Hotel instead of parents house for the holidays?
December 7, 2006 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Hotel/Home for the Holidays? My girlfriend and I are facing a major dilemma in visiting her home town for Christmas: Stay at her parents house or stay in a hotel. Any advice or past experiences would be most appreciated. Much much

In order to fully comprehend the complexity of this dilemma, one first has to realize the severity of the situation.

First, I should probably note that I happen to be an atheist and do not really celebrate Christmas. My girlfriend basically considers herself spiritual and is still researching various things regarding that. Though she isn't necessarily involved with any organized religion, she was brought up Catholic and her family recognizes, and most definitely celebrates, all the appropriate holidays.

In general (in my very limited experience) I'm going to go out on a limb and say that her family overall has, and continues to be, somewhat passive aggressive in nature -- guilt trips and the like.

When I first met the family a couple months ago (we were there for a wedding) there were some complications. We apparently deeply offended her sister, brother-in-law and somewhat her parents by leaving a dinner meeting early (although, well after actually eating). The tension over this incident was so thick that the next day her brother-in-law brought my poor girlfriend and her mother to tears. I went up to him and said my piece but all I got was the same yelling, cursing and "you offended my family" (apparently by association). At any rate, it was not a pleasant way to first meet one's family.

My girlfriend and her sister have barely spoken (only 2 emails) since then and have not resolved any of this. She hasn't apologized to her or to me, even though I was just kind of there for the ride.

Anyway, despite this extreme melodrama, my girlfriend feels obligated to attend the Christmas holiday extravaganza. I of course didn't really jump at the opportunity to go, but I do care about her and she really wants me there. So I said "How about we compromise and we stay in a hotel instead of your parents' house?" My assumption being that we would have a sort of safe place to retreat to if things get uneasy and we can spend some nice time just being alone and away from things together.

She agreed that this would be fine. However, when she told her parents, they were not happy at all. They used words like "disappointed" and "offended" etc.

So it comes down to this. What the hell should we do?
  • Should she just go by herself, skip Christmas with me (since I don't really celebrate it anyhow) and stay with her family? Her family will no doubt give her guilt about somehow messing up the situation and me not coming anyhow, but at least I won't have to deal with that and they will get what they want as far as she goes.
  • or... Should we both go and stay in a nice hotel. Make a nice little mini-vacation out of it (4 days) and salvage what we can from the nights we'd be alone together. She will still get guilt for this from the 'rents based on their being disappointed and offended. The question is, is this option worth her parents potentially harboring some resentment towards me for somewhat steering my girlfriend away from her family for this holiday?
posted by travis vocino to Human Relations (44 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
How long have you been dating? Do you live together? I ask this because if you operate as a couple, you should both go.

If you're just casual and don't mind being apart, I'd stay home if I were you and let her iron things out with the fam.
posted by k8t at 7:36 PM on December 7, 2006


k8t, I would say that we do operate as a couple day-to-day but there hasn't been too much to really challenge that. I don't know if attending various parties and functions qualifies. I would definitely say it is more than just a strictly casual relationship.
posted by travis vocino at 7:44 PM on December 7, 2006


Is it in your ability to bring a gift aside from regular gifts that might help repair the rift? Something nice and thoughtful and not an apology but more of a "let's just all get along" kind of gift. And from what it sounds like, a good bottle of booze might go a long way in this family. Since you already let them know that you were going to stay in a hotel there is not much of a reason for changing your plans, but i'd try and bond with the family as much as possible.

P.S. Don't forget the booze.
posted by Derek at 7:44 PM on December 7, 2006


k8t, just looked at your profile, funny.. her name is "Katy" (spelled crazy like that too).
posted by travis vocino at 7:45 PM on December 7, 2006


What a nightmare! I'm reminded of the old SNL skit with Dana Carvey singing the "Carol of the Bells": "Please go away/Leave me alone/I'm doing fine/Just get away...."

I vote hotel. People who are "offended" because you're not staying in their house aren't really rational, and I think you both need space from them.

