I usually don’t write disclaimers, but this is a touchy subject, and I guarantee someone is going to read this post and think that it is about him/her. This post is going to be as generic as possible. If you think I’m talking about you and how difficult you are, I’m not. I would encourage you to think instead about how you can improve your relationships with those that are difficult to you. People have confided in me about their difficult in-laws, and their spouse’s possessive friends, grandparents, grandchildren, and step children. This post is not targeted at one person. It is therapeutic for me, as well as for you, to hear how to deal with these difficult people.
So, let’s begin.
From the possessive best friend to the crazy aunt, we’ve learned to put up with our own family and friends throughout the years. However, our spouses are just meeting them for the first time, and they are wondering why these people are in our lives (meanwhile, we stopped wondering that a long time ago!). Dealing with difficult people is even more difficult when the one you love most, your spouse, doesn’t see anything wrong with their behavior.
Think about those earth-shattering events that happened in your life. When your best friend moved away. When your loved one died. When your friend steals your other friend’s boyfriend and now you have to choose sides.
Think also about those happy moments in your life. Going on a family vacation with all of your siblings. Getting hot chocolate to combat the frostbite in your toes when you took your yearly trip to Vermont. Birthday parties and graduations. College.
Both the good and the bad have shaped who you are today. How your parents raised you, where you grew up, where you went to school, who was in your friend group, and where you are now, all play a part in your outlook on life. Your husband may never know everything about your life story, but that’s what makes marriage interesting. For King and Country’s song “Pioneers” reminds me that being married to my husband is an adventure. We are called on a life-long journey to pursue each other and explore the great unknown: our fears, our hopes, our dreams, our expectations, and our hurts.
However, it’s not as fun exploring the past of your husband’s family and friends. You don’t love them like you love your husband.
Different families speak different languages. They may be speaking your native language, but the traditions and silent values are unlike how you were raised. Sure, you may learn over time that we always play UNO after dinner and you can always count on pudding pie for dessert. However, you may not see that Aunt Mary isn’t speaking to Aunt Sue, so we have to sit at tables based on whose side we’re on, and that if you show up wearing red you believe that the host is cheating on her husband. You may not see how your in-laws were raised, or how the cousins were treated, or what friend groups dissipated as a result of something that happened in high school.
The first part of learning to deal with difficult people is realizing that there is so much about them that you don’t know. You judge someone how he is now, but you don’t know how far he’s come or what he’s been through. What if there was abuse? What if there was infedelity? You may be upset that his friend won’t stop texting him, but that friend might be clinging to your husband because your husband saved him from suicide in college. You may be upset that your husband’s grandmother walks around the house in her pajamas, but she might be doing that because she’s in severe pain and any material other than cotton makes her itchy.
We can’t make excuses for people. There are some people who are just plain rude. However, the fact that they are rude does not excuse them from being a part of your life. If they are abusive, that’s a different story, but if they just get on your nerves, you still have to try. I pray that this post helps you to at least see that they don’t mean to be annoying or rude. It doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it does make them seem a little more human.
If there is a particular person in your life that is causing you grief, pray for God’s grace to meet you when you interact with them.