Archive for ‘Marriage’

March 10, 2014

Poor Jack: forgot to ask

Contributed by Charles Woehr

You still can’t believe it – how could people be so careless? What were they thinking? Or better: why weren’t they thinking? And now, the damage is done…too late to change their minds, too late to make last minute adjustments, the only thing left is their posthumous cry: “OH, NO!!”

It didn’t have to happen that way. A little more planning, a bit more investigating …things would have turned out differently. We have the benefit of learning from the mistakes of others, without having to go through their pain or loss. Let’s take a closer look at one of those stories and see what we can learn that will make us wiser (than them) in the choices we make.

Poor Jack. It all started with a live pine tree from a Christmas long ago, which had later been replanted in the space between the house and the swing set in the backyard. Now, years later, it was taller than the house and no longer appreciated. Jack decided to cut it down. He could have called for tree removal service but preferred to save money and do it himself; after all, he thought, he had a chain saw, a pair of gloves, and a good head on his shoulders. What more could he need? The day for action came, and he stood by the tree going over his plan: goggles, gloves, chainsaw, a couple of nicely placed cuts, and one tree down (should drop right between the house and the swing set). Everything was going just fine until he noticed that the tree was starting to fall in the wrong direction… against the house! End result: broken roof, wall, windows, and having to call the tree service anyway (not to mention his neighbor who caught it on video and posted it on the internet). What went wrong? Jack made a wrong guess about where to place the cut that would cause the tree to fall in the right place. He could have consulted an expert, over this detail, and saved himself a lot of trouble.

That kind of thinking carries over into other areas of our lives. For example: you want to have a strong and healthy family. You may think you have all the elements to make it happen: a husband, a wife, and three little children. But do you have all the knowledge you need to make this family nucleus into a strong and healthy one? Are you ready to be a good role model? Do you know how to meet the needs of your spouse? What about disciplining children? What are the most important things to teach your children? What boundaries should a healthy family have? How do you know if you are being successful?

Remember poor Jack: he forgot to seek out an expert in tree cutting. So, if your goal is to have a strong and healthy family, you need to seek an expert on the subject. Family Bridges is a great choice for getting sound and practical advice for making your family a strong and healthy one. With a wide variety of workshops, trainings and lots of helpful materials, Family Bridges has been successfully educating couples and families for years. Remember, you are not alone in your project – you don’t have to guess what to do to get things to fall into place. Contact Family Bridges and let these family experts give you great advice on how to get the job done.

February 16, 2014

Hold on to Love

Contributed by Eva Fleming

EVERLASTINGLOVEChildren are full of hope. Every day I hear mine talk about how great their future houses, families, and careers will be. In turn, I kindle their hope by telling them that they have the power to make it so. I encourage them because I know that hope is a life sustaining force. It is like oxygen; essential to a good life. Unbeknownst to them, I cherish a big hope for them too: I hope they have everlasting love.

As a child, you were probably like my kids believing that tomorrow held a great promise. We start out with such great hopes but life hits us hard so we begin to write off love and lose hope in marriage and relationships altogether. If you’ve had a relationship that ended in a break up, or you saw how your parents ended up getting a divorce after 20 years of marriage, you may have become a skeptic. It isn’t hard to lose hope in love, when in addition to your own past failures, all you hear are your friends constantly talking about their unhappy relationships. You start piling up the reasons why it could never be and end up envisioning a society without love; children who survive without the support of their parents; life without people that bring you support. If this is how you have been feeling lately, I ask you to go back to the hopes of your youth and imagine a world where family units continue to keep the fiber of society strong; a society where children can count on their parents, and where husbands and wives love and respect each other. Imagine a society where your talents and virtues are appreciated and wanted and envision what would happen if all your friends got infused with that much hope!