Plus it's easier to "wrap presents" (wink wink) in the hotel than at the parental abode.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 7:58 PM on December 7, 2006


What does your girlfriend want to do? It's her family (and her holiday more than yours, it seems); seems like her concerns should be the primary focus. If she wants to see her family but thinks it would be easiest for all if you weren't there, then you should stay home. If she wants to see her family and thinks it would be best if you were there, then you should go. If pleasing her parents is currently more important than her own peace of mind, she (or you both, if you're going) should stay with them. If establishing her independence is more important than pleasing her parents, then she (or you both, if you're going) should stay in a hotel.

(And if it were *me*, I'd probably have both me and my boyfriend skip the whole thing entirely and have Christmas at home, so there's that option, too.)
posted by occhiblu at 7:58 PM on December 7, 2006 [1 favorite]


So it comes down to this. What the hell should we do?

It depends on if you want to try to patch things up this time around with your girlfriend's family or not.

Every opportunity is a chance to redeem yourself (and yeah, it sounds like you have to redeem yourself - not the other way around...) so you best bet is to ask your gf what she thinks will do the most good in making things better.

Face it - you're on the rocks with her family and although it's not really anything you've done (her family sounds classically zany) you still have to be the bigger man and roll over and accept that things aren't going to get better until you reach out to them.

Also, don't underestimate the impact this may have on your relationship with your gf. She may side with you in the immediate, but few women will part ways for any length of time with their family over some guy. (I don't know your gf's dating history, but chances are this may have happened before with another guy...)

The point is, if you want to maintain a solid relationship with your gf it may be your best interest to bite the bullet and put up with some family wackiness. That may involve staying with the parents as opposed to doing the hotel scene (which her family may view as petty, wasteful, whatever...)

If you're gf is incapable of making a decision on what would be best (and honestly, it really is in her court to decide this) then be a man and call up her parents and talk to them about it - ask them if they would like to have company for the holiday, etc. Butter them up.

Good luck!
posted by wfrgms at 8:02 PM on December 7, 2006


i have a feeling that staying in their house will NOT be comfortable for anyone, neither you nor she. you were right when you said you would need a safe place to retreat to.
posted by amethysts at 8:08 PM on December 7, 2006


My advice for what its worth:

Do what your girlfriend truly wants. If she is truly comfortable staying in a hotel, do that. If she would feel better staying with her parents, then do that. If you do stay with the parents it should go without saying-- sleep in separate rooms if the parents will be offended.

I would go and visit the family with my best manners and intentions. You may even consider speaking to Mr. Offended Brother-in-Law, or give a gift like an above poster mentioned. Maybe talk to him about the last visit, try to clear the air. Honestly, it does sound a bit tacky to chew and screw as they say, but I don't know the entire situation.

As much as I can't stand people that always feel slighted or offended, it might be a good idea to go and make amends. If you are considering a future with your girlfriend, you may want to be incredibly gracious and polite on this visit. It can be quite stressful if your parents don't like your mate.

Good luck.

I am an atheist too and I celebrate Christmas. Why not join the festivities if you can tolerate it? I have always celebrated Christmas, it would be a pity to stop now.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:10 PM on December 7, 2006


>Do what your girlfriend truly wants.

I second that. Christmas is really about the family and if you are not with yours - then she should be with hers.

Who knows? Staying there could be fun... Plus, as they are Catholic a little sneaking around nookie is always good for the 'ol guilt/pleasure ratio.

(I'm an agnostic/atheistic type as well - but I can still have fun at a co-opted pagan solstice holiday too!)
posted by jkaczor at 8:25 PM on December 7, 2006


If they'd be offended if you're in a hotel, I bet they're going to be offended if you're in their house overnight and leave toothpaste residue in the guest sink or wrinkle the good towels.

Since it sounds like no matter what you do you're going to offend them, offend them by getting the hotel, rather than letting them keep score of all the things you guys do 'wrong' under their roof. ("Remember when he put the ketchup on the wrong shelf in the fridge? I was so offended!") The 'being offended' game is a control tactic, and you can choose not to buy into it.
posted by TuffAustin at 8:28 PM on December 7, 2006 [1 favorite]


I think the hotel is a good compromise. It would be best for your gf and their family if you went and stayed at their home, but you probably don't want to be stuck there for *4* days if things get uncomfortable, or worse, unbearable.
posted by tremolo1970 at 8:29 PM on December 7, 2006


If you both think you are in this for the long run, then there is no time like now to start building the relationship with her family that you can both be comfortable with. It's going to take a while to get there. Go as far as you are comfortable to make her happy, while trying to help her find her own comfort zone.
posted by Good Brain at 8:40 PM on December 7, 2006


Patch it up.

