10178A marriage usually means you’re not losing a son, daughter, sister, or brother – it means you’re gaining a brother, sister, or whatever. But what if it turns out to be a mixed bag, and the new addition is obnoxious, domineering, and overbearing?

When you’ve tried your best to integrate the new family member, but his or her behavior continues to rankle, how do you cope without losing your relative?

1. Recognize the problem

Are you dealing with a loud, obnoxious sister-in-law who enjoys her own jokes more than anyone else does? Or are you dealing with a domineering, controlling brother-in-law who tries his hardest to outdo every feat from every anecdote, tries to out-macho your brother and dad, or seems to get off on loudly criticizing your sister or their children in front of the entire family?

2. Recognize And Avoid The Triggers

Before coming in contact with the in-law, visualize the scenarios which always manage to get under your skin. What is it that is said or done that makes your blood boil? Once you determine those triggers (which tend to be the same emotionally, manifested in various ways), think about ways in which you can avoid them.

3. Ignore What You Can: Choose your battles

There’s no point in picking a fight over every little thing your in-law does which gets your goat. When his or her irritating habits or remarks are not directed right at you, try to let them roll off your back. Do allow for simple differences between people.

4. Don’t raise the emotional temperature

If conflict is impossible to avoid, go ahead and respond honestly – not rudely, but don’t sugar-coat either. Remember that despite your efforts to avoid direct conflict, this person has shown little regard for your feelings on whatever subject the issue is. Don’t let the fear of hurting the feelings of your relative or in-law stop you from responding appropriately.

5. Let the response fit the offense

By sitting on or stuffing down your feelings, you’re not helping it get better. You don’t need to make a huge deal of it, but simply responding authentically can make a positive difference.

6. Accept your in-law the way he or she is

Don’t try to change this person; s/he isn’t likely to change to accommodate you. All you can really hope for is a draw – and pray that time will mellow the ruder behaviors. Just understand that you’re dealing with a difficult person and will need to be prepared to disengage at times and walk away. A battle may not be worth fighting if it means losing your child, parent, or sibling over it.

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