Family: you can't live without them and you can't send them on a rocket to the Moon when they are at their most irritating.
In light of Solange Knowles and brother-in-law Jay-Z's spectacular bust-up (with Beyonce stuck in the middle), we asked relationship coach Elizabeth Sullivan for her tips on how to avoid and solve squabbles with each other.
Be sensitive to jealousy
Sisters who grow up together can be very close; it is a very special relationship. Sisters can therefore be very jealous of the partner’s closeness to their sister. They will usually not admit it; instead it will come out in other ways. Sometimes the jealous sister will pretend that they’re protecting their sister’s interests, but really they will be trying to reassert their position in the hierarchy of their sister’s affections.
Partners can avoid problems by demonstrating that they recognise and respect the sister’s special role in their partner’s lives. For instance: “Do you think your sister would like this present I plan to get her? You’ve known her longer than I have and she always loves your presents so it would be great to have your advice.”
Show respect for each other
Lack of respect is a powerful irritant that can bubble over into a heated argument really easily, without this being identified as the cause. If a family member has a partner, whether you like him or her or not, you should treat them with respect. That means including them in family events, treating them with courtesy and recognising their importance. Of course respect goes both ways. A partner should go out of their way to be on good terms with the family of their partner.
It is very easy to think you know best for your sister. You know her better than anyone; you’re not blinded by love so you know what’s in her best interests. It’s your duty to ensure she doesn’t make a fool out of herself – right? Wrong. Your sister has a right to make her own decisions, even if they’re bad ones. Similarly a partner should not do anything that stops sisters continuing their special relationship. It’s not for a partner to criticise the sister.
Be worthy of trust
Make sure that the family see that you do make your partner happy. Sisters are often genuinely nervous that their precious sister will be mistreated so don’t give her any ammunition for thinking like that. Of course sisters will often moan about their partners then not mention the good times. That can reinforce the perception that you’re making your partner unhappy. To address this make sure the sister is included in the happy times so that she can see she has no cause for her concern.
If all else fails you will need to manage the dramas
Be honest, some people just love to make a huge drama out of a small irritation. The best way of handling that is not to react but to stay very calm (difficult I know, but Beyoncé and Jay-Z managed it).
That behaviour is usually made worse by drink and drugs which is why there are so many fights at weddings. If you know a family member gets aggressive when they drink, or has a habit of creating dramas, try to address any issues they have in private (without an audience) when they’re calm and sober and simply refuse to be drawn in.