 “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane,” Said Red from the movie The Shawshank Redemption. Red was right, hope is dangerous, but it is also wonderful. It is better to be insane than to be bitter and full of regret because we refuse to pursue love. When I talk about hope and the power of love, I’m not talking about wishing upon a star or the exercise of positive thinking. I’m talking about the kind of hope that fuels our daily living so we can change the course of our lives.  Since my children’s minds go so easily to the future, I use that as fuel to encourage them to study hard, never miss school, practice their instruments, and exercise.  I tell them that hope has legs and getting through all these small, menial and daily tasks is how their wonderful future will begin to unfold. What about you? What small, menial, daily tasks can you incorporate in your daily routine to nourish hope? Is it physical exercise and healthy eating for a healthier you? Is it having a studying and reading time for a well-educated you? Is it service time for a more generous you? Do what you must but don’t give up on love, friendship, and family only because you don’t want to be driven insane by the winds of hope.

Love and hope are not tied up to a romantic relationship. You can be single and still cherish life, love and family. It is possible to be single without being alone. Hopeful singles don’t poison their emotional well being with crushed hopes and dashed dreams.  Hopeful singles are not stuck in the failures of their past. Hopeful and happy singles have taken charge of their reality and given up all envy to pursue optimism while still holding on to love. They have learned to be good stewards and refuse to live selfishly to fulfill only their own desires. They foster meaningful friendships and become part of a community. And when they are ready for a relationship, they engage in it with hope.

So whether you are a single person with many past hurts or a married person that has lost hope in their relationship, learn to rise above the failures of your past. Stop dwelling. Dwelling is the absolute opposite of hoping. Hope is rooted in your relationship with the future; dwelling focuses your thoughts in the past. Thinking about past things that could have been good or bad, rarely, if ever, compel one to act. Instead, continue to develop strategies that will help you move forward, learn to plan for difficulties, setbacks, and disappointments and give love, friendship and family another try. You can become part of the group of dreamers that work to rebuild a society that still holds on to hope. Hope has renewed my relationship with my husband during the last 22 years over and over again and hope is what I give to my children so they too can pursue everlasting love.

January 29, 2014

The War on Poverty

Contributed by Alicia E. La Hoz, Psy.D.

IStock_HispanicFamily22When I grow up, I will meet a girl I want, get married and have three children.”  Our four-year old child has a clear picture of what marriage is and already envisions that he too will be married.  Unfortunately this is not the case for many other Hispanic children born today. According to Child Trends, among women under 30, 53% of births occur outside of marriage, of which 65% are born to Hispanic mothers.  Thus, many of the children born today will not have a schema or internal framework of what marriage is. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, much attention has been drawn to marriage as one of the social indicators that holds promise for addressing poverty. Social science studies have clearly demonstrated that two-parent family homes lead to more economic stability and mobility while single parent family homes are more at risk for poverty.

Since the 1970s, the Hispanic community has grown 300%, now comprising 21% of the U.S. population under the age of 25. The impact of this expansion is reflected in the marketplace as Hispanics controlled $978 billion in spending power during 2009[1] and are expected to account for 74 percent of the increase in the nation’s labor force from 2010 to 2020.[2]   Nevertheless, this exponential growth is not without challenges to the family, education, poverty, mental health and immigration. For example, of the 6.1 million U.S. children living in poverty in 2010, 37.3 percent were Hispanic, as compared to 30.5 percent  white, and 26.6 black. [3] While the percentage of births outside of marriage increased for all ethnic groups, there is variability by race and ethnicity. Latinos and Whites account for the highest proportion of births outside of marriage, 65% Latinos and 61% Whites in comparison to 30% Blacks. In 1990, according to Child Trends, 37% of births to Latino women were non-marital in comparison to 53% in 2009.[4] Thus, the out-of-wedlock birth rate among Hispanics remains among the highest of all population groups.

 The trend is troubling since Hispanics have historically held a positive outlook on marriage and family life, emphasizing values within the traditional family. Economic strains, social isolation, immigration stress, barriers to marriage, and shifts to cultural norms have challenged the traditional family structure held closely by Hispanics. Hispanics have overcome the challenges faced through a strong work ethic, dependence on faith, and reliance on strong family values. The strong family values leading to the formation and sustenance of intact families that would otherwise protect children and their families from the ills of poverty are eroding.

