Venn Diagrams are best to explain relationships. Once married, there is now a person who takes precedence over your parents, which is how it should be. You shift from a Venn diagram that consisted of yourself, your mother and father to a Venn diagram that consists of yourself and spouse. The two Venn diagrams can and should touch each other or slightly interlink.
Why bother to holiday with the parents-in-law
Having said that, it does not mean that your parents and you, living in separate universes, do not meet. It is a given that you and your spouse will create opportunities to meet the parents. If you are staying in the same city as the parents then celebrations, weekends, dining-out, movies are all occasions to strengthen bonds and show that out-of-sight is not out of mind. However, if you all are staying in different cities then the occasions are a few and the time spent short and precious.
Holidaying with your spouse and the folks is an opportunity to bring the two universes together and revel in the occasion. However, to ensure that the universes do not cataclysmically disintegrate [yes I am being dramatic] during this moment in time you need to keep a few things in mind.
Your spouse and you are a team
This needs to be stated at the outset to ensure that you do not spend too much time with your folks at the cost of your spouse and your spouse does not ignore your folks to your chagrin and their discomfort. As a unit you not only have each others backs but work together to make this outing for the parents an enjoyable and memorable one. As a team, work not only reduces but there is appreciation for what the other brings to the moment.
Discuss and find common interests
Discussing holiday plans with your spouse and parents provides more things to do as interests, not known till then, may align. Thus the holiday entourage can split into smaller groups ensuring others are not forced to do things they are not interested in. Common interests could become a corner stone to improve interpersonal relationships.
Spousal spats should not be public
Spousal infractions are a given and there is no right time for one. However, when holidaying with your parents it would be best to let go in order to avoid these tiffs. Such fights tend to weaken the holiday mood and unnecessarily give your parents a reason to worry.
Spend time with the folks
You and your spouse should independently spend some time with the parents. This is a chance for them to bring you upto speed on how they are enjoying the holiday.
Include your spouse during reminiscing sessions
Unwinding during holidays can bring back a flood of family memories. These discussions unfortunately may keep out the spouse. These are occasions to bring your spouse upto date on family history and share your memories. It is also an occasion for your spouse to see your parents in a different light – as young people far removed from who they are now.
Do something special with your spouse
Just because your parents are along does not mean that you cannot plan something with your spouse. Remember the holiday is as much about bonding with the parents as it is about the spouse. Plan your holiday to include time just for the two of you. Your spouse will love it, you will enjoy it and your parents may just get the time they wanted but were unwilling to ask for.
When holidaying with both set of parents
Holidaying with both set of parents can be like juggling with knives. However, it need not be so if you are mindful of the above and the following points:
Do not spend time on your parents only
It is not surprising if you wish to show more concern and make more effort for your parents. After all being their child you want to make their holiday special. It may also be that you do not get along with your in-laws. On the other hand you may want to do more for the in-laws because it makes your spouse happy or just because you like them. Whatever may be the case it may lead to some heartburn for the other party. Therefore it is important that your spouse and you communicate as a team to ensure both sets of parents are given equal attention.
Stop any attempts at family competitions
Attempts to stand out are natural. Parents would like to believe that they and their children are special, they would like to crow about success, sacrifices and unique experiences. Sometimes this is done unconsciously. However, any form of one-upmanship must be nipped in the bud. What matters now is that your spouse thinks you are special and that the two of you together live through the successes and sacrifices that knock on your door.
Do not interfere in a spat between your spouse and his/her parent
Adults will always be seen as children by their parents. The conundrum is that parents love to give advice and also seek counsel from their grownup children. So even on such vacations there will be occasions for child-parent tiffs. Though you may want to douse this flareup and or support your spouse, do not. Unless called to intervene, it is best to let the spat die a natural death and then talk to your spouse and parents separately.
Find occasions for the two sets of in-laws to do things together
In other words find time for yourself and your spouse to do things together. Such vacations are also about your fledgling family memories that you two create. In the planning stage you could suggest things that the two sets of parents can do together whilst clearly indicating that you would like to spend some alone time with your spouse.
Parent child interaction differ from family to family. These differences are in your face when you and your spouse together vacation with your parents. The expectations of your parents and those of your in-laws need to be balanced against those of your relationship with your spouse. In conclusion one must remember what Henry Miller said, ‘One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.’ which can extend to holidays with your spouse and parents.
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