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Please help me be kind to a rude in law

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My SIL is very limited, intellectually and emotionally. She weighs about 400 pounds. No formal diagnosis, just low functioning. BIL is above average intelligence, and no one can figure out how he could marry someone he can't even have a conversation with. She behaves like a small, ill-adjusted child, demanding attention, interjecting bizarre and self-focused comments, wants to talk about her cats or people no one knows but her. No one can stand her and she constantly tries to do things that have no common sense given her size (i.e, going to sit on a folding chair). BIl just tunes out and no one in husb's family will address him about it. She is extremely focused on food, starts eating handfuls of chips as soon as she gets in the door, and even has complained loudly about the food I was serving, or the timing of it: ex. saying "It's OK, I'll starve" when I was serving beef - noting that I 'should know' she doesn't eat beef or pork "because it's not healthy for you". We entertain for every holiday, and they never do, probably b/c their house is very cluttered and dirty. In the beginning, they never offered to bring anything, so I started suggesting. Several times I've suggested drinks, so they bring one can of soda per person. They never offer to help clean up and can't even bring their plates to the kitchen (even when I said to my kids, 'clear your plate, because everyone clears their own plate here'.) I have learned to plan visits carefully, b/c otherwise they stay all day and she just sits and I have to entertain her and try to come up with polite responses to comments and questions that make no sense.
I am dreading Thanksgiving - I like doing the holidays at my home but am sorely disappointed with the company and have gotten to the point that I just can't stand another stupid comment or clueless behavior. I ignore her or retort back sometimes, but then feel bad that I haven't been nice, esp b/c she so obviously has limits and I am far more capable of handling things with some wisdom or grace. I make a simple meal, but no matter how I psych myself up, I end up irritated, exhausted and just wishing everyone would leave. Last year I sat and read a magazine, which was rude. Please help me with some concrete suggestions on how I could get through the day and be gracious.

  1. I don't have any advice except early morning drinking:) But I did want you to know that I've been feeling a bit sorry for myself in that this is my first Thanksgiving in 45 years to spend alone. I'm not feeling sad anymore! I'll just tell myself next Thursday that "I could be binky, I could be binky." Good luck and report back.

    1 Reply
    1. re: KrumTx

      Haha. There's a fine line between drinking to take the edge off and drinking that takes you over the edge, i.e. ending up saying something you really regret... I've been there...

    2. Quite honestly, it sounds as though your SIL may be on the autism spectrum or have another intellectual challenge that she can't control. If that's the case, then getting angry and irritated is pointless. You have to make the conscious choice that her behavior is not going to bother you. Have a drink, enjoy your company, and thank God that you're not her.

      If she's truly just a witch, it might be time to have a drink and lay down the law.

      Good luck!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Christina D

        We had one of these in our in our family, right down to the description of the living conditions. I agree with Christina D's assessment.

        SIL will never pick up on the direct or indirect hints. You will never change her and you can only change your reaction to her behaviors.

        Don't worry about ignoring her, she probably doesn't have that chip in her brain to even recognize that you aren't talking to her. Her comments about food might very well be mindless and just nervous yabbering. She likely doesn't even listen to or process any response you may make.

        The person in my family had no filter, cr@p just spilled from his mouth - bizarre, out of context and often inappropriate.

        Many times, I would respond with "what do you mean by that?" or "please elaborate" and so on and it was always met with a brief blank stare and then another round of blabbering. (This was a person who held a job, owned a home and otherwise moved through life in a reasonable manner.)

        Eventually I learned to just be polite to any direct question, ignore the comments and not engage him in any way. After one particularly bad Christmas, I put my foot down and said enough. My husband is welcome to entertain him outside of our home but not at a holiday gathering IN my home.

        1. re: Christina D

          WOW, except for the husband part, you could be describing my SIL! It is SO HARD to be patient and kind to someone who is so challenging. Sometimes the comments she throws out are so random I can't help but laugh. then I feel bad, because clearly she wants to be included in the conversation that goes on all around her.
          I have no advice, just wanted to say that I feel your pain, and will be in a similar boat on Thanksgiving day - but cooking in my MIL's ill-equiped kitchen to boot! be strong, we can do it. :)

        2. Don't be gracious! There is no law that says you must host Thanksgiving! Life is too short to have to go through that year after year.

          3 Replies
          1. re: RUK

            So, do you recommend not inviting the couple?

            Hunt

            1. re: Bill Hunt

              I myself have a very different family. I hosted Thanksgiving ca 25 years with only a couple of exceptions and I always enjoyed it. My daughter took over some years ago as she has the roomiest house to make our ever expanding family comfortable, and we all bring dishes as she plans the meal.
              But, I am getting a most miserable feeling reading the OP. She says she is dreading Thanksgiving ( under those described conditions). If that were me and I were THAT miserable about the whole situation I would ask for someone else to step up to the plate and host the get-together. If that isn't possible, I would try to find a different solution - all go to a restaurant or simply be unavailable that year. Yes, I am glad that I was never in that position,...

              1. re: RUK

                I do agree. Ruining one's Thanksgiving, due to familial friction is just not worth the hassle. If just "moving on" is not adequate, then I also feel that the time has come, to pass the baton. No reason to have ulcers, due to one (or maybe two) family members.

                Hunt

          2. binky, promise yourself that you will not host Thanksgiving next year! Take a break and see if you really do want to do it again.

            You are not responsible for SIL's happiness, so don't feel guilty. If she wants to be a part of the party, she needs to make an effort to be enjoyable to be around. Your obligation as a host is to see that there are tasty food choices (whether they don't eat beef is their problem), comfortable seating and a table. And flatware.
            I don't mean to sound cold, and when I entertain my friends, I make sure everyone's fed what they like and everyone's happy. But in this case, she's there only because she's family. She can have her own Thanksgiving if she doesn't like yours.
            Let go of the guilt, darlin' and enjoy the company of the fun part of the family.

            7 Replies
            1. re: jmcarthur8

              Wow. My blood pressure shot up just reading the OP. I don't mean to be rude in any way, but it sounds like your BIL is either low-functioning himself or has slowed day by day and year by year, until he's on her level. How can he even consider arriving at your T-day feast with a can of soda for HIMSELF only!!! It would be tough to quash the urge to present them with a bill at the end of the evening, both for their share of the repast and perhaps a portion of subsequent therapist visits, LOL!

              Seriously, my advice for future years, since you've likely already invited them this year, is to put the word out early that you and your family has been invited elsewhere for Thanksgiving. Whether or not you go elsewhere is your business. Make dinner for you, your spouse and offspring only. You can make the full feast and offer some to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, if the spirit of sharing with others is important to you. At least those people will be grateful for your offerings, whatever they are.

