Out of Practice

14 Feb

Does an active relationship with your own mother help you communicate with your in-laws? I came up with this question recently while trying to figure out why I feel misunderstood when I turn down my in-laws’ invitation to dinner. I certainly do not want my father-in-law and his wife to feel unwanted. Rather, I want them to inherently understand how busy my family’s weekend schedule is and how difficult it is to commit to dinner, even on a Sunday night. After it seemed like my “no” insulted them, I wondered if I would handle their invitation differently if I was used to making and breaking plans with my own mother. My own mother would probably feel comfortable expressing her disappointment. Or, at the very least, she would give me hints or transfer some guilt that would prompt alternate solutions. I would say something like, “Mom, you know how crazy it is…we just can’t count on coming over. But, let’s figure it out.” That would lead to a discussion of my schedule or a compromise about getting together. So, why can’t I be as forthright with my in-laws? I think my own mother might tell me to not worry about the meal. She might say, “You and the family have to eat anyway, so I’ll pick up a pizza and come by for a quick dinner.” Why is it so formal with my in-laws? I did not even think to ask them about bringing dinner to us—why was I assuming the meal would be so crucial? I am just not used to making plans with relatives/mom figures. I am out of practice and do not think of the right questions or offers.

Or, is it just different with in-laws? Is it too difficult to engage them in an honest discussion? Do their expectations get in the way of any good communication skills you develop with your own mom? Or, if you are like me, without a mom, should you ask yourself, “How would I approach that with my own mother?” And, would you then have the confidence and conviction to ask your in-laws to bring a pizza to your family?

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