your partner can respond with ‘yes we both feel the same’ and this allows them to understand you both feel this same way because of course you are connected. If your partner can address the issue as something that concerns you both, this is far safer.
The last thing we want is to create a dispute between our partner and their family. Choosing between them and you always ends badly. Family is the pinnacle of who we are, we need family, our children want family around and it gives us all a sense of belonging to something greater than just ourselves. Along with this great family bond however does come boundaries we all must learn and respect.
An argument or conflict never aids anyone. As mature adults we should all be able to have a safe intelligent conversation. Try to see things from the other person’s perspective and this can alleviates many fears or thoughts of attack. Understand why they do what they do can help you appreciate the reason for their behaviours even if you do not like it.
To sum up on how to address an issue safely with your partner about their family:
– Prepare your partner that you wish to speak to them about something, uninterrupted
– Always commence with a positive comment about their family
– Speak to your partner about what is bothering you
– Ensure they understand by asking what they heard you say, clarify if needed
– End with a positive comment
– Provide the solutions you feel will work
– Give them two choices to select the one they feel is best
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