              My own sister is the type to turn down invites to major family events because "it's too far to drive" (no more than 1 hour). When she accepts, we're lucky if she and her husband come with a bottle of wine. She never offers to bring anything, even something store bought. I don't get it. She's a very busy professional, but her husband, who does the shopping, cooking and cleaning, has time to contribute. I think he has manners too, so I'm not sure where the breakdown occurs with them. I live 4+ hours' drive from those family dinners and try my hardest to make it every year, armed with at least a couple of bottles of wine and whatever dish my aunt wishes me to prepare and bring. My sister and brother-in-law take seats at the table that don't allow them easy access to the kitchen. Instead, they watch as others clear the table after the meal is done. I sincerely hope nobody lets them take any leftovers away with them. Leftovers are for those who helped in some capacity (and anyone elderly or infirm, of course).

              Families are tricky. It's always uncomfortable if you don't care for someone. We try to overlook minor issues, especially if someone has a set of challenges that complicate things. However, being a martyr annually is not required. You are well within your rights to set rules in your home. Tell your guests what you need them to bring, and be specific. Task those two (BIL and SIL) with bringing 2 cases of soda cans or else large bottles. Or, if you are quite happy doing all the cooking and providing beverages, send out invites next year and request that each individual guest give either $10 to be donated to the food bank or $10 worth of canned or nonperishable foods, which you will donate on their behalf. Not everyone has time to cook or shop, but most can give up $10 to charity in order to be fed like royalty at your home for a night.

              1. re: 1sweetpea

                Sweetpea, do your sister and BIL post on this site?

                1. re: pollymerase

                  Absolutely not!!!

                2. re: 1sweetpea

                  To me, that seems rather harsh, but then, what do I know?

                  I would just overlook, and spend my time with my other guests - the ones, who appreciate the efforts.

                  Maybe I am missing something very important here. I have family, who are stoners, drink too much, flaunt their latest auto, latest wife (or husband), their vacations, their stock purchases, their children's acceptance to Ivy League College ___, their jet, or their recent incarceration. They are family, and I try to host them openly. As my role as host is quite busy, I seldom have any issues, since I only have so much time to spend with each individual. The night flies by.

                  Hunt

                  1. re: 1sweetpea

                    I'm sorry but the point of Thanksgiving is to give God thanks for our blessings. This poor girl obviously has major limitations and does not seem capable to interact on a "normal" basis. Part of being a gracious hostess is a welcoming spirit, not expecting "payback" for your work. Pray for your bro and SIL and give thanks that you have been endowed with the talents and resources of happiness and contentment. God bless you all....

                    1. re: betsydiver

                      Great response, with the possible exception of who/what you give thanks to. But otherwise, spot on.

                  2. re: jmcarthur8

                    The Holidays are very stressful times for many reasons...the Norman Rockwell image of Thanksgiving never happened in my dysfunctional family. I'm familiar with your SIL. My brother was married to her for awhile. He's on beast # 4 now, but she has a brain and no drug dependency. We have several alcoholics to contend with, though.

                    If you choose to host family Thanksgiving dinners in your home, then you choose to include the fringe elements (not to be unkind, but reality calls). Unless you move and don't tell everyone where you are. I've considered that.

                    It is what it is. You're not going to enlighten or change her. Quit beating yourself up. Do what you can do to make the get together pleasant, let the rest of it go. She doesn't have issues, they're all yours. You sound like a wonderful, sensitive caring person. I've been where you are. You need to accept what is, what you cannot change and decide if it's worth it.

                    If it's not, do something different.

                    p.s. We called her the Wilderbeast

                  3. ooh, I think I know her! Not really, but I know someon just like that! This is rough, but I don't think that it's fair that you have to do every Thanksgiving. My parents had hosted Chrstmas day for years and years. There are some branches of my family that don't get along with others, and several years ago I just told many relatives that my mother just wasn't up to entertaining a large group anymore (which was true) and that my husband and I would need to visit some family members on other days. It's actually working great, and I find that I enjoy several visits to smaller groups of people more. But the key is that the message of non-hosting did not come from my mother, so there was no perception that she was "un-inviting" anyone. Do you have another family member that you can confide in who might suggest a change in arrangements?

                    1. I am so sorry that no one in your family has seemed to begin to address what could be a far more serious problem than the issue of thanksgiving. As another poster mentioned, this woman may have some form of autism or other mental disability. Has your brother attempted to help her? From what you wrote, I'm assuming that he hasn't, which means that he may be in denial about the extent his wife's behavior has been affecting you and others. You also mention that their house is messy; do they have children? Regardless, the health issues that you have brought up need to be addressed. However, it is your brothers responsibility to do that, and not yours. At the same time, maybe you can use the issue of thanksgiving as a catalyst to having a conversation with your brother about getting serious about his wife's health issues. Good luck and let us know what happens.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: NicoleFriedman

                        thank you so much Nicole, this is a much more serious problem than T-giving. I did just include a lot in my response to the main thread, below.

                      2. I'm sorry for your situation.

                        If I were in your shoes these are the things I would consider:

                        1. As mentioned above, start drinking early.
                        2. Run away, run fast, run far.
                        3. Resign yourself to the fact that the day is going to be unpleasant but it IS just one day. Plan on a special meal out the weekend after to get the taste out of your mouth.
                        4. Make SIL the meal of her dreams whatever that might be. See part two of number three to get over that.

                        1. That sounds like a dreadful situtation for you to be in. Some ideas that might help you cope:

                          1. try and stay away from her as much as possible during the day. I think it goes without saying that she should not be in the kitchen. If this is an issue, perhaps assign someone to try and keep her out of the kitchen (I like my kitchen to myself - my favourite task to give someone who asks if they can help, is the task of keeping people out of my kitchen).

                          2. perhaps tey and get a few of the other guests (or your husband or kids) to try and engage her in conversation, or some sort of fun activity - I wonder whether some of her outbursts come from feeling a bit neglected or out of things - maybe she would behave a bit better if she was a bit more inlcuded. People may not eagerly sign up for this task, but perhaps everyone could take a shift and take one for the team!!

                          3. A lots of deep breaths, a lot of wine. Maybe take some time out of the way - disapear for 10 minutes into the yard, or into your bedroom with a book to give yourself a little time and space when it gets too much.

                          Good luck and please report back!!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: AussieBeth

                            I've devised a system of "Tag You're It" with one of my SO's friends. This person is so profoundly rude, sexist, non-interesting ie; so self centered that I can literally feel my blood pressure rise whenever I'm stuck with him and I don't have high blood pressure!

                            The deal is this, when I get cornered or stuck with this person, I find an excuse and hunt down SO and simply say "Tag You're It". It is then his responsibility to get this person out of my face, out of my space. Since SO invites him (and he ALWAYS invites him), it's his duty to get our guest to back off. It's the only way I'll let him enter our home.

                            1. re: JerryMe

                              Ar you absolutely positive that you're not talking about my mother? :-)

                          2. Hi... I'm sorry that you have to weather such a difficult situation... That said, I also don't see the relevance between your SIL's intellectual/emotional limitations and her physical weight. I'm certain you were not implying that very large people are more intellectually or emotionally stunted as evidenced by their body size.

