Part Two of questions left over from my online chat, “What’s a Good Relationship?” (July16):
I think my fiancé and I are very well matched – we have the same level of education, good jobs, and we both want to have children. The part I’m unsure about is family background.
His parents are divorced and both are sort of cold – they never hug him or me. We only go to see his father and step-Mom on scheduled visits at Christmas, Easter, and once in summer, though he lives only two hours away.
His mother, who lives alone, never arranges visits with us, she expects us to call her first and make the plans (though we live in the same city).
My parents, by contrast, are very warm, and interested in seeing us a lot. My fiancé finds that many visits, and their questions about our plans, too intrusive.
Can this difference ruin our good relationship?
Different Family Backgrounds
Yes, in-law issues, which can cause arguments and feeling caught between loyalties, can harm your relationship… if you let it.
You both have to respect each other’s parents’ rights to their own general dispositions, and also respect each other’s connections to the people who raised you.
BUT you must also develop an agreed view on how you define your unified response to these in-laws.
Then you need to demonstrate to them your own style together – e.g. by being as warm to his parents as suits you both, you may be surprised by their reaction, especially if and when grandchildren are on the scene.
With your parents, you need to set agreed and appropriate limits, both on their involvement with you and their rights to your information, as a couple.
Once you stop seeing each other’s backgrounds as being potentially divisive, and start creating a unified approach to family, your relationship will strengthen.
I think I know what’s a good relationship, but I find these years of raising children is really more about keeping it all together. My husband works hard and also travels for his job.
I work part-time from home and drive kids to school and activities, plus have one child still at home half-days.
We can only get to have a “date night” when there’s no children’s sports or music event, my husband’s in town, and enough in the budget for a babysitter as well as the night out.
Even then, we sometimes just fall asleep when we get back home, because there’s no energy left for sex and hockey practice is early the next morning. I’d say we’re mostly a “good team.” But is that enough to keep us together long-term?
Yes, being a team is important bonding, because you are both “keeping it together.”
That doesn’t mean that you can’t switch up the routine sometimes to add spice and excitement for all.
A weekend camping trip for the whole family - even if it means missing one or two of the kids’ activities – means added fun, learning new skills, and creating special memories.
For you two, allowing children to have occasional sleepovers somewhere trusted while you two have a full night alone, and/or meeting your husband out of town (if grandparents can babysit), re-energies the relationship part of your “team.”
Even a family project like everyone reading a new book in a week and talking about it, can bring new interest to the dinner table, beyond the routine of seeing who’s eating their veggies.
I plan things precisely, know what I’m doing, when and where. My husband likes to do things on impulse, or else let the day just happen.
When I get busy arranging details, he gets sarcastic and difficult; nothing I’ve planned meets his approval.
But I have to admit that, when I occasionally just let things happen his way, we often end up having a lot of fun.
Do I have to change my way completely? Isn’t compromising the better way to have a good relationship?
It’s good that you found that his way is fun, not so good that he puts you down when you plan.
Perhaps you were over-planning, which made him feel left out.
Next time arrangements seem necessary (e.g.. a vacation trip) discuss it with him ahead and decide together only what’s essential: accommodation for the day you arrive and the day before you leave, but leave spontaneity in between.
Tip of the day:
A good relationship thrives when there’s creativity in the face of routines, as well as in resolving issues.