Archive for ‘In-laws’

April 2, 2023

Welcome to a new week…..

by Rod Smith

At the start of a new work week may I offer you encouragement?

Stop hiding who you are behind a desire to be accepted or to fit in. 

Let people know who you are and what you want. 

This does not mean you have to be pushy or overbearing. 

In both strong and subtle ways define yourself. 

Leave little up to guesswork. 

Do this, even if you start in very small and incremental ways, with the people you are close to and to the people whom you love. This may take some people by surprise and even catch them off guard, but the people who love you will be delighted to hear your voice.   

You will immediately begin to feel less anxious when you begin to define yourself. As you advocate for yourself, even in the smallest of ways, you will begin to like what you see and what you feel and think, and you will grow even more beautiful than you already are. If you have been a “I just fit in with others” or “I hate conflict” kind of person you will begin to notice you will have lower levels of anxiety as you reverse your “fit in” and “avoid conflict” tendencies and allow your personality and your wishes to emerge and ultimately shine.

Welcome to a great week.

March 18, 2023

Blending families

by Rod Smith

Blending families, smoothly and successfully, is not easy. 

Each family imports its own set of norms and expectations into the new family configuration and these norms and expectations will inevitably clash. Each person, too, brings expectations into the new family quite apart from what the rest of what his or her original family brings to the party. There will also be remaining scars from the sequence of events that made blending two families possible in the first place. 

Blending families calls for super-maturity from the marrying or newly married adults. 

They are called to lead in such a manner that all the members of the newly constituted family’s voices are heard and opinions are respected, irrespective of age.

The adults will be wise to avoid blaming others like a former spouse or former in-laws for the inevitable difficulties that will arise. 

The adults will be wise to avoid disciplining other people’s children, even if he or she is newly married to the children’s mom or dad. 

The adults will be wise to avoid believing the children – no matter what they may say when wanting to please the parent – want this new family as much as the newly married adults do. 

The adults will be wise to speak well of the parents who are excluded from this new blended family.

[The Mercury—Monday]

May 3, 2011

His mother gossips about me….

by Rod Smith

“I am happily married. My husband is an amazing man. We are Indian with both Western and Indian beliefs and tradition. Our problems stem from his family. His mother hates me. She constantly gossips about me and tells people I am a terrible person. She knows how much her son loves me. I think this upsets her. I cannot understand how a mother can be unhappy if her child is happy. Although I have accomplished a lot I feel inadequate. I need help to keep my sanity and feel loved and appreciated by my husband’s family. My parents have been married for many years and love their children equally. My mother is one of the most humble people I know – which makes it even more difficult to understand my mother in law.” (Edited)

Attraction is only enduringly poss

Get your focus off her

Hateful people will hate no matter what you do. Gossips attempt to fill up empty lives by trying to destroy others. Try not to feed her toxicity by allowing it to do its ugly work.

While it may be counter-cultural for you, I’d suggest you and your husband (together) lovingly confront her with your unwillingness to accommodate and ignore her damaging ways.

Confrontation is a powerful expression of love. This accomplished, get your focus off her, whether she continues or not.

March 22, 2011

Do I speak up or suffer in silence?

by Rod Smith

“My sister and her husband constantly belittle our lives. We, my husband and I, are not as wealthy, we are not as successful in our careers, but at least we are 100% honest. While they are not blatantly dishonest they do make their living in questionable ways that and it pays them very well. The point is that my husband is now disinclined to spend time with my extended family. Do I speak up or just suffer in silence? Do I insist my husband joins me at family events or do I go alone and make an excuse for him?”

Suffer in silence? Never. Speak up? Of course you speak up. I’d suggest you gently tell both your sister and her husband (together) your truth. Tell them whether they are able to hear you or not. Since their “questionable” pursuits are none of your business, I’d suggest they are not worth mentioning.

Attend any family event you want whether your husband wants to go or not. Don’t push him. Don’t determine his level of involvement with your family or allow him to determine yours. If anyone wants to know where he is or why he is not with you suggest that person ask your husband his or her questions directly.

August 24, 2010

It’s all connected – even across the generations

by Rod Smith

Open yourself to growth

I have met parents concerned about the degree of conflict experienced with their children, who then, during the conversation, will openly confess they have no time for a mother or father-in-law, their own parent, or are out of sorts with an adult sibling. When I gently point out that these conflicts are possibly connected, fueling each other, I am met with disbelief.

“You’re saying that my fights with my son over his homework (or irresponsibility, or drinking) are connected to the fact that my father-in-law is an impossible man to whom I have refused to talk for the past five years?”


“You’re saying that my ridiculously controlling mother who walks in here like a movie director telling us all where to stand and what to say is connected to my 12-year-old daughter mouthing off to me however she likes.”


When the adult takes the challenge of embracing the “impossible” father-in-law, or standing up to the “controlling” mother, the adult is taking personal responsibility for his or her pivotal relationships.

A parent who takes full responsibility for himself or herself when it comes to relating to members of their preceding generation, will see less anxious, less reactive, less rebellious behavior in the generation that follows.

Yes. It is all indeed connected.

August 15, 2010

Rage is never pretty…..

by Rod Smith

Call me....

Want wisely.....