                            As for the folding chair incident, some are precarious for even a person half her size, at 200 pounds. Clueless people come in all sizes.

                            She sounds rude and thoughtless, whereas you sound caring and rightfully distressed. Let's not bring her obesity into the situation, as her problems seem to extend well past physical issues..

                            I wish you a better experience this year, because you deserve it...

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: silence9

                              Thank you silence9, I was going to say the same thing re: weight.

                              And for the OP, I am so sorry that you have to deal with this difficult relative. I really liked the suggestion you got above about recruiting the family to entertain her. I know it seems like throwing more effort at someone who doesn't seem to appreciate your already considerable effort, but at least you will all be in it together and perhaps it will help. When I read the description about her talking about stuff that only she's into, perhaps she just doesn't understand how to talk with the rest of you and this is her way of trying to engage. I have actually known people like this who really think this is how people make conversation and are confused why no one finds them pleasant to speak with. Difficult all around.

                              Best of luck!!!!

                              1. re: silence9

                                Ditto on the weight thing. Plus as a person of 250 lbs. if there aren't a lot of seats or there are elders in attendance I may very well choose the folding chair to give them te more comfortable chair.

                              2. I'd make a big jug of sangria to get through the day and then never invite them again. I'm a huge family person but I also know to avoid certain members of the family as they have been known to ruin things for everyone else.

                                Life is too short to be irritated, exhausted, and just wishing everyone would leave on a holiday. =)

                                1. If she truly is low functioning and perhaps has cognitive deficits, then she cannot be held responsible for her behavior, but that doesn't mean you need to martyr yourself. Decide not to host next year. Plan a Thanksgiving getaway, or decide that it is too much stress for you to host again. If no one else steps up, then just stay home and plan a stress-less private meal at home.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Kat

                                    I'd agree with Kat. Power through this year, and have other plans for next year!

                                    1. re: Kat

                                      <If she truly is low functioning and perhaps has cognitive deficits, then she cannot be held responsible for her behavior>

                                      Not entirely true (a completely different subject altogether) however it doesn't mean the OP has to be responsible for taking care of her emotionally or physically....even thought she's considered family. If the SIL is a pain in the ass to be around then the OP shouldn't be obligated to invite her. Even low functioning people have no excuse for behaving offensively....otherwise they're simply being enabled.

                                    2. Lots of good suggestions here already...and sympathy.

                                      I would suggest you ignore her rude comments as much as possible, not expect any changes in her behaviors and tell yourself during your evening- that you are being gracious to her rudeness out of the goodness of your heart because you are wonderful and everyone else see's it and knows it.

                                      I work with what is considered a "difficult to serve" population. I suggest you practice speaking your mind, truthfully, clearly, and in a non judgmental way (for ALL TO HEAR you).....

                                      "I am sorry you don't like my sweet potatoes, I put alot of effort into them".
                                      "I didn't remember that you only like XX, I have had many other things to remember this week".
                                      "Maybe one time we could come to your home for Thanksgiving so you could prepare us a healthier/better/ faster meal".
                                      "If all the chips are gone, I don't have anymore"
                                      "The Thanksgiving meal tends to be costly and I am am happy to pay for it all, so please bring XX six packs of soda".
                                      "Please scrape your own plate, or ask someone else to do it"....look at BIL..... repeat until it is done.

                                      When non judgmental statements or requests are put out there for all to hear, you might be surprised that you will get some *back up* from the rest of the family. Don't be afraid to put it out there for BIL to pick up her slack if she ignores your simple request, she should be HIS problem, not yours.

                                      Just watch your tone if you are irritated as it can come through. Saying please and thank you helps as long as it's not "Please don't sit your big fat ass on that folding chair" :)

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: sedimental

                                        Yes. it really sounds like someone can't/won't take a hint. Be direct.
                                        Also, understand that the lady would like some attention -- give it to her!
                                        If she starts talking about someone you don't know, quiz her on the person...
                                        learn a little about her friends-- can't hurt, can it, to know people that tolerant?

                                        1. re: sedimental

                                          I recommend this so much, especially because it deals with immediate behavior and not any other underlying issue that may or may not exist. You're not asking her to respond to your emotions or feelings or try and guess what her's are, but rather asking directly what you want and dealing directly with what she's said.

                                          I think in these cases it's easy to try and diagnose people and then feel bad because "I think they might have x, y, or z" and then not want to address little things. However, clearly these little things are contributing to making the holiday stressful and unpleasant.

                                          I also think this is a case where hints or assumptions of good behavior don't work. Say directly, "Could you please bring x liters of soda and y bottles of juice," - "Can you please help me do the dishes/clear the table/load the dishwashder". It may ultimately not work, but it may also just be helpful to for you have have on record "I tried to ask for what I want, no one listened to me and no one supported me". That may make choosing to host again a far easier choice than just "I have a difficult guest or two".

                                          1. re: sedimental

                                            A much-wiser-than-I person once remarked "People aren't inherently annoying, we choose to be annoyed by them.", and to a certain extent that may be true here. All we ever have control over is our own words, actions and reactions.

                                            I have a mentally ill family member, whose behavior at family functions ranges from embarrassing to verbally abusive. We've all twisted ourselves in knots over the years trying to modify her behavior and none of it has worked, so we've now taken the approach of either not inviting her, if we feel we can't tolerate the behavior, or being honest in our reactions to her " X, I'm not going to tolerate being spoken to like that." or "You've said a lot of unkind things about Uncle Morty, and I'm not interested in hearing any more." and occasionally "If you can't stop dominating the conversation, it's time for you to leave."
                                            There is no need to be unkind -- just put out a set of clear expectations if she can't read social cues, be honest when your feelings are hurt, and if she chooses to be offended, then so be it. All that said, you have my sympathies -- it's tough.

                                            1. re: sedimental

                                              I like this post. It is full of good advice. The key of course, is to continue to be polite as you respond.
                                              And I agree that others will chime in after you do so.

                                              But, since you dread doing Thanksgiving, then consider what you really want to do next year. Then make plans accordingly. Perhaps you could schedule a short vacation over the long weekend for yourself and your DH. Come to a joint decision, and then treat yourselves.

                                              If your DH wants you to host Thanksgiving, then he needs to take some of the pressure off you regarding his brother's wife. (I've got the relationship right, I hope.) Whatever you two do, it should be a joint decision. Promise yourself that this Thanksgiving will the last under the circumstances you have described.

                                              Good luck!

                                            2. Have you talked to your husband about this??? ~~ Surely he can/should intervene on your behalf!!

                                              1. First of all, that's a whole lot of negativity there. You're consumed with it, so there's little chance you can bottle it for the day.