 It is essential for the economic wellbeing of the country that anti-poverty policies be promoted not only by government-led initiatives but they encompass a community based approach that leverages the private sector, collaborates with the faith-based leaders, and is embraced by the community.  The problem is multi-faceted and the answers also need to be comprehensive in nature.  Promoting healthy marriage and fatherhood education programs, along with other social service programs such as job readiness and asset development, holds some promise as an effective intervention in reversing the current trends.  The Supporting Healthy Marriage Program Evaluation study of the Healthy Marriage Programs criticized by opponents of marriage and fatherhood programs had stronger effects for Hispanic and for more distressed couples.  These findings align with the local outcome studies of comprehensive programs implemented across the nation.  For example, Family Bridges, one of the largest federally-sponsored programs in the Midwest serving approximately 10,000 low-income (<100% of the federal poverty level) individuals, couples and families annually, of which 68% are Hispanics, has found in follow-up studies of low-income couples who engaged in the marriage education workshops large gains in parenting skills and a dramatic reduction in stress. In addition, follow-up outcomes conducted of those participants indicated that one-third of those relying on public aid when they took the workshops no longer needed that help two years after they completed the program.

Why have these programs worked for the Hispanic participants served by Family Bridges? Qualitative studies of interviews conducted with graduates of healthy marriage programs suggest at least three dynamics that influence change: (1) self-awareness brought about in the context of a trusting relationship; (2) a decision to change; (3) available resources that provide the needed guidance for the change process to occur. Participants served by Family Bridges either are dealing with generational or situational poverty. Generational poverty defined as having been in poverty for two generations or more is perpetuated by a cycle of hopelessness due to educational, parental and spiritual poverty. Without the hope and belief that life can be better, the motivation and energy to break the cycle is very low.  Couples and participants attending our programs gain a sense of hope as they witness others in similar distressful circumstances pull out and move forward. A renewed sense of hope, coupled with social and community supports and the needed resources, propels couples and individuals towards entering the change process.

Unless the marriage trend changes, our four-year-old will most likely enter into the school system with other Hispanic children who will not be raised with the benefits of a two-parent household. Other Hispanic children he befriends will most likely be at risk to be high school dropouts, to be teen parents, or to enter the juvenile system. These are the trajectories leading to poverty. Indeed, the marriage agenda is one of many interventions that, when implemented within a comprehensive community model, provides needed wrap-around and supportive services such as job skill development and is a promising practice for minorities as it draws on inherent cultural values that are appreciated and endorsed by many Hispanics.

[1] Selig Center for Economic Growth, Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, July 2009.

[2] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

[3] Pew Hispanic Center, Childhood Poverty Among Hispanics Sets Record, September 2011.

[4] CDC/National Center for Health Statistics.
January 20, 2014

Woodpecker Syndrome: How Not To Talk To Your Spouse

by Nadia Persun, Ph.D.

urlRemember the saying “Don’t go to bed angry”? Well, yesterday I did just that. While he did not come to bed at all. Falling asleep was an effort. My body was charged by adrenaline and my brain busily counted reasons why during our argument I was right. I was determined to regroup overnight and progress our wicked discussion until his proclamation of defeat. Letting go felt like a sign of neglect.

In the morning I woke up hollow eyed and drained. My anger was no longer intense but wobbly. But it did not go away completely, making it tempting to give him another run on the ways he had wronged me the day before. Just one more time, with greater resolve and firmness. But then again, he had a different take on things, was not ready to listen, shutting down and tuning me out. Charged with frustration, we did not speak for a few more hours. Lots of steam and fire and no resolve. Should I just try again? Maybe to make my point well requires just a tad more tenacity.

