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Nov 13, 2012 02:19 PM

Please help me be kind to a rude in law


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?


            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.


          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: 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.


                  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?