Call your sister's Brother in law (or better yet, your gf should) and ask, first,

"What can we do to make this right. An apology? Flowers? This tension/stress is tragic, and it certainly doesn't need to me. So what do we have to do to make it right?"

You tell all sorts of details (Religion, fight), and how you're dancing aroudn the real issu.

The issue is that there is tension; if you want/need to get along with these people, suck it up and do (reasonably) whatever is necessary.

If the Guy feels you need to apologize to your gf's parents, grandparents, write a note, do so.

This will make the whole "Alone or hotel" moot.

In the longer term, if you're serious about this girl, you're going to have to solve this.
posted by filmgeek at 8:58 PM on December 7, 2006


Assuming there's a chance you want to be with gf long-term:

Go, stay at a hotel very nearby (assuming there's not a religious objection to unmarrieds staying together at a hotel), and then be the most gracious, charming, polite, thoughtful, delightful Christmas guests possible. Give it your all this time. Help her dad putting up lights, help her mom by opening jars, be helpful in making good dinner conversation so everyone feels included. Be generous with your time (ie don't just retreat to the hotel as early as allowed; stay voluntarily); suggest a board game or movie or something after dinner. Make clear that the hotel is not an excuse to avoid them. Set an early departure time ("oh we have to leave early on Friday to be back in the city by 3 for a meeting"), and then if things are going well, you can say "we're having such a good time with you we want to stay on for lunch; I'll reschedule my meeting".

Hopefully the bad vibes will disappear. If not, you've at least done your damndest to make a good second "first" impression.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:05 PM on December 7, 2006 [1 favorite]


Participate, because not to would be to capitulate to the melodrama. Stay in the hotel, because you ought to have a place to escape to if things get messy. Try to be the bigger person here: you'll be the guest at their holiday event, so be on your best behavior - even if you didn't do anything wrong. That way you're less likely to offend them further, make another bad impression, and contribute to long-lasting agitas. Don't take the initiative when it comes to making amends with the sister or especially the brother-in-law: it's not your job as the outsider. Encourage your girlfriend to do so, however, and be supportive and - this is most important - flexible.
posted by thejoshu at 9:06 PM on December 7, 2006


And compliment the cooking! And ask your gf ahead of time if it's important that you accept second helpings/eat til you're stuffed to the gills... or whatever traditions her family has around food.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:06 PM on December 7, 2006


And, depending a lot on your personality and theirs, I'd downplay the atheist thing for now. Ie, no Dawkins, no "religion is a force for bad". (Although, "a person can be highly moral even without believing in God" miiiiight be ok. That is, if the issue comes up, try to focus on defending atheism from traditional criticisms, rather than slagging religion.) Especially if they're Catholic, there's no way you come out of that looking good. Save it for later if you possibly can.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:13 PM on December 7, 2006


I suspect that her family dislikes you. They're "disappointed" that they won't get full 24-hour exposure to you to implement their goal, which is probably to break you two up. Better stay in the hotel, and my advice is just keep your mouth shut, no matter what outrageous things are said or done.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:21 PM on December 7, 2006 [1 favorite]


Rescue your gf. Tell the 'rents to F-off and don't go at all. Remind her that she too has a spine, and needs to use it. Don't let her folks play their nasty guilt games. Make it clear that if they can't behave, then they won't be seeing much of their daughter anymore.

You're both adults now, and don't need the baloney drama. Folks that carp about family-this and family-that nearly always are one-sided. Familial obligation is something family owes them, but not that they owe family.

(I'm from a dysfunctional family, can ya tell?)
posted by Goofyy at 9:28 PM on December 7, 2006


If you get a hotel, then you will feel inclined to use it. Last time you left a gathering early, they felt slighted. If you do it again, they're going to feel double slighted. One could go on and on about whether they have a right to feel insulted or not, but at least acknowledge that they might have felt like you just couldn't wait to get away from them and so you left early instead of sticking around to socialize and get to know them. Leaving early, especially from those who don't have the foresight to pre-heat a "mysterious stomach ailment", will be seen by some people as an insult.

