It seems every family has at least one unusual relation, but you think your husband’s family got in the unusual character line a few more times than most families. You didn’t hear anything in your marriage vows about dealing with in-laws very differently from you or your husband, but they came along as part of the package deal, so you see them at family reunions, holiday events, weddings and funerals. It’s time to learn coping strategies.
Plan it Out
Talk to your husband about his unusual family members and ask him to explain why they are the way they are. Perhaps if you understand why his aunt nitpicks everything or his uncle needs to be the resident authority, it could make them easier to handle. Develop strategies together for spending time with his odd family members so you enjoy your visit instead of dreading it. Discuss how often you will see them, where you will see them and how you will handle the situation if things get too far beyond your comfort level, such as a family member coming on to you, doing something that grosses you out or behaving in a manner that makes you truly uncomfortable. There could be occasions when your husband spends time with his family without you to spare you from feeling out of place.
In an article for Oprah.com, sociologist and therapist Martha Beck suggests that you accept that his family isn’t going to change and take them as they are. If you have no expectations that they will behave in a manner you're used to, then nothing they do will be a surprise. If you really cannot take them longer than a few hours, agree that you will leave before your tolerance is exhausted. You can begin your visit by saying that you have an appointment at a specific time and you have to leave to get there on time, or ask a friend to call you at the appointed leaving time with a contrived excuse to leave.
If they weren’t your in-laws and you were just observing this family, you could probably find many reasons to laugh about the things they do. Beck suggests you take mental notes and get together with friends later to share the humor and compare stories about your in-laws. You might gain some bragging rights because of all the funny things your in-laws do. Knowing that you are going to share the story at a later time could entice you to get to know them better, and you might find they aren’t quite as unusual as you thought.
Refuse to be drawn into family arguments or feel a need to “fix” his family, Don’t take criticism from them personally, suggests Therese Borchard, therapist and author of “The Pocket Therapist.” Their behavior doesn’t have to be about you and you don’t have to join them in actions that make you uncomfortable. You don’t have to live with them for extended periods. Take something with you that reminds you that you are fine just the way you are, suggests Borchard, and then take time to care for yourself after the visit is over.