Featured Image by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi from Pixabay
Are you happy with all your family relationships? Or do you wish some connections were less stressful, stronger, deeper, more harmonious or enjoyable?
Over the winter, our relationship challenges often increase. Preparing for and celebrating holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, or New Year’s can be stressful and lead to conflicts. Dealing with the expectations and dynamics of extended family gatherings can create tension and requires patience, creativity, compassion and clarity about our feelings and needs and how to balance everything. Often, anxieties and tensions cause a breakdown in communication between spouses, especially when discussing sensitive topics like financial strain, everybody’s expectations, or interactions with each other’s side of the family.
The more solid our relationships are, the easier we can navigate difficult times. My work as a relationship coach guides you to strengthen and improve your connection to your spouse, family members, and friends.
Meet Michele, a determined client who can look forward to their Christmas celebration this year because she has shifted and changed her relationship with her husband, her sister and, most importantly, her mother-in-law.
When she came to see me, Michele had not spoken to her mother-in-law after a fallout four years previously. For self-protection, she felt she had to set strict limits and cut out a woman who had hurt her with inappropriate comments and boundaryless behaviour. However, refusing to see her mother-in-law or welcome her to their home also affected her marriage. Michele was ready and fully committed to understanding the triangle dynamics she had found herself in and healing the relationship.
Michelle was in a triangle dynamic with her mother-in-law, experiencing her as competition for her son’s love and attention. We explored the family dynamics of how her mother-in-law had always turned to her oldest son as a replacement for a partner instead of her husband, who was emotionally absent. So, when Michele came along, it was a big adjustment for everybody.
In our work together, Michele developed a deeper understanding, and as she began to see her mother-in-law in her fears and vulnerabilities, she felt greater compassion. She was able to release some past interactions. She let the mother-in-law know that she wanted to meet up to build a relationship with her. The first one-on-one meeting, which the mother-in-law gratefully accepted, opened Michele’s eyes further to the humanity of the older woman who began to share some of her struggles. However, some past interactions still made Michele weary of inviting her in-laws for a stay over the holidays. We worked on letting go further and forgiving the past. At the same time, Michele found strategies to honour her own needs and ways to interact with her in-laws within those boundaries.
At the same time, her relationship with her husband has deepened as she communicates more clearly and has let him know that she cares about having a good relationship with his family. They are talking about how they can set up the holiday visit in a way that meets everybody’s needs and allows for stress-free and positive interactions.
Encouraged by the progress she was making with her mother-in-law, she simultaneously explored the dynamics in her own family further and found further triangle dynamics, for example, between her mother, her sister and herself. Our siblings can mirror our shadows, just as our partners can. In Michele’s case, she perceived her sister as rather dramatic and needy. Being very self-sufficient and independent, Michele would never allow herself to reach out to others in such an emotional way. When she became aware of her triggers and shadows, she could also see how her sister was trying to get closer to her. Instead of keeping her sister at arms length and responding only to her being in a crisis, she has made it a habit to connect with her regularly. To her surprise, the relationship with her sister has completely shifted to a deep friendship of feeling mutually accepted and important. Even when they have a conflict now, it does not cause a rift but dissipates quickly.
Within six months, Michele’s family relationships have deepened and transformed into delightful interactions. They are now filled with understanding, empathy and potential to connect from heart-to-heart.
If you want to improve a relationship with a family member or your in-laws,
in time for the holidays,
reach out NOW for a free Zoom consultation.
Belief Change & Relationship Coaching