The Secret To A Healthy Relationship With Your Partner's Family Is All About Respect
The love you feel for your partner might come easy to you, but not everything in a relationship is so simple. Meeting your partner's parents or siblings for the first time, for instance, can be pretty stressful. You want to like them and you want them to like and approve of you, but everyone is different! You might get along swimmingly from day one, or you might struggle to have a healthy relationship with your partner's family. Sometimes these things just take time.
I spoke with author and licensed marriage and family therapist Anita Chlipala to find out her most important advice for developing and maintaining a good relationship with your partner's family — not to mention, why it's so important to do so in the first place.
"If the relationship [between you and their family] is tense, it can cause stress, anxiety and conflict with your partner," Chlipala tells Elite Daily. "It's a tough situation to be in when you love your partner and your family, and feel like your loyalty is divided or you try to appease both sides."
To avoid placing that kind of strain on your relationship with your partner, there's one thing you need to keep in mind: a little thing called respect.
Look At Things From Their Perspective
It might seem pretty obvious to say that respect is the most important thing when it comes to developing a healthy relationship with your partner's family, but the key isn't just in being polite — it's about putting yourself in their shoes and seeing things from their perspective. (Maybe there's a reason you can't spell "perspective" without "respect," after all!)
"Respect their traditions and the way that they do things," Chlipala says. "You grew up differently than your partner, so get to know their rituals, customs, and expectations around behavior."
Before you make any sort of judgment on your partner's family or react to certain things, it's a good idea to try to get an understanding of where they're coming from. Your partner should be able to give you an idea of what their family is like and why they are the way they are. Along with that, try to listen and observe the ways their family does things while you're around them.
"Stay polite and try to see things from their perspective," Chlipala says. "You don't have to agree with them, but try to understand why they are the way that they are. One value is not better than the other, it's just different."
So, What If You Already Have Trouble Getting Along?
Struggling to get along with your partner's family can be really stressful, but you can get through it together. This is where being on the same page with your partner is really important — you want to make sure you know where you stand and act as a united front.
"Negotiate with your partner things such as your role in their family, expectations around social obligations, and how much influence the family has over your relationship," Chlipala says. "This is especially important if you have children together."
The more serious your relationship gets, the more this tip matters.
"You and your partner need to be very clear where the boundaries with each other's families are as you are developing your own 'unit,'" Chlipala says. "The partner needs to show a united front to the family as your relationship gets more serious and as your own family grows."
Part of this is just a natural and important part of prioritizing the family you're building together, but another part is making sure your partner's family doesn't blame you (and only you) for things they don't agree with.
"You won't be painted as the 'bad guy' to your partner's family when your partner is the one who is firm with his or her family," Chlipala says.
All-in-all, just remember it's about the R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
"You can't have a healthy relationship without respect," Chlipala says.
And that goes beyond your partner and your partner's family — all of your relationships (friendships included!) need respect to be successful.
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