                                                But, I'll give some advise a go. I also have some predictably annoying relatives. I know what they are going to gripe about, topics that they will invariably drone on about although nobody cares, etc.

                                                So, we make a game out of it. My spouse and I make separate lists of these annoying predicted utterances, and then we keep score, every time we get a hit. So now, instead of groaning every time you hear this insipid crap, you look forward to it, because it's points!

                                                You may have to be discreet- but it makes the day much more fun by betting that you can get this annoying person to say more things on your list that on your spouses. It becomes hilarious, really.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                                                  DH and I LOVE this!!! Too funny!

                                                  1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                                                    I love this idea - I say make a drinking game out of it to increase the enjoyment further!

                                                    1. re: biondanonima

                                                      There ya go.............

                                                    2. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                                                      Brilliant! I think we'll try that with my mother.....

                                                      1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                                                        heh- i used to do this with a bf and annoying comments his sister made, whenever she made one of the comments on the list, wed take a swig from a huge highly alcoholic mixed drink, suffice it to say it had done its job pretty early on during each visit

                                                        1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                                                          OMG that is funny. The drinking game, too. How awesome if you're stuck.

                                                        2. I'm simply unable to be gracious. How horrible. You're a sensitive, gracious host; she's a boorish, undeserving guest. Uninvite them, and let the chips fall where they may.

                                                          P.S. I hope this isn't a goof post.

                                                          1. Who else comes to your house? Can you dilute the pain by inviting some fun people? We're spending thanksgiving with friends, plus my mother in law is coming along. She's nuts and will spend most of the day watching TV but I let it roll off my back and focus on the convivial chatter.

                                                            Obviously your SIL isn't going to change and disinviting does seem a bit much to me. Just resolve not to let it get you down.

                                                            1. Expect nothing to change. Don't engage with her in any way. Make the meal as short as possible. Whenever, necessary, excuse yourself and take a few minutes alone to breathe and tell yourself it will soon be over. Expect nothing to change.

                                                              1. I would overlook this person's short-comings, and welcome her (and B-I-L) as family.

                                                                No sense trying to diagnose things, or modify an individual's behavior.

                                                                Welcome them both, do not focus on what you see as issues, and be the most gracious host/hostess, that you possibly can be. Family is family, even if family via marriage. Smile a lot, and move on. Life is far too short to obsess over.

                                                                Good luck,

                                                                Hunt

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                  I like this response too. Life IS too short....

                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                    Nice. The serenity prayer works here (whether you're religious or not, just extrapolate).

                                                                    I would make sure to have one dish I know she likes, and let her know. It might make positive inroads.

                                                                  2. binky1......IF you insist on hosting and including them as your guests then just be the "bigger" person ( no pun intended @ the 400 lbs.) and kill her with kindness.EVERY family has an obnoxious negative unpleasant individual who IMO probably plots for the entire year methods of getting on their host's nerves. I myself have several in my extended family:) Just maybe keep a HUGE plate of snacks readily available next to her all day and she can keep busy plowing through that:) Good luck and if all else fails just stop hosting for a few years.

                                                                    1. you're not responsible for keeping her entertained and engaged. let her stare at the wall.

                                                                      but on a serious note if she's on any kind of medications, BIL or somebody really ought to make sure they are being taken correctly AND not counter-indicating. they should raid the cabinet, compile a list and alert her GP (assuming there is one). friends and family of mine have gotten cavalier and needed someone to do this, one was prescribed new meds to replace the old set, but the 'scrip wasn't cancelled so she misunderstood it to mean she should take both. another considered the dosage to be a 'suggestion' not a maximum. they keep daily journals now. and can now carry on a conversation. sleep patterns are still weird, but...

                                                                      1. To me, that seems rather harsh, but then, what do I know?

                                                                        I would just overlook, and spend my time with my other guests - the ones, who appreciate the efforts.

                                                                        Maybe I am missing something very important here. I have family, who are stoners, drink too much, flaunt their latest auto, latest wife (or husband), their vacations, their stock purchases, their children's acceptance to Ivy League College ___, their jet, or their recent incarceration. They are family, and I try to host them openly. As my role as host is quite busy, I seldom have any issues, since I only have so much time to spend with each individual. The night flies by.......................................................................................................................................................
                                                                        Bill Hunt YOU sir are welcome at MY dinner table any time:) You have a gentleman's attitude warmth and impeccable manners on this board!!!!!!! Lillipop

                                                                        9 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Lillipop

                                                                          The way I deal with my wife's family, that put the "fun" in disfunctional, is to busy myself in the kitchen.
                                                                          If anyone asks if they can help, they will get the standard response; "Help? Yes, stay the hell out of my kitchen!"
                                                                          After dinner, i'll busy myself cleaning up the wreckage in the kitchen....and drinking a bit... Okay, drinking more than a bit....
                                                                          So, most of my social interaction with the family is on a "fly-by" basis.

                                                                          1. re: zippypinhead

                                                                            Yes, I have retreated to the wine cellar, under the pretense of dredging up that perfect wine, and then closed the door - cool, dark, but so inviting, when one needs to scream, or just be alone for a moment. "Where's Hunt?" "He's getting a perfect wine. He'll be back in a moment." All I have to do is remember to have at least one bottle of wine in my hand, when I return to the group.

                                                                            Hunt

                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                              Opened?

                                                                              Yes, a quiet place to escape for a moment can be life-saving.

                                                                              1. re: sr44

                                                                                It has "saved" me often, whether I needed it, or not.

                                                                                Hunt

                                                                          2. re: Lillipop

                                                                            I try, and just attempt to get past things, beyond my control.

                                                                            We host a lot (not so much for Thanksgiving any more), and many of my "guests" have totally different opinions, that I do. I just get past it, and only indulge them in conversations that are friendly.

                                                                            Thank you for the kind words.

                                                                            Hunt

                                                                            1. re: Lillipop

                                                                              We are working on cloning Bill Hunt...a gentleman of his caliber is a lost art and we need more of his ilk in the world!

                                                                              1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                                Now, you are making me blush, and in a very big way...

                                                                                Thank you,

                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                  Oh, heck, all the women want you, Bill! ;-)

                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                    @Bill Hunt.........Good manners and intelligence ALWAYS trump snarky and dismissive:)

                                                                              2. Bloodys for breakfast...spritzers for lunch and gin and tonics for dinner..with a nice cab to round out the debby downer vibe.
                                                                                ; )

                                                                                1. Rule number one: don't make eye contact.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: olyolyy

                                                                                    LOL!

                                                                                    I had not thought of that treatment, but see how it could well be effective.

                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                    1. re: olyolyy

                                                                                      Olyolyy,
                                                                                      Rule number two: if there are no eyes, avoid ALL contact.

