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How to Survive the Holidays with the In-laws

Updated on November 13, 2013

Acting Happy and Sincere is the Key to a successful Holiday with the In-laws.

Hopefully you'll be this Happy at Christmas Time!
Hopefully you'll be this Happy at Christmas Time! | Source

Getting started: How not to ruin your life by being yourself.

The Holidays are an interesting time of year. Many of us love them, they give us the opportunity to make time to visit friends and family. For others, the holidays can fill them with dread and anxiety as they are forced to endure another family get together. The focus of this hub will be on how to interact with the in-laws in such a way as to prevent conflict and perhaps even encourage the long-term health of the relationship.

When I use the term "in-laws" I am basically addressing the family of your significant other, regardless of whether your legally married or not. Although many people enjoy a healthy and loving relationship with their mates family; it is not uncommon for many to experience conflict and at times outright hatred.This hub hopes to inform those who do not already have a healthy well established relationship with the "in-laws" develop one or at least mitigate the damages.

The Chinese classic “The Art of War” written by Sun Tzu has been studied by many people throughout the years. The principles found within "The Art of War," has many applications. It can be applied to warfare and business as well as personal relationships; especially if they are strained at times (e.g. the in-laws).

At one point in the Art of War, Sun Tzu tells the reader: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” This concept can easily be translated into our interactions with our in-laws: placate them or win them over without the first hint of hostility.

In order to keep this as simple and concise as possible, we're going to concentrate on three areas:

1. Pre-planning and arrival at the gathering.
2. Defensive speaking/interaction while at the gathering.
3. Planning for and executing the departure from the gathering.

Pre-planning and arrival at the gathering: Don't botch the entrance.

Sun Tzu says: “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt."

Pretty much everything in life hinges on how thoroughly you prepare. Family get togethers at the in-laws are no different. If you do not plan the end from the beginning, difficulties can be encountered that may not be easily compenstated for at a later time. Plan, plan and then plan some more and be ready to have to change plans as the situation dictates.

Do everything in your power to try to keep your spouse from doing anything ridiculous, such as volunteering you, or themselves for anything. This is definitely a case of "less is more." If it is necessary to bring something or be responsible for an activity at the gathering, make sure that the responsibility is fulfilled. In fulfilling this responsibility it will be necessary to be punctual, but you do not want to arrive any earlier than necessary. There are several different reasons for this:

1. Limiting exposure to a potentially hazardous situation. If confidence is high that you may become the target for potential attack from a member of the "in-laws," narrowing their window of opportunity can exponentially increase your odds of success.

2. The less time your there, the less opportunity to be roped into something else. The more you do, the more likely that you will make a mistake that could be a potential cause for conflict.

3. If you arrive to early, your vehicle may be "boxed in" by many other vehicles. This will affect the time and method of your departure. More about this later.

Shhh.. Silence is Golden.

If at all possible, be quiet. Listen and only speak if absolutely necessary.
If at all possible, be quiet. Listen and only speak if absolutely necessary. | Source

Defensive Speaking/Interaction while at the gathering: How not to stick your foot in your mouth..

Sun Tzu says: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."

If you know yourself and you know your in-laws, being defensive and extremely careful with all of your interactions will probably get you through the gathering. Below is a list of potential Do's and Don'ts to get you through the day.


  • Be positive in everything that you say.
  • Be aware of your body language.
  • Make sure to eat as large of a variety/sampling of food as possible. This will help you avoid any accusations of favoritism as well as allowing you to honestly state that you had some of whatever it was Aunt so and so brought and you can give an accurate (and hopefully positive) analysis of it.
  • Gravitate towards the children, they are less likely to be ruthless. Be cautious, it can still go wrong!
  • At least "act" happy and sincere.


  • Speak first. Avoid speaking unless you are first spoken to by someone else. Just do not allow it to appear as such.
  • Jump on the Gossip band wagon when they are bad mouthing someone who is not in attendance.
  • Offer any unnecessary information about you, your partner or your lives, hopes, dreams, finances etc.
  • Talk politics. Ever.
  • Drink Alcohol: booze has a tendency to eliminate inhibitions and good judgment.

If for some unknown reason you fall under attack, be ready to counter with witty remarks. Do not hesitate, return fire immediately. If in fact it looks like it is going to deteriorate into a heated and protracted engagement, evacuate the area immediately. It is not worth risking long term damage to you and your partners relationship.

How do you feel about the Holiday gatherings with the In-Laws?

What's your first reaction when finding out that your expected at a Gathering of "In-Laws?"

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Planning for and executing the departure from the gathering: Leaving on a high note, or knowing when to quit.

Sun Tzu says: “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

Once you have successfully navigated the holiday affair, it is good to know when to leave. Staying to long is akin to "pressing your luck," and should be avoided.

  • You want to leave a little early, but DO NOT be the first one to depart.
  • If you make sure your vehicle is not "boxed in," you will be able to say your good bye's and leave with little to no complication.
  • It's preferable to have another destination to be at after the in-laws; it provides for a sound reason for your departure.
  • Do not be baited or begged into staying longer, it will almost always turn out to be awkward.

Hopefully this hub gives some food for thought on the best ways to approach a holiday gathering with the in-laws. It is necessary for me to note that many couples do not have any issue at all with either sets of in-laws. The advice in this article is exactly that: advice. It may or may not work for you and should not be seen as hard and fast rules.

Sun Tzu; The Art of War.

Holidays can impact your entire life.

  1. Making a mistake at a Holiday gathering, especially with the In-Laws can influence your marriage for years to come.
  2. If you have children, don't complain about having to attend in front of them. They will certainly "out" you either to Grandma or one of the Cousins.
  3. Prepare your spouse in the weeks prior to the gathering. Make sure that you present a unified front no matter what is thrown at you.
  4. Have fun if possible, if not, just survive..


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