A multigenerational household is defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as three or more generations living together. These types of living arrangements have been common in the Asian and Hispanic cultures, but they have not been typical in American households. According to the Census, only about 4% or 4.2 million American households in the past were multigenerational. That’s changing! Current Census results show that between the years of 1990 and 2000, multigenerational households in the United States grew by 38%. In 65% of multigenerational families, the children and grandchildren were living with a grandparent and in one-third of the cases, the parents lived with their children.
What’s my point in sharing all of this? I want to remind you that it’s possible you could end up living with your spouse’s family. As frightening as that might be for some people to consider, you have to understand that it’s within the realm of possibility, especially with the high cost of elder care and the constant threat of social security funds teetering on the brink of extinction.
When two people get married, they sometimes forget that even though they are physically marrying one person, most of that person’s family will be part of the marriage in some form or another. Couples might try moving away from their families in order to avoid any drama, but most couples will confess there isn’t enough distance to create that gap. Especially now with all of the social media platforms available to connect with loved ones.
But even if a family doesn’t move in together, a spouse’s relatives are always part of the marriage relationship. They help bring out all of those characteristics in your husband or wife that you either adore or perhaps irritate the heck out of you. The ones you saw in your in-laws but didn’t notice in your spouse back when you were dating. You begin to make the connection as time goes on.
Fast forward to your marriage today and think about how many arguments you and your spouse engage in that end with someone using the phrase, “You’re just like your father,” or “That’s exactly what your mother would say.” Usually a tiff that ends with that kind of statement doesn’t end well. This is particularly true if it’s the default expression used in every disagreement. If it gets a rise out of your spouse, you keep pressing that hot button because you figure any kind of reaction might bring about change, but it usually doesn’t!
Remember, your spouse has an intimate connection with their parents as much as you do with yours. Even though your spouse knows their parents have faults and that they aren’t perfect, they still love them. When you continually criticize them, it hurts your spouse’s feelings. When you use your spouse’s parents as a weapon in an argument, it may put your mate on the defensive, but not put your relationship on the mend.
Discuss your spouse’s behaviors that are frustrating to you or that make you angry, but don’t blame their parents. It’s no secret that relationships with in-laws can be challenging, but do your best to alleviate the negativity by inviting them into your home not into all of your arguments.
Remember that those characteristics you love about your spouse also have a little something to do with their parents’ influence. If you bring that gratitude into your marriage and leave the negative out, it will help you win at home.