                                                                                    2. Some good.some not so advice here...I'll add mine and you can decide

                                                                                      1. Do NOT invite them.and tell your BIL or your husband why
                                                                                      2.Ignore her
                                                                                      3.Smile...and find fun in all the others that are there
                                                                                      4. Make sure the liquor cabinet is well stocked........maybe she'll pass out.....or by then you won't care

                                                                                      1. Just ignore her... simple as that. She's not going to change and neither are you.

                                                                                        If you're going to host thanksgiving, then you either invite her and ignore her or don't invite her and deal with the comments from relatives calling you mean, etc. Also, no one says you have to host thanksgiving for the entire family.

                                                                                        As far as dishes and clean up, I personally think it's a bit out of line to expect your guests to behave the same way as your children. Your guests are your guests...part of hosting is the clean up not sitting at the head of the table smiling down at people.

                                                                                        When I attend huge parties at my sister's, I generally help with dishes because I feel like it. If I don't feel like it, oh well. When she visits at my place, I don't expect her to clean up - in fact, I insist she does not. Different strokes, I guess. If I'm at a friend's place, I'm not expected to clean and I generally don't.

                                                                                        I know you have issues with her, but are you sure you're not nitpicking? It seems as if as bad as she is, you make yourself more miserable by picking apart everything she does.

                                                                                        Don't take the holidays too seriously... you're not posing for a Norman Rockwell painting. Relax and try to enjoy yourself. If they piss you off, just smile and realize they don't live with you.
                                                                                        Make a few boozy treats and enjoy your party.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: nikkib99

                                                                                          nikki
                                                                                          Thank you for your thoughtful post - I thought a lot about it as well. Surely there have been egregious things, but I've gotten into the habit of cataloging everything so I can complain or be outraged. . I loved what you wrote about what hosting responsibilities really encompass. I say to myself, "i do everything and no one helps" (cue the violin)... I think I feel sorry for myself b/c no one else will do it...but then again, I do enjoy aspects of it and probably would do it anyway, it's important for me that the family is together esp BIL with our kids...and for my DH, who truly asks for very little else. The importance of those things reallly trump everything, which is why I want ways to handle it. Very helpful, and thank you again.

                                                                                        2. I have a SIl who was always making negative comments, trashing the rest of the family and being generally obnoxious. I was ready to say I would never be in her presence again, but thought it unkind to destroy my husbands relationship with his brother. I finally decided that nothing she said or did would have any effect on my life. I became a duck! I just let it all roll off my back and pretty much ignored anything she said. It worked and I was so much less stressed. Good luck with your relative.

                                                                                          1. Sounds like your SIL is brain damaged, and I say it in the most unjudgmental way possible. Her behavior is completely consistent with brain damage, for which you can do nothing, and neither can her, for that matter. So if you have to put up with her, put up with her the same way you'd put up with your own mother or father if they were ever senile. No fun, but how else are you going to treat them, through no fault of their own.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                                                                              Here I thought that maybe I had a "family from Hell," but with the OP, and some of the comments, perhaps I should be EVEN more thankful...

                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                            2. Being fairly new as a regular poster on Chowhound I have had moments of encountering what I posted about in another area (Mean Girls Mentality by many of the "seasoned" posters). I am greatly relieved that though on this post many of us ,myself included made flippant jokes, the recurring theme I am seeing are suggestions of tolerance kindness and self medication with ETOH! So glad that people care:)

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Lillipop

                                                                                                Lillipop,

                                                                                                Jokes are part of the "game," though many of mine fall flat. Such is life - like family at Thanksgiving...

                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                  Same here... I don't take myself too seriously and joke around a lot. Sadly, some people just don't get it and it also does not translate well online. I'm from a large family and we rip on each other a lot - not maliciously (but it can really be annoying when you're on the receiving end), but we give and take a few digs. It's just laughs.

                                                                                                  Like a few years ago when my BIL decided to deep-fry the Thanksgiving turkey and it looked like something that had been in a crematorium. He made the mistake of voicing out loud - 'is this think cooked?' - and man, we were laughing so hard and making all these dumb comments I'm surprised he did not kick us out of his home.

                                                                                                  I don't think I'm a mean girl - just a very good shit-talker, but it's not meant in a bad way.

                                                                                              2. A similar person resides within my family.  I would best describe her as oblivious.  She leaves a trail of broken things and hurt feelings in her wake, and she has absolutely no idea.  I believe she has cognitive dysfunction.  Years of feeling abused, hurt, disrespected and angry have lead to new path -- managed visitation.  It can still be exhausting, but i look at each opportunity as a new learning experience for me. 

                                                                                                The key is start from a base of acknowledging and accepting they will not be providing food, beverage, or titillating conversation.  Get over that, and you won't be disappointed.  (in my case, trying to get her to provide specific items has continually lead to disappointment and/or puzzling substitute contributions such as taco salad for Thanksgiving, so I don't bother asking) 

                                                                                                From there, you strategically engage in conversation in order to head off trouble or to gently guide her in another direction.  This involves many of the techniques described above.  You acknowledge her, make her aware of how you are taking care of her needs, guide the conversation back to subjects that interest everyone.  Most importantly, overlook comments you view as negative -- it is likely she has no idea how she comes off. The trick is to make her feel engaged, while secretly managing her behavior.   Eventually, you manage her right out the door, take a deep breath, and enjoy the rest of your night.

                                                                                                Or you could just ignore her and drink a lot.

                                                                                                1. Another thought. Plan where you are going away to next Thanksgiving--so you will be hosting no one--and think about that the whole day.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                    e123 - oh I have plenty of strategies on that one and have used them. I plan on sharing them with my sister's kids now that they are of the age to get the hell away.

                                                                                                    companions: you HAVE to let your family know where you are!
                                                                                                    me: why? if something bad happens it's all down the toilet anyway. the lie is easier.

                                                                                                  2. Hi binky, I'm so sorry that you're in this unpleasant situation. I'm inferring from your post that you feel guilty being rude and not attending to her as you would another guest. I've had a similar situation with my former BIL, who was about the same size, attention-needy, talked only of fantasy games that no one else played, and would complain if I served any vegetables not covered in cheese.

                                                                                                    Many people have posted great responses, so I'll reiterate one point that others have already made: there is no way to change their behavior, only the ability to change your own reaction to it.
                                                                                                    You are currently filled with dread and anticipating all of the unpleasant situations you will be in. If you can, I suggest you meditate, do yoga, have a glass of wine, hit a punching bag, whatever it is that allows you to get to a calm state and reflect on the idea of having a good day for you, for your husband and for you children. It is not your responsibility to make anyone else happy. Only they can choose that for themselves. If someone is going to complain, put their head in the sand or cause problems, then let them be alone in that. Smile and focus on your day.

                                                                                                    Practically speaking, it might help if you had something that would serve as a distraction for your SIL. Chips are cheaper than nicer appetizers, maybe buy some extra bags. While it may not be your personal choice to have TV on all day, maybe she'd enjoy (quietly) watching some shows. Or maybe a deck of cards can keep everyone focused on a joint activity. Even some magazines scattered that you know others would like can keep them occupied and less likely to be driving you crazy. Also, set a firm end time and communicate it clearly to all guests. That way if things do seem dire, you know exactly when the light at the end of the tunnel is going to come.

