Dreading the visit was worse than the visit itself. My in-laws came for their annual visit and stayed for two-and-a-half days on their way to another destination. We see them at least once or twice a year, despite their living thousands of miles away. They make it a point to visit their outlying children each year. I appreciate this demonstration of dedication to their family, but it can still be stressful.
Let’s be honest here. They have made no bones about criticizing my husband I for many things that we do/don’t do or ways that we think differently. They seldom say anything to me, but they can be rather confrontational at times with my husband, so he gets a bit up-tight when they visit. I had a million things I need to do and lamented the need to delay all those things for their visit.
When they come to see us, I think about all the things that I long for in this relationship that are missing
- respect for my job;
- respect for my spiritual beliefs;
- appreciation for me as their son’s wife;
- appreciation that their son is happy;
- the closeness of shared loved ones;
- appreciation for my children/their grandchildren;
- respect for how hard I work at home, at my day job, and in my personal business; and
- appreciation for my staunch beliefs in civil, gay, and animal rights.
Seeing what’s lacking, I got sad and distressed at the thought of their visit. I had to remind myself that I don’t need my in-laws’ approval or understanding (even if it would have been nice). I feel it’s my job to support my husband through their visit by not making it more stressful, which I think I did in the past when I wanted more from my relationship with them. Through the years, we’ve finally set up a game plan which works. I decided which meals I will cook and which ones we will eat out. I ran most of my weekend errands, so long as I spent family time later in the day. While the family played cards and chatted at the dining room table, I was often nearby cooking or doing laundry. This way, I was near but had my own tasks to do. This strategy package has been the best so far.
Some years it was difficult to maintain a congenial conversation. Having seen what was not in common, I decided to strive to find what we have in common. Although we are different in many ways, I tried to find and build upon areas where we are alike. So we talked about making food from wholesome ingredients for long-term health. We discussed things like how to get the seeds out of tomatoes for homemade tomato soup and making homemade yogurt. These are things I never would have tackled in the past but did in the past year. My mother-in-law told me about her experiences, specialized equipment, and other helpful hints. We talked about my husband’s younger years, and schooling of several generations of family members.
All in all, it was a good visit and not near as stressful as I thought it would be. Building upon common ground wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be, either. I’m more comfortable in my own skin now and less concerned about getting approval for what I do, which has been considerably freeing. Whew!