How do I stand up to my father-in-law?
April 28, 2014 7:47 AM Subscribe
My father-in-law is hard to get along with and demanding. I really don't like being around the guy, and quite honestly neither does my wife. He wears us both down. My wife does want a relationship with her mother though, and so we both endure family dinners from time to time. We usually put them off as long as possible until it is unavoidable. There is only so many times we can decline until we feel like we are being jerks. We have largely handled these dinners by ignoring and/or giving in to my father-in-law. Now we have a child, and I want to stand up for us. How?
posted by ohjonboy to Human Relations (37 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
My father-in-law engages in two specific types of activities that bug me. He likes to give advice, and he likes to tell people what to do. The advice is usually financial in nature, but can be on any topic. He tries to tell us what type of retirement accounts we need, and what we need to be investing in. Last night he tried to tell us to refinance our house even though he doesn't know anything about our loan. He likes to pick stocks, and tells us which ones we should be buying. He tells us what grocery stores we should be shopping at, because it is cheaper. The clincher is that the advice is usually bad or none of his business.
He also tries to tell us what to do. Once he sits at the table he isn't getting up. So he will demand things from everyone. He forgot his water? He will tell my wife to get his water. Instead of reaching over and getting a spatula while cooking he will tell someone to give it to him. I think I would be fine with this if he would ask politely instead of barking orders.
In the past, we have both either ignored him, or depending on the request given in. I know that we have been feeding the monster by doing this. It was easy enough to go once a month, and let it roll off our backs. The problem is now we have a baby, and now I care. Now the demands and advice involve how I should handle and raise my child. Now I dwell on the conversations that we have, and they make me burn with fire. Funny how having a child will do that to you.
So, apparently I am a passive person, and I don't stand up for myself. That is actually pretty hard for me to admit. I think I have always thought I could stand up for myself. I feel like I don't think fast enough. By the time I realize what has happened the conversation has changed. If I do realize I need to say something, the only thing that comes to mind involves me yelling expletives so I keep quiet. I want to remain polite and cordial while I tell my father-in-law to back off.
Is there a book on handling these situations? Is there some technique that I can follow? Do I need to come up with canned responses when I am having imaginary arguments in the shower? I probably need this professionally as much as I need it with my in-laws, and so resources for professional development that can be adapted are welcomed too.