                                                                                                    That said, inevitably there will be moments that make you want to scream. It's ALWAYS ok to step away for a moment. Did your cell phone just ring in the other room? Oh, forgot to get the wine out! Just remembered you need to take your vitamins! The neighbor's cat likes to be fed RIGHT NOW, GOTTA GO! Step aside, take some breaths, have a sip of wine and remember the things you are grateful for, instead of focusing on the immediate things that make you want to scream.

                                                                                                    And of course, next year... maybe take a year off?

                                                                                                    1. Have you considered contacting some TV networks like A&E or TLC? You may have the beginning of a new "reality" show concept.

                                                                                                      1. One of the things that stands out here is the notion that so many people have when it comes to family. People think they have to put up with so much bad behavior and one of the true beliefs that has helped me through so many things....
                                                                                                        I don't believe anymore that I have to allow members of family ruin functions, events or get togethers. If they choose to behave then it's great, they're welcome to attend. If not, they're not invited. Mentally ill, mentally challenged or anything in between. No more guilt on my part.

                                                                                                        21 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                          In my case, it was part not being able to truly comprehend that seemingingly "normal" people could behave that way (I learned different) and part wanting to be welcoming to my husband's family.

                                                                                                          1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                            After many, many years of marriage I understand fully and completely.
                                                                                                            It's amazing how people (even mentally challenged people who oftentimes can be far worse) can mistake generosity for weakness. I always felt I had to work my ass off to be looked at as the generous, kind and loving one and learned, after some very big lessons, that the same people I was accomodating were using my generosity as a vehicle to be take advantage of goodness. I've learned much needed boundaries and realized my life is no less important than the theirs.

                                                                                                            1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                              Yes, that can produce a problem, and it should not - still, it does.

                                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                                          2. re: latindancer

                                                                                                            latindancer, that doesn't work when the person in question is your elderly mother and your family is all she has beyond her retirement facility.

                                                                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                              sandylc...I'm afraid it does work if the mother in question is a narcissist and ruins dinners, weddings, birthdays and anything else she requires complete attention on her at all times or else.
                                                                                                              If a mother acts like a mother is supposed to act then, of course, the sky's the limit :).

                                                                                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                The problem with people like my mother is that they are always convinced that everyone else is wrong and they are the victim. Our family gave up on confronting her many years ago because it was always, of course, about her, and would lead to her having a tantrum and everyone else just crawling away as soon as they could. I escaped by leaving home early and moving to a different state; now I regret leaving my poor departed father on his own to deal with her. I'm now getting my payback; she has moved to 8 miles away and is my responsibility. Wondering when the sister gets her share.....

                                                                                                                Wow, Debbie Downer.....sorry!!!!

                                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                  We have similar stories, no need to apologize. I hope, for you, your coping mechanisms are sharp :).

                                                                                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                    Thanks! If life wasn't challenging we would have trouble staying awake for it, right?

                                                                                                                  2. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                    My eyes widened upon reading your post. I *almost* could've written it word for word. After my dad died I moved mom here and she lived with us for awhile and it DID NOT WORK. Like you, I moved away from my home state at a young age and was used to doing things my own way, in my own household, with my husband and son. The degree of her need for control almost gave me a nervous breakdown and gave her a one-way ticket to assisted living. My only sibling lives in Germany, so she's all mine! :( Sometimes the responsibility is overwhelming. I hear you!

                                                                                                                    She is invited to Thanksgiving at my husband's family celebration, but refuses to go. There's too many unknowns for her. We'll have our own feast with her at our house on Friday. That will involve 2 round trips to Minnetonka and back (80 miles), but at least I'll console myself with the meal I enjoy as opposed to SIL's dry unstuffed turkey and gravy from a packet I'll partake in on Thursday.

                                                                                                                    You're not a Debbie Downer! In fact, you made me feel better because I know I'm not alone.

                                                                                                                    1. re: justalex

                                                                                                                      Wow, thanks. Makes me feel better, somehow! Funny, I live in the Twin Cities, too. Want to start a support group? :-)

                                                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                        Would I ever! Imagine the potluck we'd have, and the stories! :)

                                                                                                                        1. re: justalex

                                                                                                                          justalex:

                                                                                                                          Serious? dickthewebguy@comcast.net

                                                                                                                      2. re: justalex

                                                                                                                        You're not alone, sadly.

                                                                                                                        For some of us the only answer is to leave it all behind and move on. Life is just too short for the misery these types of mothers throw at their children.

                                                                                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                          No can do. My mom was great when she was younger, though always a bit controlling. She had my dad to control back in those days. :( He was the happy-go-lucky free spirited artist, the type everyone talks about that is like a duck that lets everything roll off their back. He dealt with it and I ran. Call it a premonition. Once her health failed, in a wheelchair now, she basically ran him into the ground.

                                                                                                                          He was a tri-athlete at 75 and she had him on a leash to one hour a day of leaving her outside the house. Dad loved people and he loved her more. He died of a glioblastoma.

                                                                                                                          My mom isn't entirely miserable to be around. I've forgiven her for her control of my dad because I do believe she has a degree of mental illness. She's not evil by any means, and now I can see the beginnings of dementia. I think she's truly afraid and now I and my husband and child are all she has locally. Her friends are far away.

                                                                                                                          Throw in the evils of brain cancer my dad had, losing your lifelong home and friends and grieving, less than two years ago, and I'm giving her a pass, with love and forgiveness.

                                                                                                                          When my dad was in hospice and mom refused to leave the house to visit him, the social worker said she was like a two-year-old that had a tantrum. She's never been able to deal with reality.

                                                                                                                          I have sympathy, not empathy for that condition for I have witnessed that first hand. Very sad. So mom will be with us on Friday, be that what it will. I will be happy though, because I love both my dad (miss you!) and he would be content that she is loved.

                                                                                                                          1. re: justalex

                                                                                                                            Ah, I recognize the reference to a two-year-old having a tantrum. Very familiar!

                                                                                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                              +1 :).

                                                                                                                            2. re: justalex

                                                                                                                              You're a good soul :).

                                                                                                                              Narcissists, like mine, should never have children....it goes against everything a mother should be. Now that I have my own children, and am the complete opposite of my mother, I realize it's literally impossible for a mother to not love her children and want to protect them.
                                                                                                                              She did not though, and does not, and it makes it easier to walk away.

                                                                                                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                My mother was very concerned that we would embarrass her.

                                                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                  Oh wow that would be so hard for a child.

                                                                                                                                  People like this just leave everyone, as this board illustrates, trying to figure out what to do and how to make things easy. Adults are one thing, trying to figure it all out and how to manage, but children are just left damaged and confused.