One partner keeps lecturing and persevering on his or her point, while the other one feels increasingly wary and disconnected. It is a toxic cycle that I see in many couples I counsel. So common that I named it: “Woodpecker Syndrome”. One partner is just not willing to give up, continuing toxic conversations and repeating rash lectures. It does not lead to any constructive dialogue, but a partner affected by the woodpecker syndrome perseveres, as if seeing some invisible “keep going” sign. She becomes a diligent and insensitive lecturer, making forceful monologues that drown in defensive silence. Nothing gets resolved, relationship deteriorates further. Both partners get exhausted and wary. This is a communication pattern of ever diminishing returns. Soon just the mentioning of “lets talk” makes one want to run or hide. A pattern of talking at someone, not to someone. It breeds disconnect and widens the relational rift. It does not matter how well intended the comments are, once they are delivered as a bullet point list of suggestions, as a stern monotone monologue with no intermissions. Such a way is doomed to just sink in silence and can’t serve any good purpose.

Loving well means telling it all and being persistent, if necessary, right? Not always. Sometimes you are wrong. And being wrong, angry, and stubborn is an annoying combination that never lets you to get through to anyone. A scavenger hunt of accusations will never lead to dialogue or connecting. Or sometimes it may be good advice delivered with bad timing. Person is not ready or capable of change at the moment. They need more support and empathy and less instructions. As said by Theodore Roosevelt, “Nobody knows how much you know, until they know how much you care.” For a change to take place, it has to be a good advice, delivered in an appropriate time, in a sensible manner.

A mixture of warped good intentions and self righteousness, charged by anger and repetition will never produce a way to communicate in a connecting way. Woodpeckers are persistent, critical and insistent on their point of view. Woodpeckers are prone to blame, don’t listen, keenly repeating things over, because someone’s reality dared to disagree with theirs. Their goal is not to communicate but to win at all costs, leading to compromised trust and loss of any hope of connecting and really hearing each other.

Once you turn into a woodpecker, you obsessively peck into someone’s skull, driving a pathway to their brain, insensibly ignoring the agony you may inflict. The other person gets pained, frustrated and defensive, trying to insulate themselves with silence. In turn, you feel like a tired driver wanting to get home but caught in thick traffic. You say more things, repeat them over, hoping for at least something to stick. But it feels like pressing the “scan” button on the car radio, trying to find some nice tunes but catching only static. With stress cells fully activated in both people, the situation only feels increasingly hopeless and agonizing.

Just stop talking. Take a hike, have a date with your TV friends, or take a bath and go to bed early. Rest, regroup, and then strategize. Try to seek a different approach, but please don’t quadruple your effort when something is not working. May be you are not going to get your way. Maybe not this time, or may be not ever on this specific matter. But then, perhaps you can love each other anyway? Or you may get through at some point, but not by pursuing things in such a destructive manner. If you recognize some patterns described here, just stop prodding and pecking. Or your heads will hurt and your relationship will get hollow.

December 30, 2013

Change Your Old Script for a New One

Contributed by Dr. Alicia La Hoz

scrabbleListen carefully to yourself and you will recognize a familiar script that seems to automatically roll off your tongue. Your spouse and children easily recognize this script. Instead of mobilizing them toward action, your words seem to touch off a trigger point, causing them to roll their eyes or to aggressively assert their point of view. You find yourself repeating yourself over and over again because people haven’t done what you have asked them to do.

Working with families and couples, I have heard variations of the same script; “I have to watch out for myself because no one else will”; “You are selfish”; “You don’t listen so I . . . “; “I have to do everything myself”.

We seem to carry these phrases around and launch them to our spouses or family members during stressful conversations, during moments of exhaustion or when things are not working out. Tension acts like a magnet during these situations, drawing out phrases that would be better left unsaid. These words keep the argument fresh in the mind of all parties involved, creating a toxic environment charged by negative emotions.

This phrases, or scripts, hide some of our most basic needs; the need to be loved, valued, recognized and respected. Instead of meeting these needs, however, they can keep you and your spouse stuck in a cycle of perpetual conflict.

