“…Marrying your Prince or Princess equals inheriting the king, the queen, and the entire court…”: Extended family relations and conflicts in a world of “isolated nuclear families”

The union of a man and woman in marriage, especially in the African clime, translates to the coming together of two different families. Marrying a man or a woman means marrying into a family which may include a father, a mother, a stepfather, a stepmother, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews. The family of one’s spouse becomes a part of your life. Extended family members’ involvement differs from cultures to cultures. Marital conflicts arise when spouses compete with extended family member for spouse’s love and attention; when parents of spouses want to control their children; when family member do not like their daughter or son in-law; when parents intrude couple’s private lives, for instance, by visiting unannounced or unexpectedly.

Extended family members cannot be utterly ignored. Therefore, building a healthy relationship with them is essential for one’s peace and tranquility in the family at large. Admittedly, it is not everyone that is blessed with a good extended family and in-law, a combination of tact, straightforwardness and love may be adopted in handling family members generally.

It is good to set boundaries and decide to what extent extended family members can get involved in the affairs of one’s own family. Sharing household secrets with parents has been condemned.

Setting aside time to spend with extended family will create an ambience of love and give the feeling that extended family members are loved and appreciated as part of one’s life. Also, flexibility and adaptability have been found useful in one’s relationship with extended family.

Couples must bear in mind the range of huge potential that could accrue to quality relationship with the extended families. These should be a major motivation for engendering healthy relationships with the extended family. Despite the change that has engulfed the modern world with the preponderance of “socially isolated nuclear families”, extended family remains an important source of social support in a highly individualized world, ridden with myriad of stresses and strains. They are a leverage that one may rely on in critical events of life.

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