Holiday Joy Without Alienating Your MIL

by Doris Helge, Ph.D. © 2011

Dear Dr. Doris:

How can I make my holidays with my husband special without alienating my mother-in-law?

I want the Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s season to be super special, creating memories we’ll cherish forever. The problem is that his family has so many traditions. During this season, they gather around each other like bees hovering around the first spring flower.

Sometimes I’m not sure where there’s room in his family schedule for me or for our private holiday times together. I want to build our own Hallmark Book of Memories without earning his mother’s disapproval. Since we both work, our time is limited.

A little lost,

Lois from Los Angeles

Dear Lois,

You are so wise to think this through instead of pitting yourself against your husband’s Mom in an unnecessary battle. It would backfire to create a situation where your husband felt like he was stuck in the role of umpire, especially during the holidays.

You’ll probably be a mom-in-law some day yourself. Keep looking at this challenge from all sides. Seeing the world through other people’s eyes helps you discover how to weave a win-win path to gain what you want. Here are some specific ideas for you.

Identify three ways your mother-in-law can shine without stepping on your turf. Speak early and often about the value of her contributions. Your sincere understanding that your Sweetheart is also important to her will soften any impulse she may have to fight you for time or territory.

If your mom-in-law is possessive or controlling, take a different tact. Set boundaries with matter-of-fact, non-emotionally charged statements like, “We’ve scheduled some of our private time on December ___, and we’re looking forward to being with you on December ____.”

If this is your first holiday season after marrying, don’t wimp out thinking his Mom will mellow by next year. A lazy approach this year will produce more grief next time because holidays are tradition driven. How you handle yourself this season creates expectations for the future so make sure you’re crafting the basic components of next year’s holiday calendar to your satisfaction.

If you feel stuck, hire a qualified relationship coach. We’re trained to help you work through perplexing puzzles easily and at warp speed.

© 2011. Are you ready to create a new life story? Download your free relationship ebooks and MP3s at Sign up for your complimentary “Relationship Breakthrough Consultation” with certified coach and bestselling author, Doris Helge, Ph.D. at

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