Caring for your In-Laws as They Age
Check out our new article in Masalamommas about caring for aging in-laws and parents:
Your Mind May Be Your Enemy: Learn to control your thoughts
Sometimes our worst enemy is our mind.
Many of us have automatic negative thoughts that we have difficulty controlling and that affects our emotions and interferes with our actions. Fortunately, if we’re mindful of these thoughts, we can correct them to be more accurate and rational. This stems from Cognitive behavioral therapy. Eventually having control over your thoughts will allow you to be more positive and happy.
The best way to start changing our thoughts and eventually our actions is by first monitoring our automatic negative thoughts. Below is an automatic thought log. It can be used for various situations, even with thoughts regarding in-laws. Spend some time throughout the day writing down your negative thoughts. At the end of the day complete the rest of the columns. And at the end of the week spend some time reading over your thought log. After monitoring for awhile, you won’t need the log anymore. Hopefully you will be able to catch the negative thought while it’s occurring and stop it immediately.
Remember, your automatic negative thoughts are influencing your emotions and your interactions with your in-laws (and any other situation). Take control over your mind.
Download the attachment below and use that as a guide for tracking your automatic thoughts.
Are Your In-Laws Affecting Your Mental Health?
Check out a new article on Masalamommas by South Asian In-Laws discussing mental health and in-law relationships. http://masalamommas.com/2013/04/10/in-laws-and-mental-health/
Affair Proof your Marriage
Many may think that affairs don’t happen in the South Asian community. As much as I wish that were true, it simply isn’t. It may be less talked about in our community due to the concepts of “saving face” and one’s behaviors reflecting upon the whole family. But affairs should be talked about so that we can learn how to prevent it from occurring.
I found this great article on Eight Ways to Affair-Proof Your Marriage. There isn’t a guarantee that these methods are fail proof but they are definitely worth a try. An affair doesn’t usually “just happen”; affairs are typically the result of an unhealthy marriage or an unhappy partner. Read the article and please share your thoughts.
Are you Breaking up your Spouse’s Family?
Are you breaking up your spouse’s family?
Despite our best efforts, we all need to accept that it’s normal to have misunderstandings and conflicts with family, including in-laws. There isn’t a “perfect” relationship out there. And when conflict arises, it’s completely understandable that you’d want to vent to your spouse, since he or she is almost certainly someone you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with. But like most things, there should be a limit to how far you go.
When the venting becomes bashing, it could cause some serious problems. It’s easy for many of us to get carried away with our emotions and sometimes even say things that we don’t really mean. That’s okay to do with a close friend, or a trusted family member, but when you go overboard with your spouse, you could be affecting his or her feelings and way of thinking towards his or her family.
Not only is it difficult for a person to hear “bad” things about his or her family, it may also unintentionally affect the relationship with his or her family. A husband, for example, may start to “side” with his wife and distance himself from his family. And if he knows that his wife doesn’t want to see his family at all, for example, he’s in the very difficult position of having to choose.
A better approach to dealing with any conflicts or negative feelings you may have is to try to resolve them as soon as possible so you don’t negatively affect family relationships. If resolving the conflict is not possible at this time (or ever), then make it a point to put the conflict aside, for the sake of family harmony. Don’t ignore your feelings; find a supportive friend or forum to express and deal with them the best you can. If you find yourself unable to forget about the issue and unable to face your spouse’s family, then encourage your spouse to spend time with his or her family alone. But take special care to do so without attaching any negative feelings or guilt to his or her visit. Your spouse will (or at least should) notice that you are being supportive and will appreciate you even more. And most importantly, he or she will be able to reflect on the issue years from now and have no resentment toward you because you handled the conflict maturely.
And let’s not forget about kids caught in the middle of family conflicts. Your negative statements or interactions with in-laws will influence your kids’ perception of them as well, whether you like it or not. Avoid being the daughter-in-law or son-in-law that keeps grandkids away from their grandparents because of your own negative feelings or current conflict with them (obviously if abuse is involved the situation needs to be handled differently so everyone is safe). Encourage your kids to spend time with your spouse’s family, even if they must do so without you. Make sure they understand that conflict happens from time to time, but that you are doing your best to resolve the situation as soon as possible. Above all, avoid characterizing your in-laws negatively in front of your children; your impressions and feelings are easily transferred, even unintentionally.
As you all know, family is a strong component of our South Asian culture. The goal is not to change who you are, but rather to focus on adjusting some of your behaviors and actions. As difficult as it may seem, it could profoundly benefit you and the rest of your family in the long run.
Could you be pulling your spouse and his family apart? How do you keep the family harmony?
In-Law Relationships: Complicated by Religious Differences?
Wrote an article for Masalamommas on in-law relationship and cultural/religious differences. Check it out at: http://masalamommas.com/2013/03/07/in-law-relationships-complicated-by-religious-differences/
A letter an ex son-in-law received from his ex in-laws
What do you think of this letter an ex son-in-law received from his ex parent-in-laws?
I think it’s a little harsh, especially if the son-in-law’s intentions were pure. Of course, we don’t know if they were, but I hope so.