You may keep falling back to this script because you are frustrated from not being listened to and at things not changing.  The reality is that each time you fall back on the same script, the opportunity to initiate change in behavior dissipates. As shown from past experience, your trusty script doesn’t inspire or motivate anyone to change.

I challenge you during 2014 to take on a new script. Get rid of the old script that you have nurtured over the years. You can do so by replacing your script with one of forgiveness and grace. Start with, “I am sorry”; “I am thankful for who you are in my life and all you do for us”, “let’s try to work things out”, “How can I support you in all of this?” It is time to recognize that the old script only leads down the trail of bitterness and resentment and has no resolution in sight. Choose to adopt a script that empowers, engages, and forgives. As you recognize and validate others, your ability to listen and connect with others will improve. You will model an attitude that shakes away the bitterness and embraces love and grace.

This New Year, start with a clean slate and become a source of inspiration and motivation to those you love. Become a cheerleader and champion for the dreams of your friends and family and nurture their gifts along the way. As you focus on raising others up, you will transform your home into a place of cultivation rather than destruction, of renewal rather than exhaustion.

December 2, 2013

Men, Count Your Blessings: You Could Have Been Working Moms!

Contributed by Dr. Charles Woehr 

iStock_000022688993XSmallOkay, if you are still reading this (after checking out the title) I owe you an explanation. Let me say, right from the start, that I greatly admire working moms. And men, there are some important truths that we can learn from their example. The main point is that all of us need to realize the importance of learning to count our blessings.

We are living in challenging economic times. Many are having a hard time finding enough work to pay their bills. Even people who were retired have been going back to work. As we approach the end of the calendar year, with the Thanksgiving holiday just ending, Christmas and New Year’s coming soon, we are invited to reflect on the good things that we do have… the blessings. The phrase “count your blessings” is an invitation to dwell on the good rather than the bad that has touched our lives.

This is where “working moms” come into the picture I am describing. There’s a world of meaning in those two words when they come together. For some reason, the similar combination “working dads” doesn’t come close in comparison. I am neither belittling the hard work dads contribute to provide for and protect their families, nor accusing dads of somehow sloughing off their duties toward their families. I am simply interested in pointing out the fact that working moms go way above and beyond the call of duty.

Motherhood, in itself, is a fulltime job. I include here the care for the children (physical, emotional, material, and educational), their home environment (household needs), and more [I will stop listing further tasks lest I cause embarrassment to some of us men]. Now, consider the term “working,” which usually means that same woman leaves the home in order to take another job. Enough said. Now, men, do you understand my meaning when I stated in the title, men should count their blessings?

The point to be made, along with admiration for working women, is that all of us have something to be thankful for; blessings to count. A working mom has: her children, her family, her home, her husband, and a job (remember these are difficult times to find work). Dads, we have many blessings, too: a wife and family, a home, a job (or that of our wife’s), health, and we all live relatively peaceful lives. So, in this season’s holidays, why not gather the family members and take turns counting your blessings? You will be surprised at how long the list will be. And remember to give an extra hug to your working moms!

November 18, 2013

Why You Should Not Teach Your Kids to Be Thankful

Contributed by Dr. Alicia La Hoz, PsyD  

530_X_DSC04772_thankfulCriticism, being judgmental and fault finding are all too often what prevails in the snippets of communication that occurs in many homes. Parents are often preoccupied with what should happen, what should have been said or on how much better things could have been done. This type of every day nagging tends to be awfully sour and demanding. It is human nature, after all, to find the speck in another’s eye, than to see what is on our own eye. We are consumed by the never ending demands of life, the ever-growing to-do-lists, the unfulfilled obligations waiting our attention – that there seems to be no room for being grateful for the responsibilities that are being fulfilled, for relationships that are thriving and for things that are generally going well. In a home, where parents are too busy with self-righteousness and where conversations have a critical and nagging tone, is it any wonder that children also assume an attitude of ingratitude? Could it be that children adopt an attitude that merely mirrors what they see day in and day out? If 365 days a year, parents are critical towards one another, forgetting to be thankful for even the small graces, should it really be surprising that our children often come across as entitled, that their words are often sprinkled with an air of self-righteousness?

