How to Talk About Problems in a Marriage Involving the In-laws and Blended Family Situations
The door to disunity opens from the inside. No mother-in-law, father-in-law, stepchild (I loathe that term), or outside member of the family has the power to destroy a marriage. These participants only act upon the power that the husband and wife give to them.
That said, how should a couple communicate their way through blended family scenarios, problems with in-laws, and troubles involving people that are outside of the marriage equation? Here are four pillars that must be in place if you and your spouse are going to effectively communicate or talk your way through these issues.
Talk about Issues in a Safe Setting
In our marriage book, we discuss in detail the importance of talking about matters in the context of what I call a safety fence. The planks that make up this safety fence include talking without raising your voice, avoiding name-calling and belittling, staying in a problem solving mode, and staying away from the use of sarcastic statements. To learn more about this safety fence, refer to chapter 10 in our marriage book which is available in paperback or kindle format.
Draw Verbal Boundaries
When talking about a matter involving in-laws, blended family scenarios, finances, et cetera, it is vital that the husband and wife decide beforehand how they are going to act and react in certain scenarios. They should discuss reasonable limits, expectations, and how to practically handle certain matters. Once this occurs, they should both draw what I call verbal boundaries.
Move in the We Instead of the Me
Though many couples follow steps one and two, many fail because they leave a conversation with their spouse in the me instead of the we.
My dad taught me a long time ago that their is much more power in the we instead of the me. That is, when dealing with in-laws, custody issues, and ex-husbands and wives, it is important to have what I call a united front.
So, instead of saying, “I think” or “He/She said”, I would recommend that you start using the word we much more often. You will find that you will be sending out the message that you are an inseparable pair, and people will be less prone to take jabs if they feel there is a stronger bond between you and your spouse.
Unfortunately, with some family members, once they draw the blood of disunity, they will continue to attack. Therefore, it is vital that they see the both of your as a pair rather than two individuals.
Confer with the Other Before Moving the Boundary Line
Winston Churchill said, “When the facts change, so do I.”
When dealing with life’s issues, it is sometimes necessary to adjust to the situation at hand. When this occurs, I highly recommend that you confer with your spouse. If not, it will cause them to feel that your conversations about important issues are meaningless.
For some reason, there are people around you that will take great delight in separating your marriage bond. The interesting thing is that if you withstand their test, you will probably be the first ones they come to for help when they have an issue.
Nevertheless, beware of those that take an almost visceral satisfaction out of seeing you and your spouse in a state of disunity. However, do not just be wary, but be prepared with the above mentioned steps.