After you say “I do,” there’s a lot that changes and there are new things to get used to when it comes to friends and family. Add the holidays to a new marriage, and it’s easy to feel incredibly overwhelmed.
As a married couple, you’ll have a different dynamic when it comes to your friends and family because there is an added measure of checks and balances. Your marriage is the one friendship and ultimate relationship that should come first. It’s very important to wean off relationships that could potentially cause problems in your marriage. Now, you can’t just all-out ditch family because you don’t get along, but you can definitely set boundaries and determine how much time you will spend with those “problematic” members.
Here are 5 ways friends and family can influence your relationship with your spouse.
- You are who you hang around: Remember when every adult used to say this to you no matter who you were spending time with growing up? Well, it’s true. For better or for worse, your friendships can lift you up or tear you down – and now it’s affecting more than just you. What if you or your spouse has a toxic friendship that is negatively affecting your marriage?
How to deal: Talk with your partner to see if they are even aware that they are hurting you or causing tension in your relationship. Be gentle, don’t accuse, and be open to hearing their perspective as well. After you bring it to light, assess where to go from there, such as less time spent with that person? A discussion with that person about behavior that you want to change/ have an issue with? You have to decide together what the best thing to do for your marriage is. And remember, friends should be encouraging you to be better every day and lifting you up to be the best you you can be! Invest in strong friendships for both you and your partner!
- Your parents are just too intrusive: Just like on that old sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, your parents or friends may feel a little too welcome in your life. “If you have parents who show up uninvited, or who spend too much time with you, you might have too little time to be alone with your new partner and formulate your life as a couple,” says Susan Newman, Ph.D., a social psychologist.
How to deal: Set some rules – and fast. “You need to clearly define your boundaries in regard to visits and time spent with your parents,” Newman says. Once you and your mate agree on the ‘rules,’ tell your parents you love them, but they need to call before they come by, or even ASK specifically before they just decide to do something that affects you and your spouse. Set whatever guidelines you need to set for the sake of your marriage.
- They make a mountain out of a molehill: You picked your sister-in-law’s wedding over the annual family reunion (insert your own situation where you had to choose between two family or friend events) – and now your parents aren’t speaking to you, or they’re being nasty.
How to deal: Gently remind them that you now have two families and lives to consider when you’re making decisions. “They have to learn that you have a new family now [and new relationships] and that you’ll [still] be connected, but not joined at the hip,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., a psychotherapist.
- They bad-mouth your partner: You know the saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” Well, sometimes family and friends don’t really listen to or apply that.
How to deal: Explain that the snide comments upset you – and firmly tell them to stop. Always stand up for the person you have chosen to spend the rest of your life with, and be their #1 advocate! Most people will stop after being directly confronted (if they really care about the relationship – at least an effort will be made), but if they continue, you need to show that you mean business. “When your parent [or friend(s)] starts, simply say, “I’m not going to listen. I married [them] and I’m happy,” Newman advises. If friends continue to speak poorly of your life partner, reassess your relationship with them and decide if that’s really someone you want a part of your new journey.
- Sometimes, your in-laws (or your own parents) AND/OR your spouse’s friends can create marital problems simply by being who they are. Different personalities sometimes just don’t jive.
How to deal: Talk it out with your partner to see if you can sort out why there’s an issue. Seek out resources to help you determine what the problem is and how to work through the conflict. Combining two families + friend groups with different backgrounds and lifestyles is not easy, but it’s not impossible. Strengthen your relationship with your spouse by being at peace with each other’s “people,” and sometimes agreeing to disagree.