                                                                                                                                2. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                  ...I could have written that myself right down to mothering the complete opposite of my own Mom - my two sons and I have a wonderfully caring and close relationship as a result. I haven't allowed my Mom to impose herself and her deprecating ways in our lives for years....no regrets.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Mutch2Do

                                                                                                                                    Folks, this is getting pretty far afield from anything to do with entertaining etiquette or the original poster's question. We know commiserating with others over family stuff is cathartic, but it's getting really far off-topic.

                                                                                                                  3. It's your brother's problem, not yours. Don't invite them. If he married someone so poisonous, there's probably something wrong with him.

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: beevod

                                                                                                                      I was thinking it was Her Brother-in-law, and sister-in-law....Which would make it the OP's husband's brother or sister....right? HE (husband) is the one who should man up and take care of business!!!.

                                                                                                                    2. If she operates on a childish level, treat her like a small unruly child. I do mean that kindly. Don't expect more from her than she can give. Make your expectations clear. Give her choices when possible instead of saying no. Perhaps she could help with simple tasks- making placecards or sticking cloves in an orange. Ask her about what interests her- surely she has a favorite tv show or hobby. We set ourselves up for failure when we expect others to fall in line with what we think is the ideal. Good luck!

                                                                                                                      1. Yeah, I would seriously quit hosting if they are a required invitation. Just have a thanksgiving meal for you and your family. We do that because the big family gathering is so unsatsifying, frustrating, etc that now we can just ignore all of that and have our "real" meal to look forward to the next day.

                                                                                                                        1. Binky....death, taxes, and inlaws are uncontrollable. You can only control yourself. And shame on your husband for enabling this to go on for so long with you in the middle.

                                                                                                                          Sorry for that last line...I feel bad for the guilt and pressure you feel.

                                                                                                                          1. Binky, you sound as though you have reached your limit and need a break.

                                                                                                                            Use the many good suggestions to get through this year.

                                                                                                                            At dinner get everyone's attention for a toast. Mention your thanks for being able to have hosted for so many years but that next year it is not possible. You are sure something new and wonderful will develop to take it's place! Cheers...

                                                                                                                            1. I don't know if binky is still out there. This seems to be one of those singleton posters from what I see.

                                                                                                                              We have something similar with my mom's cousin's girlfriend. They are in their sixties and she is "a simpleton" according to my grandmother.

                                                                                                                              She has been known to throw a tantrum, wet her pants mid story, and take toys from small children. We see her once a year when we take out mom's cousin for dinner. The people who can be gracious sit at her end if the table and everyone else sits at the other end. It may mean we are having two different conversations but everyone is happier. Get her talking about something she likes. This woman will talk for hours about her cat.

                                                                                                                              1. I am still here - I just joined yesterday, that's all. I am overwhelmed by the responses, I honestly thought I'd get one or two. I cannot believe how much time and consideration people have given and I truly appreciate it!
                                                                                                                                To clarify, BIL is husb's brother, and SIL is his wife. They have no children. He works a good job, and she is home and does basically nothing as evidenced by the state of the house. I sense he's embarassed by it, but also either lazy or overwhelmed as shutters are falling down, the shed is collapsing etc.
                                                                                                                                I agree this is connected to other issue. MIL and i had a very good relationship, she had a lot of struggles w/SIL and she died early in our marriage - I may carry the grudge for her. My sibling situation (3 siblings: one addict, one with a severe personality disorder, and the closest one to me, who died unexpectedly 3 years ago). I long for a sister/brother in the family I could be close to, and like my MIL, I'm disappointed at that wish going away. That is my issue alone, though, and I'm responsible to deal with it.
                                                                                                                                I also feel that I have a moral/religious obligation to be kind and I don't like the way I have thought or acted toward her. I don't want to model that for my young children. They do tend to avoid her, I believe b/c of her neediness.
                                                                                                                                If I'm being honest, the weight comment is part of me wanting people to see how out of control and unacceptable she is. That is wrong and demeaning to any overweight person. I am no model of health or fitness, nor am I any Martha Stewart type, though I suppose we all have some version of the perfect holiday/family in our heads. Mine is the Folger's commercial where the guy comes home from the service to surprise the family.
                                                                                                                                Basically, I want my husb to have his brother and for my children to have a relationship with BIL and SIL. They are very thoughtful about the kids, always bringing them something, and they are happy to be included in things like baseball games.
                                                                                                                                have to get kids off the bus - I will post more later about what my plan is - thank you all again, so much!!!

                                                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: binky1

                                                                                                                                  Hey...I know that imagined perfect holiday image. Mine's a cross of the Barone family in Everybody Loves Raymond and Norman Rockwell. :-)

                                                                                                                                  Feel free to continue to vent/post here. We want you to have a Happy Thanksgiving--you deserve it!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: binky1

                                                                                                                                    Oh binky1, my heart goes out to you.
                                                                                                                                    Your post reminds me a little bit of my very new SIL and to some extent my BIL as well, although I see him as brow-beaten, but still with many good qualities.
                                                                                                                                    As newlyweds, I am trying to find my footing with this new SIL right now, and have thought of many things that may make Xmas more bearable when we choose to spend it together. -this year we are staying on the west coast, but last year she was a major contributor to my own tears during my first Xmas away from my family.
                                                                                                                                    The bossiness, self-centered behavior, oblivious to those making an effort around her and unwillingness to help or be charitable is what gets me. What sealed my bad impression was when she basically told her seven year old to shut up. Her kids do love her, but sometimes I wonder if its fear-driven or if she is an entirely different vegetable when she doesn't have an audience.
                                                                                                                                    I will be curious to read more great responses to your post. It sounds like you have come to the right place. I agree you should take next year off. Alternating years may help your patience endure. It sure is improving my outlook.

                                                                                                                                    eta: one thought I had was finding activities to break up the day so that we aren't just sharing space for an eight hour stretch(or two days, as last year turned out to be). I thought we could do a jigsaw puzzle, to at least provide distraction for hubby and myself, or even go get our nails done, or a massage (not as easy on an actual holiday). I'm still working on appropriate activities. A game of touch football or soccer would be nice but I doubt I could get her to go for it. Probably for the best as I don't see myself being mature enough not to tackle her.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: rabaja

                                                                                                                                      rabaja - I've started a tradition of a bonfire and bocce after the meal (if the weather is nice) for exactly that. I'm not going to wait for things to be engaging. if some of the folks want to zone out in front of the game, fine. not me.

                                                                                                                                      and this thread reminds me how lucky I am, sure I have pain-in-the-ass relatives, but also my nephew is engaged to a great gal who's a positive, gracious and happy person and they're scheduled to be here this year.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                        I wish we could play bocce, that's a perfect distraction. Last year we took the niece and nephew out to look at the holiday decorations, but that was after one whole day of staring at one another. Never again!

