Reality Check: If Romeo and Juliet knew Choice Theory…

Great romances can make for great drama, and the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet pretty much takes the cake for drama, complexity, and unfortunate outcome.

Drama occurs in present-day romances too, and while Ronnie and Julie’s relationship is simpler than that of Romeo and Juliet, it’s still plenty complicated.

Like Romeo and Juliet, Ronnie and Julie see themselves as ideally suited for each other—their relationship was “meant to be.”

Another, more unfortunate parallel with Romeo and Juliet is that a family feud is the source of significant problems. From the outset, their families have not gotten along. The in-laws criticize, complain, and exhibit absolutely no respect for each other. Ronnie and Julie have coped by keeping the families apart; when they interact with their families, it’s with one at a time.

This approach has worked fine. Ronnie and Julie tiptoed diplomatically through the two families, never taking sides. Effectively, they let the families disagree, and chose not to let those disagreements affect their relationship.

Now, however, children have arrived!  Suddenly, the situation is a lot more complicated.

Both sets of grandparents adore their grandchildren. However, the rivalry is now in full force, with competition for affection through extravagant gifts and promises. Even worse are unkind remarks about the other grandparents and comments such as, “We love you more than they do.”

Recently, conflict flared up about where everyone should be spending the holidays, and Ronnie and Julie realized that this ongoing tension is only getting worse. It’s not helpful for their relationship, or for the children. What are some options to keep the family on track without destroying those important relationships with their parents?

1. Distinguish clearly between what they can and can’t control. Ronnie and Julie can’t control whether the grandparents get along. However, they can control what behaviours they will tolerate around their children.

So, they can set boundaries for the areas they can control. They can decline to have the children exposed to those deadly relationship habits, such as criticizing, blaming, and complaining. For example, Julie could tell her parents, “We don’t want the children exposed to derogatory comments about their grandparents. We require that Ronnie’s parents not criticize you, and we require that you speak respectfully about them.”

2. Encourage both sets of grandparents to take delight in their grandchildren. Adding a little fun and laughter to anyone’s life often helps with perspective.

3. Carry on with your best life, anyway. Avoid letting other people’s disagreements have a negative impact on your life. So, Ronnie and Julie might find themselves saying, “We understand if you don’t want to share in a birthday celebration if the other grandparents are there. However, we will be celebrating anyway.”

4. Encourage the grandparents to improve their relationship. After all, they share the most extraordinary grandchildren ever created, so they already have a powerful bond! The feud might not heal, but attempting to improve a relationship seldom does harm. By adhering to caring habits themselves, such as supporting, encouraging, and listening, Ronnie and Julie could set a helpful example that just might rub off!

Do you think that feuds can ever be overcome? If so, how? Let me know…

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