So this time, go and stay there. Whatever stupid-ass shit they say and do, just suck it up. Don't say your peace this time. Don't tell people what you think of their behavior. If they start in with the Offended Card again, say something like "I am truly sorry for making you feel that way. It was not my intention to give you that impression at all." If you really, truly must have a break from the family, then take a walk with your girlfriend, or pretend that you forgot something at the store that you mustmustmustmust have. Walk around for awhile, or drive around for a while, and then come back, refreshed.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:36 PM on December 7, 2006


Patch things up, even if it's not your fault. In the long run, swallowing a little pride is better than holding a grudge, especially if you want to stay together. Try to ignore any passive aggressiveness and remind yourself that you're enduring such things because you value your relationship. Really, it's only a few days.

To me, it sounds weird that she would go home and not spend it at home, especially if there's room. Given your two options, I'd say send her home alone.

If you absolutely must go together, stay at her family home. Be the best guest possible, and steer clear of touchy subjects (religion, politics, your previous visit). Bring a gift for the family, since you'll be a guest in their home. Present your best, most jovial, agreeable person to them, so that there cannot possibly be anything bad to say. (Though, they may find something bad to say anyways, but give them the benefit of the doubt. Holiday stress is hard.) Anyways, remind yourself that she's going home to spend time with her family during the holidays, not to spend it with you.
posted by hooray at 9:38 PM on December 7, 2006


Don't underestimate their religious zeal. They may see you as an unbeleiver and nothing you do will ever be right in their brainwashed minds.
posted by camworld at 9:47 PM on December 7, 2006


I'm married and I still go back home without my husband to spare him from the craziness of my family. If your girlfriend wants to go, you don't want to go, and everyone will be happier if you're not there, you just shouldn't go.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:07 PM on December 7, 2006


Again, assuming you're in it for the long haul, this is a critical time in your relationship. That's why it's important that you and your gf practice some boundary setting -- together.

If you don't show up and she does (and stays with her parents) then you're sure to be painted as a bad guy, and there's nothing your gf can do to change their minds.

All you're asking for is some neutral territory, away from their microscope, to relax in. And you'll mostly do that while they're asleep. Since your gf's sister is pissed before the "holiday" even begins, it seems obvious to me that you'll both want your own place to decompress in.

And it's christmas which, IIRC, can be directly translated from the ancient hebrew, meaning "obligatory familial drama pressure cooker". Joking, of course, but not entirely.

Once there are no more little kids too excited to sleep, Christmases tend to exacerbate whatever negative family dynamics are there. This is clearly worse for some families than others, but I think it's applicable here.

The parents are probably hoping to relive the best moments of your gf's childhood, when they were the center of her universe. You're evidence of her having grown up. They're not as important in her life anymore, and she's bonding with you. You're a threat. And you're not Catholic, which may make your involvement with their daughter even worse in their eyes on a Catholic Day of Obligation.

It was predictable that her parents would be disappointed by the hotel topic -- they want all the time they can get with their daughter -- but she has to learn that it's ok to set her own priorities, even if it disappoints them sometimes. Making sure that you're not shell-shocked and miserable the whole time should be one of her priorities.

I think it's highly respectable that you've offered to go with your girlfriend, to enter the lion's den of sorts. Next year you might book a trip over Christmas as a gift to get you both out of a repeat performance.
posted by nadise at 10:51 PM on December 7, 2006


Go easy on the atheist thing.
posted by sophist at 3:18 AM on December 8, 2006


Having a very melodramatic mother-in-law myself, I can say from experience that staying with her parents - if that is what her parents want - is good for you (even if it means you sleep on a blow-up mattress when your own dad lives two blocks down the road and has a guest bedroom). Christmas is about family. I mean, it's about giving up whatever you personally want to make your potential future-family-in-law see you as a kind, generous, giving, worthwhile person. Don't make this about you, and don't force your gf to choose between you and her family - you'll lose that decision 90% of the time, even if you win in the short term.

Seconding the "be helpful" advice - one of the best things my dad ever taught me. If they see you as willing to help out around the house, you'll earn points. And definitely lay off your own personal feelings about life and religion in general until they know you well enough not to be offended. I mean, Catholic, right? That in and of itself is helpful - they aren't hardcore Southern Baptists at least. The fact that they appear to be at least somewhat OK with you staying in their home despite the fact that you two aren't married is a good sign.