The parent-in-laws appear to still have some negative feelings toward him. It’s also possible that it’s too painful for the parent-in-laws to see a card from their former son-in-law. If that’s the case, they could have expressed the feelings they have rather than the negative thoughts. Maybe they could have said, “it’s painful for us when we see a card from you. We would really appreciate it if you could stop sending us cards. It’s nice that you think of us but we aren’t comfortable with any communication.”
Would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to post.
8 Common Misconceptions about In-Laws
Your very own South Asian In-Laws writer is also writing for Masalamommas.com once a month. Check out the first article about Misconceptions about In-Laws:
Stealing shoes, demanding money, feeding mathai (sweets), exchanging gifts, and spending thousands of dollars on clothes and jewelry are just a few of MANY common wedding traditions in the South Asian culture. And even within the South Asian culture, there are differing traditions among Pakistanis, Indians, Bengalis, and even then within the smaller groups in those cultures (i.e. Gujratis, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Memons, Punjabis, etc).
As many new brides and grooms have learned, it is during wedding planning and all of the various events that these family traditions truly reveal themselves and sometimes become the source of conflict.
Weddings can and should be fun, but many couples suffer on the way to the wedding altar because the stress and conflict is too intense. And the tension isn’t limited to the couple; their families can suffer as well. To save yourself anger from unmet expectations or embarrassment from disappointing your in-laws, it’s always better to talk about these expectations (as long as they are realistic) in a clear and, preferably, a direct manner.
The in-law relationship is a delicate one, especially pre-marriage, so tread lightly when you approach the wedding conversation. Also, be mindful that, because nearly everyone involved is trying to save face (a common aspect of South Asian culture), you may not always know if your in-laws have money issues or are simply unable to deliver on specific requests. Understand that it takes a lot of humility for a South Asian (and many others, for that matter) to admit that they can’t afford an extravagant wedding or the “best” of everything. With that in mind, my personal belief is that if you yourself can’t afford it, then skip it.
Here are some additional tips when talking weddings with your in-laws:
1. Examine your own expectations and your family’s expectations. Are they realistic? Are you going to be disappointed if you don’t receive something in particular from your in-laws? If your expectations aren’t met, will it interfere with the health of the relationship?
2. Explore what you can afford. It never benefits anyone to live outside of their financial means. Try not take any loans out, even if it’s your only daughter’s wedding. Once you understand your own finances, you’ll better understand what you can and can’t afford during the wedding process.
3. Set up a meeting with your in-laws to discuss your expectations and traditions. Let them know directly that the purpose of the meeting is to avoid any unnecessary misunderstandings. You may want to say: “Our relationship with your family is very important to us. We want to avoid misunderstandings by talking directly with you. Please tell us about your expectations for this upcoming wedding, and the specific traditions your family follows.” Listen with an open mind. Your in-laws may be inclined to deny that they have any expectations, but realistically they most likely do. With a little insistence, you should be able to get them to open up. If that doesn’t work, then be sure to take a moment and express your own expectations. And if you have no expectations, then be sure to cover your family’s specific traditions. Here’s an example from my wedding: The day after I got married, my parents sent my girlfriends with breakfast to my in-laws’ home, and my husband’s close friends picked us up and took us there home so we could all enjoy breakfast together. This tradition, which was specific to my family, had to be discussed prior to the wedding with my in-laws because it was not part of their culture, even though we are both Pakistani. By communicating this beforehand, we were able to satisfy both sets of expectations.
4. When it comes to wedding traditions (aka Rasms), be clear. When will the groom’s shoes be stolen? How much money will the girls demand from the groom to get his shoes back? You don’t want the groom to be sitting there with only $100 in his pocket when the bride’s side is demanding $5000. You’ll find that, the more of these “Rasms” that can be talked about and negotiated prior to the event, the smoother everything will go and the happier both sides will be.
5. Avoid putting the soon-to-be married couple in the middle of any conflict that does arise between families. You can involve them in the discussion of expectations and traditions but try to avoid saying something like “Son, your fiance’s parents better give me a gold necklace as a gift,” because all that will do is add unneeded tension between the couple.
6. The bottom line for all parties involved in the wedding is to maintain as much respect as possible. Remember the main purpose of your wedding is marriage, not the the events leading up to it.
What wedding traditions and expectations do you or your families have? Have any of you talked directly to in-laws about traditions? Have any of you been caught in conflict related to wedding expectations? Feel free to post here or in the forum.
Maintaining a relationship with in-laws after spouse’s passing
I recently came upon this advice column in which a woman asked about maintaining a relationship with her in-laws after her spouse passed away. The advice columnist gave her a great answer. The woman has kids, which are her in-laws’ grandchildren. It would be sad to not allow her kids to have a relationship with them, for both the kids and for the in-laws. If the in-laws were abusive, then the woman has every right to disconnect from them but in this situation they aren’t. And as most of you are from the South Asian culture and/or a collectivistic culture, you can understand that cutting of the relationship would be considered disrespectful and moreover, hurtful, since a large emphasis is placed on family relationships.
