If you really take the time to sit and think about it, marriage is a complicated union. We’ve all heard the saying, if you marry him, then you’re marrying his whole family. So what does this really mean? It means that although you’re forming a family of your own, they will always be his parents, and will always be his siblings. Let’s face it, they’ve been in his life a lot longer than you have. Of course you and the kids are his top priority. You’re the ones he works so hard to provide for. You’re the person he turns to first with good and bad news, when he needs encouragement, and when he needs advice. Or at least that’s how it should be. We all try to set necessary boundaries with our parents to be able to develop a strong marriage relationship with our spouses. But the truth of the matter is that our parents will always be in our lives. It’s just the way things work.
These days, I find that couples not only isolate themselves from extended family, but are full of negative thoughts and reactions when it comes to spending time with family. This negativity leads to not being able to enjoy and appreciate our extended family the way we should.
Recently, my husband and I went on our annual vacation with his parents, sister, her husband, and their children. It was quite a hike for us, as we had to fly from California to New Jersey where they live, and then we all flew to the Caribbean together. My husband and I definitely got a lot of training for our future with kids, if we are blessed with any. Children are especially a lot of work when you are traveling! As soon as I boarded that plane to the Caribbean, I made a conscious decision to embrace the fact that this wasn’t just any vacation. It was a fully loaded “family” vacation. Here are a few things I learned about how to make the most of an extended-family vacation.
Keep in mind that you are expected to spend time with your in-laws. After all, it is a “family vacation.” It’s not your honeymoon. It’s not just a getaway from your busy life. It’s an opportunity to spend quality time with one another. And, think about it. Most of us are so caught up in our own busy schedules that we don’t make much time to spend with our extended family. Yes, it can be awkward, but only as awkward as you let it become. And you very well might be surprised at how much fun spending time with them can be. I had a blast!
Take the time to connect with each person one on one. Being with the whole family all day long can get overwhelming for everyone. I made sure to get away from the crowd and spend time with family members one on one. I had some really special moments with my mother-in-law on this trip. We lay on the beach and spent time sipping on cocktails and chatting about life. She gave me wonderful advice. I was also able to have some girl time with my sister-in-law. We spent some time at the hotel spa, getting massages together and laughing about funny moments with our husbands and her kids. I was also able to get to know my niece better. You can read about that here.
Plan your days in a way that provides some alone time with your own family. During any vacation, it’s important to have a little bit of time away from the hustle and bustle of the large group and have exclusive hang-out time with your own family (even if it’s just you and your husband). After all, you are away from your normal routines, and it’s a great opportunity to spend time with one another, developing your relationships apart from the stresses of every day life.
Whether you are preparing for a large family vacation or an upcoming family gathering with extended family, remember to embrace your time together, using the opportunity to get to know each other and build relationships that will last a lifetime…because they probably will!