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday which makes all of us to stop in our consumerism-driven journey to evaluate what we do have and simply express our gratitude. Part of the tradition is for us to pass on the holiday-inspired gratefulness to our children. How do we teach our children to be thankful, to count all of their blessings and to trade in the otherwise attitude of entitlement or self-righteousness tends to hover over them? Of course, we can list several ideas to teach children gratitude. For example, we can encourage them to name one thing they are thankful a day from now till thanksgiving before they go to bed. That simple gesture would certainly help in steering them away from self to helping them focus on others and how richly blessed they are.

Instead of teaching your kids to be thankful this Thanksgiving season, I encourage you to take the gratitude challenge. The gratitude challenge is more than a one-time action, but an attitude shift. Show grace to your spouse and to your child. Be less critical and judgmental of them and of others. Be less demanding and more accepting of them. Verbally recognize the little things they do for you. Praise and appreciate who they are and what they mean to you. By adopting an attitude of grace and thanksgiving in your own life, you will be modeling what thanksgiving really means. And in so doing, you can transform your life and that of your children so that you can have a lifestyle of thanksgiving that is beyond the one-day holiday.

October 17, 2013

No Marriage Shutdown

Contributed by Eva Fleming  

iStock_000008099278XSmallWe just came out of government shutdown. Lawmakers from both political parties persisted on talking past each other without actually talking to each other, creating a crisis for many Americans. The folks in government finally came to a temporary compromise and have ended the shutdown. What would happen if, in our marriages and families, we acted like politicians and decided that no matter what, we aren’t going to compromise? Our relationships would be pretty miserable, don’t you think?

In a marriage, we should try harder to make compromises that work for the whole family, as the ramifications of shutting down go past a temporary period of inactivity. A marriage shutdown will hurt your children and your well-being for many days to come.

Much like politicians, marriage partners can use selfish tactics to get their way without compromising by pushing and shoving and even bullying their way through. But all this pushing and shoving can be toxic for the marriage and consequently the family. A family cannot survive if there’s no tolerance and compromise in the marriage. A marriage is guaranteed to break down if the minute we can’t agree, we stop talking to each other. Our kids can’t thrive in a parental, antagonistic environment. In order for a marriage to survive its differences and for children to thrive, there must be an open dialogue where two people express themselves calmly in the midst of the storm.

We should be less like politicians and more like sailors. In a violent storm sailors learn to manage the force of the wind in order to move their vessel. They don’t shut down because they know if they do, they will drown! Life brings a variety of wind and sea conditions that, together with our partners, we need to learn to master if we want to get to shore.

In order to stay calm in the midst of this storm, we must exhibit selfless humility. Selfless humility ushers in grace and opens the door for intimacy. Intimacy is the opposite end result of a shutdown and it is essential for a healthy marriage. Antagonism, on the other hand, is what happens when we don’t work together. Antagonism’s end result is not intimacy, but regret and resentment. When we are acting antagonistic towards each other, the voices of difference cause our disagreements to escalate until we reach the point of becoming hurtful. When the winds have died down we are then left with the consequences of the unmanaged argument. At this point we have a choice to make:  We either shut down or give grace. If you have ever been the recipient of grace, you are more likely to freely give it because you have come to understand that grace is the ultimate expression of love. The more we walk in the garden of grace the more we smell like the scent of the flowers. In the same way, the more grace we give, the more likely we are to receive it.

So let’s exhibit an abnormal amount of empathy, deliberate humility and lavish grace in our disagreements. May our discourses from here on out be less antagonistic and much more tolerant; and may our marriages thrive on compromises that suit the whole family so we don’t have to resort to a shutdown.

October 16, 2013

The Marital Rollercoaster

Contributed by  Christian Zapata, LCSW

rollercoasterMarriage can be like a rollercoaster. You have your ups and your downs. Most couples can recall all those special moments they’ve shared and cherished. These moments continue to serve as steady reminders of the person with whom they fell in love. These special moments could be memories of their wedding day, long afternoon strolls around the neighborhood or the birth of a child. Life would be so much easier to deal with if only our relationships would not fall from these peak moments.