If the woman had no kids, then it would be okay to consider disconnecting from the in-laws if she desired. Although ideally, the woman and her in-laws would provide each other support through the bereavement process since they both lost the same loved one. Another consideration is that it may be painful for the woman to see her in-laws since they could be a reminder of what she lost.
What do you think? The original article is below (obtained from: http://seattletimes.com/html/living/2019809669_hax07.html):
DEAR CAROLYN: Do I owe it to my kids to keep in touch with their grandparents (my in-laws) after the death of my husband?
My husband died in a car accident last year and we have still not completely recovered from the shock, although we are doing much better. We have a lot of support from family, community and friends. We are fortunate also to be financially secure.
My husband’s parents, who live a half-hour away, wish to continue keeping in touch with me and the kids. I have never really liked them and only dealt with them out of respect to my husband. Now that he is no longer with us, I would like to cut off the relationship.
They are nice, loving people. I just don’t see eye to eye with their values and judgments. To pretend to be nice to them is too much for me at this time.
My kids are 10 and 12 and like them enough but don’t seem to ask to see them either.
DEAR ANONYMOUS:You make no mention of what you owe your in-laws, but, wow: They lost their child just as shockingly as you lost your husband.
You also imply you have sufficient support not to need them, double wow.
While I sympathize deeply with all you have faced — your loss, your impulse to streamline your emotional commitments, your frustration with your in-laws — none of these justifies denying “nice, loving people” their grandchildren.
Please imagine yourself in their position long enough and often enough to see you through this emotional errand, even if it’s only to drop your kids off for lunch with your in-laws once in a while.
Decency doesn’t just demand it; it absolutely insists.
Update for Readers
Hi SAIL readers,
I wanted to let you know that I will be going on vacation for a couple of weeks. During that time I won’t be posting updates on FB, Twitter (@desiinlaws), or on this site. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond soon after returning and/or keep posting on this site. I hope all of you continue your efforts toward improving in-law relationships. Take Care and remember you’re stronger than you think!
In-Laws and Politics
With the elections in America coming to a close, I thought it would be fitting to discuss the challenges that can arise when we have different political views from our in-laws. As I’m sure many of you can attest, it’s not totally uncommon, especially with older in-laws. And, as with any political difference, conflict can result.
Check out the blog post I saw on thenest.com:
In-Laws, Religion and Politics, Oh My!
Our friends have wildly different beliefs than us, and we’re okay with that. But why does it feel different when it’s family?
Jack and I just enjoyed a lovely weekend with his parents.* The ‘rents, as I have mentioned before, are VERY religious. Jack and I are not. They are also very conservative. Jack and I are not. Needless to say, as much as Jack and I both love his parents, visiting them usually makes for some tense moments. Luckily, they’ve stopped inviting us to church (or attempting to engage us in convos about Rush Limbaugh’s awesomeness). But still, the difference in values can really bug us. It comes up way more than you would think, even though Jack and I tend to keep our views to ourselves (a topic that these TheNest.com users debated recently).
But check it out: During our recent visit, we spent an afternoon with one of Jack’s oldest friends and her husband. They’re awesome people, and I always love seeing them. We’ve had some heavy conversations with them (think: politics, religion…even abortion). In most (not all) cases, we had opposing views. But it didn’t bother either party. In fact, all four of us agreed that it was one of the best conversations we could remember having. Jack said it was cool to get to go back and forth with people who totally disagree with us, but who made such compelling and articulate arguments. We really got to see where they were coming from — not that they changed our minds about anything (or even tried to).
So here’s my question: Why can’t I have this kind of empathy and patience for my in-laws’ views? I wish that I could bring that level of tolerance and respect into the conversations I have with them, but I’m SO not there yet. The best I can do is get up and go for a nice, long walk when one of them says something I find asinine. Do you guys have this problem?
My guess is that Holly’s in-laws approach political and religious conversations a little differently than her friends. It’s very possible her in-laws approach the subject from a biased and judgmental perspective, as we often do when talking about controversial topics. Regardless of the reasons why she feels impatient or a lack of empathy, Holly is utilizing a useful technique in handling heated discussions: walking away or choosing not to participate.
Walking away or avoiding the topic are good choices if you can’t emotionally handle the conversation or it makes you feel uncomfortable. Make sure you do it respectfully and consider verbalizing that you prefer to avoid these controversial topics. Maybe even think about setting “rules” for family dinners at the beginning. Consider saying “tonight lets avoid talking about any politics. Lets just catch up on each others’ lives.”
This should be a given, but keep your temper in check. It’s easy to get carried away when you have strongly held beliefs that others don’t agree with. Remind yourself that these are your in-laws, and your relationship with them is important.
If you are able to maturely handle a hot-topic conversation or debate, try to spend a some time finding similarities. Similarity and common ground builds trust.
Lastly, people are passionate about their political views because that’s what they believe is “right” or what would be “best” for the country. And that includes what’s “best” for you. So even if we disagree with each others’ views, we can at the very least acknowledge that each family member and friend is coming from a good place with good intentions. This may help decrease some frustration.
How would you handle political conflict with in-laws? Have you had heated political debates with in-laws or family members?