Speaking as one raised Catholic, hell, it isn't that bad. Guilt plays a big part of a lot of things, of course, but give them a chance and they might surprise you. In my experience Catholics can be surprisingly tolerant about a lot of things that other Christians get up in arms about. Just make a good faith effort to fit in with them, grit your teeth and keep smiling when the sharp jabs come (and they may come!) but make goddamn sure that YOU are not the one who starts the inevitable argument that threatens to ruin the holiday, and be doubly goddamn sure that you graciously bow out of the conversation with an apology even if it is like swallowing glass for you to do so. They will remember this. It will score you points in the long run.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:13 AM on December 8, 2006


1. Stay wherever SHE is most comfortable. When you two visit your family, then you can stay wherever you feel most comfortable. It should be about her since it's her family.

2. Don't talk about religion. Lie if you have to (i.e. "I'm still formulating my beliefs right now") and change the subject if they press you.

3. Definitely be helpful. Chop firewood, hang lights, make coffee, run errands.

4. Sneak a drink every now and then to cope with these people, but don't get so drunk that you end up telling them all how loony and irrational they are. You "offended" the family by leaving a dinner early? Puleeeeeze. That guy sounds like a walking heart attack.
posted by forensicphd at 6:44 AM on December 8, 2006


caution live frogs said: Having a very melodramatic mother-in-law myself, I can say from experience that staying with her parents - if that is what her parents want - is good for you (even if it means you sleep on a blow-up mattress when your own dad lives two blocks down the road and has a guest bedroom). Christmas is about family. I mean, it's about giving up whatever you personally want to make your potential future-family-in-law see you as a kind, generous, giving, worthwhile person. Don't make this about you, and don't force your gf to choose between you and her family - you'll lose that decision 90% of the time, even if you win in the short term.

I come from a totally batshit insane family and I agree with this 100%.

One thing I learned from a series of mistakes in my 20s is that at times like this, it benefits everyone to let go of principles like these if it makes your family happy. Staying in a hotel because you need your privacy is going to make you "that guy" in her family's eyes -- so think about how important it really is to you, and how often it really needs to be done. Sometimes it's just better to suck it up and button your lip a couple of times a year and have a smooth, friendly holiday.

Now I'm in my 30s and when I visit family, I really try to go with the flow as much as possible. It results in conflict-free holidays and it makes my mom happy. And that's enough for me.
posted by loiseau at 6:55 AM on December 8, 2006


There's a lot of good advice here, but coming from a catholic family (Cuban at that) I know the exact situation you're dealing with. My mother wrote the book on manipulation tactics and guilt trips.

If you stay in the hotel, your stay will be absolutely ridden with guilt trips, statements that will infuriate you, and silent hostility. I can almost assure you of this.

If you don't go with her, they will think it's because of them, which it is- but then you just drew a line in the sand. Enjoy the next time you see them, or when you hear the mother leaving messages that include "did you dump that jerk yet?" and "I just don't know why your wasting your time with him- he's so immature."

I know this because my sister brought a guy home last year for Christmas. They stayed at a friend's place the last time they were in town. It was hellish. Thank god for booze and the fact that if my mother has more than 3 glasses of wine she almost always just goes to bed.

My recommendation is if you do plan on extending this relationship further, go home with her. They'll probably do the good catholic thing and put you on the pull out couch that her little brother wet the bed on, you know the one with the bar in the middle that makes you feel like someone broke your back while sleeping. Also, plan on being woken up numerous times in the morning, because they are busy people- you know a lot goes into these family things- they will want to make sure you get that, even if it just means folding laundry around your, or moving something they've already moved 3 times.

Believe me, I've seen it and I'll see it again this year.

Thank God for booze, good ol' catholics.
posted by eleongonzales at 7:49 AM on December 8, 2006


Now I'm in my 30s and when I visit family, I really try to go with the flow as much as possible. It results in conflict-free holidays and it makes my mom happy. And that's enough for me.

I wonder how you and the other posters who advise to 'go with the flow' live with yourselves.