Rage is never pretty – not in you, me, nor in the man in the moon. It has no upside. It produces nothing worth having. It reduces everyone in its environment to a victim. It scares children. There’s nothing redeeming about rage. It causes physiological distress, psychological pain, and accelerates physical exhaustion. It hurts relationships. Rage is always ugly, always destructive.

Rage is never helpful

I’ve witnessed rage erupt in clients during therapy where there’s a sudden burst of rage over a matter that might appear inconsequential to the observer. I’ve seen it while I am engaged in the give and take of life – a woman loses it with her child in public, a man yells uncontrollably in the traffic, a teenager storms off from a parent in the mall.

Regretfully, I’ve felt it in me. Forces collide, my world feels out of control, I resort to blaming others for whatever I perceive as having gone wrong. Something primal snaps. I’m momentarily blind, deaf to reason. Then, I breathe deeply. I hold onto myself. Reason returns. Logic prevails. I get my focus off others. I look at myself. I take responsibility for myself. Do I always catch it? Handle it well? Of course not.

How is a person to handle a moment of rage in a loved one? Keep a level head. Walk away. Try not to react. Don’t personalize it. It’s not about you. You may participate in the precipitating event, but you don’t cause the outburst. In the moment of his or her fury don’t try to reason, negotiate, or restrain.

This too shall pass.

August 8, 2010

Mother-in-law puts her down……

by Rod Smith

My mother-in-law is very subtle in the way she puts me down. I am just not good enough and she lets me know it through looks, gestures, and laced comments. I know you will tell me to talk to her about this face-to-face and not to triangle my husband into it. Well I don’t expect my husband to intervene and I have tried to talk to her and the conversation went nowhere. She was super-nice when we met face-to-face and it was impossible to bring up anything negative. It was as if she fought off what I wanted to say with being overly nice. We are both very strong women. It feels like a competition without anyone knowing what the prize is. My children love her and she is wonderful with them. I only get strong negative feelings about her relationship with the children is when I feel she is putting me down. I am a stay-at-home mother while she has always had a successful career. (Situation synthesized from conversation and used with permission)

Apparently the helpful, positive material between you outweighs the unhelpful. I’d suggest you embrace her and consider the “looks, gestures, and laced comments” a worthy price to pay for a wonderful grandmother’s involvement in your children’s lives.

July 28, 2010

I am completely invisible to her…..

by Rod Smith

“My husband’s sister treats me like I am completely invisible. When I have requested that we talk about it, my request is refused. My sister-in-law affirmation is not important to me. However what is important is that my husband does not speak up. This concerns and hurts me greatly. We have been married for 19 years. Only in the two years, since my sister-in-law got divorced, has my husband had much to do with her.”

Live fully anyway

Your husband is a wise man if he is opting to keep out of relationship problems that do not involve him. As an adult woman you do not need anyone, not even your husband, to run interference for you. I do not know how you will get the recognition you want, but do not need, from your sister-in-law. Efforts will fail if he tries to clear a path for you to his sister.

Live a full life anyway, despite your invisibility to her. The passive party in any relationship is the one who is in control (leading or determining the outcome) of the relationship.

I think it is your husband’s attention you crave. Address this with him without begging. Get his attention and, for good or for ill, his sister will surely begin to notice you.

July 22, 2010

My grandson breaks things in our home….

by Rod Smith

Fortify your boundaries and stay out of control

Clarify what you expect in your own home

“My grandson (7) has broken numerous electrical and other items whilst visiting at our home. My daughter and son-in-law think it is okay not to offer to compensate or repair the items. When I ask them what they intend to do about my damaged goods they are silent. I believe the father needs to set the example by attempting to repair the items. That way the boy learns by example. He learns that if we break other people’s item, then we are responsible for fixing them or making good.”

1. Supervise the child – this matter is about the adults, not the child. You, the grandparent, are empowered to make his visits a joy.
2. Gather old irons and toasters for the boy to work on while at your home.
3. Get him a set of tools to keep at your home.
4. Sit with the boy and request he teach you how things work as he dismantles used electrical items you have collected and set aside for him.
5. Place his usual targets, your valued items, out of his sight for a short time.
6. Pack everything already broken in a box and ask the family (as a group) what it intends to do to repair the damages.
7. Be prepared for some conflict as you articulate your expectations for what occurs in your home. Your intent appears to include “fixing” something about your son-in-law. Quit it. Focus on creating a fabulous (real, forthright, fun, flexible, and fascinating) experience for your grandchild every time he walks through your door.

November 10, 2009

In-laws spoil my children…

by Rod Smith

“My in-laws spoil my children. The kids don’t close their mouths after talking about something they want and off go grandma and grandpa to buy it. I did not grow up this way and I don’t want it for my children. Please help.” (Email not gender specific)


Timing is everything...

First: Although you have not hinted at the possibility, do not ask your spouse to be the messenger to his or her parents. You are the one feeling and expressing the frustration, and so this is an issue that is yours to directly handle.

Second: Speak up, and do so without alienating your in-laws. This requires great skill, an advanced sense of timing, and a great deal of poise on your part. Choose a time when anxiety is low – a time when you are all feeling good about life and each other.

Third: if you are successful, your in-laws will thank you for your insight and somewhat refrain from excessive shopping. You will need to remind them (playfully) of your chat several times over the course of a year.

Fourth: If you are unsuccessful, everyone will end up on bad terms, your in-laws won’t shop for the children again and your children and spouse will be as frustrated with you as you are with your in-laws.