The holiday season is ripe with opportunity forfamily disputes and blow-ups. (As Beverly D'Angelo says in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, "It's Christmas. We're all miserable.") Now, a new study may help your understand how best to handle your relationship with your in-laws.
The marriages of men who are closer to their in-laws are 20 percent less likely to end in divorce, according to a study conducted by Dr. Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and research professor at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research and author of Finding Love Again: 6 Steps to a New and Happy Relationship. The story of her findings in regards to in-laws recently appeared in The Wall Street Journal.
Over a period of 26 years, Dr. Orbuch studied the habits of 373 couples between the ages of 25 to 37 for a longitudinal study on marriage and divorce funded by the National Institute of Health. As part of the study Dr. Orbuch asked the couples to rate how close they felt to their in-laws. The article that discusses the findings of the study has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Family Relations.
Whereas a man's closer relationship with his in-laws helps the marriage to survive, a woman's closeness to her in-laws has a negative effect: 20 percent more likely to end in divorce. Dr. Orbuch theorizes this is due to the fact that a close relationship between the in-laws and the wife may include a large amount of meddling.
"In-law ties are especially stressful for women. And, when they are close to in-laws, especially early in marriage, this may interfere with and prevent the formation of a strong bond with their husband. It is important for newlyweds to establish clear emotional boundaries," Dr. Orbuch told Yahoo! Shine. "Relationships are more central and important to women in general. We analyze them and want to constantly work and improve them. We take what our in-laws say as personal, we interpret it as interference and meddling and we can't set the boundaries."
If you've had frustrating arguments with your spouse about his parents, but he gets along better with your parents, there is a reason for this, according to Dr. Orbuch. "[Men's] identity as as a father and a husband is often secondary to their identity as a provider. As a result, they don't take what their in-laws do or say so personally. "
Women, on the other hand, interpret their husband's closeness with their parents as an extension of love for them.
In other words: women: keep doing what you're doing. Men: be nice to your in-laws.