This is not about religion or the 'proper' time to leave a party. These are people who are trying to control their daughter's life, when they should have read the writing on the wall when she hit puberty: your children's life is not yours to run. I suspect your girlfriend was a very good girl, trying not to offend daddy and mommy too much, until she made a habit of giving in to them. You'll have tremendous fun with that when you plan a wedding, or get a baby.

It's probably too late to fundamentally challenge or change her parent's thinking on this subject. Your gf should have done this work in a teenage rebellion. Her parents will always think that they have a - or even: final - say over important decisions in her life. Prepare yourself for an uncomfortable relationship. But it is absolutely essential that you and her both (and very importantly: together) assert yourselves against this controlling behavior of her parents.

With people like these, you have to think about yourself and your relationship first. They have to respect you in order for you to respect them. This means the brother in law as well.

Book a room in a hotel, and punish every agression. If someone oversteps the line, they don't get to see your gf: you overslept, or you had a long walk planned, and you just happened to forgot to switch on your cellphone. Don't make a scene about it. Just don't show up. If they make a scene, tell them that you don't see the problem. There isn't one, by the way: you have no obligation to make your inlaws happy. They will tire of this. In the end, you and your gf win (parents will blink first - her sisters will probably hate you for the rest of your life, start dealing with that).

I think, from reading your post, that you are probably subassertive yourself: you are trying too hard to please other people, and you will end up hurt for that (nothing is more stressful than giving in to agression). Don't try to be 'nice' or 'smarter'. You're not a little boy, you're a man: act like one.
posted by NekulturnY at 8:17 AM on December 8, 2006


I think you need to sound out your girlfriend a little more on this—we don't have quite enough information to give solid advice. My gut reaction is that her family wants to be offended, period, and that if they're not offended about you staying in the hotel, they'll be offended about something else. But the GF would have a better read on that.

If she says the family would actually be happy if the two of you stay at the parents' house, well, suck it up and do it. If she says they'll probably be offended no matter what, stay at the hotel for your sanity and to help remind the family that y'all are grownups. The other question is whether she prefers to have you along for the visit, or considers your company a good strategic move in terms of family harmony (the two are not necessarily the same). Again, discuss.

Assuming you do go along, be pleasant, anodyne, and if anyone asks "so how's that atheism thing working out for you?" just say "let's not spoil what should be a nice family gathering" and drop it. And remember that however much they might grate on you, they're probably grating on your GF more, so be ready for her to unload on you.
posted by adamrice at 8:41 AM on December 8, 2006


You're not a little boy, you're a man: act like one.

NekulturnY nails it. If your gf is The One, say hello to a lifetime of their histrionics-fueled family kabuki drama unless you make it clear that you're not going to play their game (you can't win it; they've had decades of practice, and they write and rewrite the rules at will). Be pleasant and respectful, but don't get caught up in their crap.
posted by hangashore at 8:56 AM on December 8, 2006


Don't try to be 'nice' or 'smarter'. You're not a little boy, you're a man: act like one.

Part of being an adult is recognizing that family and significant others are important enough to put up with some self-sacrifice.

Don't talk about religion. Lie if you have to (i.e. "I'm still formulating my beliefs right now") and change the subject if they press you.

Please don't lie about being an atheist, just don't be an ass about it. A jew or muslim in these circumstances would never say "I'm still formulating my beliefs" and an atheist should never have to say it, either. Getting into a religious debate will never end well, so don't do anything to start one. If they push you and make you uncomfortable, then say "I'm sorry, but I have my own beliefs. I wouldn't ask you to defend your religious beliefs to me, and I just ask the same from you."
posted by gatorae at 9:01 AM on December 8, 2006


NekelturnY only nails it if you are willing to either dump your girlfriend or never see her family socially.
posted by jacalata at 9:03 AM on December 8, 2006


NekelturnY only nails it if you are willing to either dump your girlfriend or never see her family socially.

Yes, exactly. You guys are not married, it doesn't even sound like you've been together that long, you do not have automatic exclusive first-priority say in how she conducts her relationship with her family. It's one thing for a husband or committed life partner to expect some prioritization over family of origin, but it's a generally an asshole move for a new boyfriend to do so in this sort of situation.

It doesn't sound like they're constantly running her life; this is just fairly normal family holiday/gathering bullshit. There's no need to make that much of a stand about it.
posted by occhiblu at 9:36 AM on December 8, 2006


We are both really enjoying the debate and are learning and taking it all in.