Rollercoasters are intentionally designed to go down – and fast. And unfortunately, life can do the same. At times, a relationship can plummet quickly after having had difficult argument and sometimes the relationship suffers a slight dip, but quickly ascends to a more pleasurable and healthy state. So what makes some couple’s relationships plummet and what makes other’s simply dip?

The short answer is that couples who seem to recover more quickly from disagreements or arguments, have developed healthy mutual communication skills and an ability to recognize where they may have messed up; leading to an apology. Communication and forgiveness seem to be two of the most basic aspects in a relationship, but at times, are two of the most overlooked elements.

Sadly, some couples may feel as though their marital rollercoaster is on a downward spiral that just doesn’t seem to ever bottom out. Yet, as our lives become busier and busier with work, soccer games and doctor’s appointments; it may just appear easier to forget about the argument and avoid talking through it because it is awkward or exhausting. Each problem that is avoided and swept under the rug can become more difficult to handle because the next argument will quickly escalate and complicated by the previous unresolved conflict.

Marriages have their ups and downs. It is up to each spouse within their relationship to decide how long they stay down and how long they stay up. Taking a proactive approach in a relationship by attending seminars, going to counseling or even reading marriage enrichment books can be excellent ways that couples can equip themselves with positive tools for better handling conflict in their relationship. In the difficult times, challenge yourself to remember those special moments, because what you may be experiencing now is just a moment. Your marriage is much bigger than this moment.

August 26, 2013

In-Law Drama

Contributed by Eva Fleming


The recent buzz in the news about the royal couple Kate and William and the birth of the new prince is making me think about the role of in-laws and grandparents in the lives of the regular, non-royal population.

The royals seem to get along great with all the members of their family. According to the rants of the obsessed media the Middleton’s are even building an addition to house the young couple and their child!  This causes me to wonder if their relationship is a direct result of their royal blood because if my in-laws ever offered to build an addition unto their house for my family, my answer would be, “thanks, but no thanks.”  However, upon further thought, I believe that the reason for this seemingly perfectly harmonious relationship is the result of adhering to royal protocol. The palace is full of do’s and don’ts, and I believe that incorporating some of this royal protocol into our relationships with our in-laws could help distill family drama.

It is important to observe how well the royals are able to establish boundaries in their relationships. These boundaries help create harmony between the new and the old families. Boundaries are imaginary lines that keep your property separate from that of your neighbor’s, or in this case, your life decisions and actions from your parents’ or spouse’s parents. You can be good neighbors but every neighbor has a good fence. Those fences will help you keep your sanity when someone wants to criticize your cooking, how you raise your child, or your taste in patio furniture. In essence, you are consistently communicating to your new family what you will and will not tolerate on your side of the fence.

The second thing you see in the royal couple is their devotion to one another. Their choice to marry was finalized at the wedding altar. In the same way, your family should also know that your choice has been made and you will not be put in a situation where you have to choose between your spouse and a family member. You can keep your royal attitude even when your in-laws are dysfunctional and manipulative. This might be harder than you think; something tells me that the Queen of England is hard to please. But you can learn to diplomatically stick with your choices and not let your parents or spouse’s parents criticize the one you love.

The third thing you want to do is genuinely get to know your new family and adapt to some of their traditions and customs as long as they are reasonable. Many times issues with our in-laws emerge as a general lack of decorum. If you show up sloppily dressed, drink one too many cocktails, are loud and obnoxious, or constantly criticize your host/hostesses, you are inviting antagonism and opposition. But if instead you show grace and good manners, say please and thank you, and follow up a visit with a thank you card or a brief phone call of appreciation, you are encouraging the growth of a cordial relationship.

To learn more about how to deal with your in-laws,  download the mobile gloo app here and check out Deal with It: In-Laws  (use invitation code 301f).


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