How to Avoid the 'Demons' of Summer
Tips for keeping your cool when obnoxious behavior tries to ruin your summer fun.
They're descending; the buffer zone is shrinking by the moment as you feel the in-laws closing in.
"Relationships with in-laws are tricky because they form a triangle," says Jenn Berman, PhD, a psychologist who specializes in family therapy. "It's you, your spouse, and the parents. There tends to be competition for love, attention, approval -- and when there are conflicts, usually the parents are asked to pick. And that is a sticky situation."
"Conflicts" being the operative word, especially when you are trying to enjoy your summer and the in-laws announce they'll be visiting for a long time.
"Most families are better off to avoid extended stays unless those stays are in hotels," Berman tells WebMD. "It tends to increase the tension until things get to the boiling point and then it gets ugly. I recommend suggesting a one-week stay."
How do you tactfully tell your in-laws that the Marriott down the street has great rates? Start with a united front.
"Talk to your spouse first," says Berman. "Approach it as: 'I want to have the best possible relationship with your parents, but we need boundaries.' Then you can talk to your in-laws and say, 'We would love to have you visit from this date to that date; beyond that we'd like it if you could stay in a hotel."
And while they are visiting, here's how to avoid a cold war, and make their summer stay a pleasant one:
- "Be respectful," says Berman. "Understand that you don't have to be best friends with them, but they did bring your spouse into the world, and you do owe them some respect for that alone.
- "Respect differences," says Berman. "You don't have to agree on politics and decorating. Better yet, avoid these hot-topic discussions.
- "The more inclusive you can be when they are visiting, the better," says Berman. "Showing them you care means a lot.
- "Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page," says Berman. "Your husband or wife should jump in and back you up if your in-laws are being critical or disrespectful."
The Road Rager
You just set out on your first summer road trip, and you have 200 miles in front of you. But instead of cruising along the highway at 75 mph, you've been playing cat and mouse with an oversized RV -- maybe because you accidentally cut him off when you pulled back onto the highway after stopping for a greasy burger. Three high beams in your rear view mirror later, it's official -- the RV maniac has road rage. How do you handle this dangerous summer demon?
"Don't make eye contact," says Tony Fiore, PhD, a psychologist and anger coach. "That's the secret signal in the animal world to engage in combat."