Make Christmas With the In-Laws Merry Not Miserable

I don’t do many featured posts by others, but I thought Clare’s post on in-laws and the holidays had a lot of good thoughts to share. I love my in-laws and have no complaints, but anytime you marry someone, you marry their family too. That means things like working out holiday schedules and expectations. Please welcome Clare to The Engaged Home!

It’s your first Christmas together as a married couple, what could be sweeter? The joys of decorating your tree, curling up together and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” and strolling the streets admiring neighbors’ twinkle lights… or, not.

The truth is, in a typical year the holidays bring a stream of parties, mania, travel, and seemingly endless errands, but your first Christmas with your in-laws can induce a MAJOR stress attack… if you let it.

First, it means you’re leaving your own traditions behind.

Secondly, there’s the fact that you’re entering someone else’s family traditions. They may even have differing spiritual beliefs.

Finally, you have to exchange presents with people you don’t necessarily know very well and who don’t really know you. It’s like “Meet the Parents” with a gift exchange scene added in for good measure.

Here are some tips on how to avoid a total stress attack and enjoy yourself this Christmas:

Get Educated.

If you haven’t spent holidays or overnights with your in-laws before, take some time to get educated on their “way of doing things”. There are no rights and wrongs, but every family and household has their own way of functioning. Ask leading questions of your spouse ahead of time. They can be as simple as “We always had a big breakfast on Christmas morning before we opened gifts in our pajamas and then dressed for church, what about you?” This is more likely to elicit a response with information like “Church? We don’t go to church really. And actually, my sister’s kids start opening gifts before the sun is up.” The more you know what to expect the more comfortable you’ll be.

Get on the same page about gifts.

There is NOTHING more stressful than the first time you need to purchase presents for your in-laws. The truth is, gift exchanges are different in every family: for some large and lavish is the norm, while for others modest gift giving is the norm. Some families are open and clear about the “rules” of gifting, while others aren’t aware of where they fall in the spectrum. Before you start your shopping, ask your partner what he or she received and gave as gifts the year before. It will likely be telling. Assess who you are really buying for and think outside the box, Putting the effort in now will pave the way to the family understanding that to you the thought counts. You’re not alone, the Mother-In-Law needn’t be an enigma, you can find ideas on unique presents for her from If there are children involved, like nieces and nephews, consult with their parents.

Keep Your Emotions in Check

If you tend to wear your emotions for the world to see,  remember to fix your face before you open a present, or eat something you’ve never tried before. You may not like what’s on the other end of the experience, but try not to visibly offend anyone on this first holiday. Remember that different doesn’t mean wrong. Strive to appreciate the traditions of your in-laws. Forging a positive relationship with them will bless your marriage and family for many years. 

Remember Christmas is a time of love, peace and Goodwill to All Men.. even the In-Laws!