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Improving your relationship with your in-laws

Daily Staff Report

Dear Neil: I have a serious problem and can’t seem to find a solution. My husband’s family openly hates me. There are many times I have felt insulted and unappreciated, and my husband doesn’t seem to realize that I am being treated so badly. His family and I don’t have any kind of communication. It just seems that, to them, I don’t exist. I need advice of how to make my relationship with them better.-Hurt and RejectedDear Hurt and Rejected: Your husband has to demonstrate to his own family that he values you and is attached to you, and that he wants them to value and accept you as well. That is a crucial first step. Do the reaching out yourself with his family. Don’t wait for them to invite you into a conversation, or to ask you about how things are going. Ask them first, and invite them into conversations with you. It may be that your in-laws are just shy, or socially awkward, and need to be drawn out in order for them to feel comfortable you. You could also tell your in-laws that you don’t feel accepted by them, and ask them if you’ve done anything to offend them or push them away. If they say yes, listen to their explanation without attempting to defend yourself. You’re interested in righting a perceived wrong, not in proving yourself right. Then ask what you can do in order to right the wrong, so that they can let go of the past. You can also tell them that you want a relationship with them, and you desire their acceptance. Finally, let your husband know you need his support, help, assistance and encouragement in order to be accepted by his family, and that you want for him to actively assist you and his family in accepting each other and getting along more harmoniously. He may not grasp how rejected you feel, and may not understand that you need his assistance. Sit him down, let him into your feelings and then ask for his help and support.There’s no question that rejecting, critical in-laws can ruin a marriage, and that an unsupportive spouse can add fuel to the fire. Dear Neil: I am writing in response to your column on defensiveness. In the case of an extremely defensive intimate partner, you suggested that one way of addressing such a person is to make gentle requests while bypassing all judgment, criticism, expressions of irritation and blame. The problem with your suggested approach is that it is very hard to believe that negative actions won’t be repeated in the future. To avoid every possibility of potential criticism (and anything can be interpreted as criticism) requires super-human strength. Surely that can’t be the basis of a healthy adult relationship.-Irritated in New ZealandDear New Zealand: You and I would agree that it would be far better to have open, reciprocal, two-way conversations about anything that bothers either of you. But if an intimate partner can’t hear your concerns without getting defensive, angry, attacking or withdrawn, then perhaps the approach I suggested would be better than nothing. Yes?Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Denver and Boulder, Colo., specializing in how people strengthen their intimate relationships. He can be reached at (303) 758-8777, or e-mail him from his website http://www.heartrelationships.comVail, Colorado


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