                                                                                                                                        I hope my in-laws feel the same about me being new to the family as you do about your nephews fiancee. That's a good reminder for me to keep the situation positive and to try to add to the holiday, not distract with complaining! Happy Turkey Day!

                                                                                                                                    2. re: binky1

                                                                                                                                      "Basically, I want my husb to have his brother and for my children to have a relationship with BIL and SIL. They are very thoughtful about the kids, always bringing them something, and they are happy to be included in things like baseball games. "

                                                                                                                                      Just keep that in mind, when you're thinking of them. Anyone who does that for your kids can't be all bad.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: binky1

                                                                                                                                        Welcome to CH! Sorry I implied your post wasn't legitimate but I tend to be gullible and have inadvertently "fed the trolls" in the past, so excuse my apprehension.

                                                                                                                                      2. There's not a lot in life that can be more stressful than problem relatives. We all seem to have them at one point or another. The stress is (obviously) much harder on you than it is on her. You still have time to call up all of your invitees to tell them you and your husband have just won a raffle for Thanksgiving in Pocatello, and you hope they all find something fun to do while you're gone. I mean, brunch at Motel 6 sounds better than what you're facing. Why do this to yourself? Who do you owe? Free yourself! And good luck! Happy Thanksgiving.

                                                                                                                                        1. Binky - oh, what to say? I've read every heartfelt response to your post, and I'm with you, all of you. I've tried almost all the strategies described; from drinking to numb the frustration and pent-up anxiety to employing all my communication techniques used with the dementia patients I've worked with for years, along with flat-out ignoring my boorish, impossible relative. What ended up helping me the most was self-awareness born out of maturity. Thirty years ago I was convinced I could deal with almost anything, but now, older and wiser, I realize that some situations and people just aren't good for me - at all. Binky, you've gone above and beyond the call of duty with this person; you have your own family and children, who deserve to be with a happy, relaxed mom on the holiday. For me, I'd rather teach my children how to deal with difficult people at other times than give them a memory of Thanksgiving that ALWAYS included Mom being exhausted and stressed out. You deserve better, Binky. And your family does too; my advice? Treat yourself to the knowledge that next Thursday will be the VERY LAST TIME you subject yourself to a Thanksgiving fraught with stress and exhaustion. If you still feel compelled to entertain them, invite these two to a cookout in the summer (for some reason I always find it easier to deal with these types outdoors) and next year, make a new tradition for yourselves and have the kind of holiday you'll really be thankful for. And don't beat yourself up over it. Good luck, and Happy Thanksgiving!

                                                                                                                                          1. Having one of those relatives myself and being the only caregiver, I am relieved to hear how many other folks go through this. I think maybe we need to start another thread when T-Day is over to have a post-game report.

                                                                                                                                            Will spare you the drama of mine this year who will have a wider audience with a new (and already briefed) member. But let's just form a club to support each other....

                                                                                                                                            1. Why not ask your spouse to speak with the BIL? If you think her behavior is on account of her deficits, what's the excuse for her higher functioning husband?

                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: Rodzilla

                                                                                                                                                no excuse, except the family just doesn't "do" conflict - never correct or try to change anyone else. DH can let it roll, partially b/c she seeks my attn and not his, women sit at the table and the men play games....He recognizes and appreciates my efforts, but he'd just let everything roll and not bother him. Ex when she complained about the beef, he told her we have PB&J and would have been happy to make her one and quite content for her to eat it. As luck would have it we were out of PB, but I wouldn't feel comfortable with someone eating PB//J at my table, and that is my problem and I have to let go of things like that. I can use to take a page from his book!!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: binky1

                                                                                                                                                  You've given yourself great advice there - don't let it bother you.

                                                                                                                                                  Think of it this way... you're stressing over someone and have been for some time. And every year, you go through these same emotions. What's this person doing? Probably home on the couch biting her toenails. Well, trying to on account of her size, but you get my drift.

                                                                                                                                                  Enjoy

                                                                                                                                              2. Thank you for all of your responses. I just wanted to share a few ‘final’ thoughts.
                                                                                                                                                Someone tapped into bigger issues and her weight – probably the biggest one for me is, she’s 50 years old and going to be disabled very soon. She can’t stand, walk any distance, or get up from a chair unassisted, and she stopped doing stairs years ago (which eliminated her laundry duty) She demands that BIL get her food b/c she can’t or won’t get up to get it herself. At this point I think BIL is living out his commitment in the kindest way he can and I feel sorry for him, but I have to remember that not only did he make the choice, but he makes the choice every day, for reasons that may work for him somehow. That is none of my business.
                                                                                                                                                I don’t enjoy the taste of alcohol (maybe I should start!) I did love the idea of the drinking game. But have come to the following conclusions and will do the following on T-giving based on your wonderful responses and suggestions:
                                                                                                                                                -Many people are in similar situations, and I’m not alone
                                                                                                                                                - It is my choice to host it. Choosing this means: Decide if I’m going to be outraged or miserable from today on. To not be miserable, I have to a)not anticipate problems, b)not monitor and catalog behavior to complain about later, and c)not go out of the way to ignore or engage, just relax and enjoy my family and find meaning in the fact that we are making a get together happen that otherwise wouldn’t.
                                                                                                                                                -If I choose not to do it next year, I can just say I’ve had enough hosting and we can do something else. It’s OK if someone is disappointed in that. DH will support me in that. No need for the anger, blaming SIL, or martyr routine.
                                                                                                                                                - I can stop beating myself up over not being a better person, and instead set things up to give my patience a break: set up games/puzzles, do a tag you’re it, or retreat to my room for a few minutes if need be.
                                                                                                                                                -If something truly egregious does happen, which it likely won’t, I can use one of the phrases suggested that will ‘address the immediate behavior and not the underlying issues”. I absolutely loved those. I think I’m on the right track if I’m naming a specific feeling response (that hurt my feelings) or modeling an appropriate response for my kids. I’m NOT on the right track if I’m trying to make some sort of dramatic statement or finally call her publicly on the thing that will “justify” me kicking her out. I have to watch it that I don’t LOOK for that…b/c the truth is, the fact that I’m injured about this is b/c I’ve let it go on without any change on my part.

                                                                                                                                                Thank you again for all of your kindness and attention to something that was troubling me so much. I feel armed with new responses and that I can feel, and behave, in a much better way. 

                                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: binky1

                                                                                                                                                  I think you have done an excellent job of sorting through what you can and can't do about this issue. I also think you have helped all of us to see the part we can choose or not choose to play in similar situations. You are to be commended.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                                    Came here to say exactly the same thing as escondido, so, kudos to you both.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: binky1

                                                                                                                                                    It's a tough situation and it's great that you've looked for help and are willing to consider suggestions. Good luck with it. It sounds like you're already in a better mindset.:-)

                                                                                                                                                  3. It sounds like the original poster has found some solutions that work for her purposes, so we're going to lock this up now, as these threads tend to go awry over time.