Some points I thought I'd add for clarification:

I'm not taking a stand or making too much of a big deal about it. I can basically go or not go. Although, I said if you want me to go, I'll be staying in a hotel. It's just my thing.

The problem with that is, she really really wants me to go and she wants to just stay in a hotel but her parents are not making that easy at all.

gatorae: I completely agree. I would never lie about my atheism or way of thinking. If they don't like me then that's their problem, regarding faith issues.

adamrice: I agree with you that no matter what, I have a feeling there is going to be some kind of guilt in play. There is no absolute best situation here (except maybe that she dumps me and brings home a good Catholic, Christmas-loving all around family-oriented person).

My family experience, let's just say, has been vastly different from her's.
posted by travis vocino at 9:58 AM on December 8, 2006


It sounds to me like the only way you'll really please these people is to make your life hell (at least whenever they're involved). If you don't stay with them, they'll definitely be offended and hold it against you. If you do stay with them, though, you might have a terrible time. And every time they want to get their way, you'll be faced with this choice.

However, you're not in a position to compete against them for your girlfriend's affection. Maybe if you get married, probably not before that. She might agree with you intellectually, but her heart will want to make them happy.

So what to do? I'd say this time, either skip it (sounds like you have been together a short enough time that this is perfectly fine) or go and stay at their house. If you're still together next year, reevaluate. You'll have a better idea about how much of a sacrifice it is to stay. You can't make this switch in 10 years, you probably need to draw that line fairly soon.

If you stay in this relationship, you'll need to start making lots of decisions about when to be accomodating and when to stick up for yourself. I don't agree with others who have said that your girlfriend's wishes are your command, so I think you need to have these discussions as a couple and really try to be as fair to each of you as you can be. And always be sensitive to her need to make her family happy - that may be unspoken, but it will probably always be there, unless they do something truly horrible to you.

Overall, I don't think pleasing the in-laws (or gf's parents in this case) in their little issues is the best tactic all things considered. A little sacrifice is one thing, always caving to them is another. Most important is that you make their daughter happy, that you care for her and you're good to her. If you don't want to stay with them at Christmas, there are worse things for them to worry about. And if they can't figure that one out on their own, maybe your gf can start educating them about that point.
posted by Amizu at 10:01 AM on December 8, 2006


It's Christmas, and her parents would like their daughter to come stay with them, like she's done every year for her whole life (I'm assuming). It's what they want for Christmas. Give it to them as a gift. It's just a couple of days out of the year. Suck it up and be the bigger person. At least you are invited. They could play it the other way and lock her out of the holidays completely as long as she stays with you.

If you want to get along with this family, you will have to make compromises. If you don't make the compromises, you will be miserable every time you see them, or you will simply never see them. And, you'll probably lose your girlfriend eventually. Take a stand some other time, away from the holidays. There's too much other important bullshit (oxymoron, I know) that's going on this time of year.
posted by Roger Dodger at 10:21 AM on December 8, 2006


If you want to get along with this family, you will have to make compromises.

I was thinking that the hotel idea was a compromise.
posted by travis vocino at 10:31 AM on December 8, 2006


Not really a compromise, travis. They want you to stay with them. You want to stay in a hotel. Compromise would be to stay with them, and get away for four or five hours a day, just you and your girl.

Unless of course, you just don't want to go at all. Then a hotel would be a compromise, I guess. But her parents want to see their daughter, not you. So I guess I just see it as you sticking your girlfriend in a tough spot having to choose between you and her family. I hope you all get it worked out and have an excellent trip. Good luck!
posted by Roger Dodger at 10:41 AM on December 8, 2006


I've been on both sides of this situation, and you can count me solidly in the suck it up and stay at the house crowd--at least as far as the family is concerned. Be the ideal future son in law, but be subversive as hell when you're alone with your girlfriend.

The authentic and self-respecting man NekulturnY wants you to be with your GF's family will result in a permanent label for you as 'that jerk our lovely daughter is dating'. If you stay home or 'take a stand' you just provide the family with a scapegoat on which to misdirect all the pent up tension they aren't able to express toward each other. Don't make it that easy on them, imagine yourself undercover in enemy camp, and instead kill them with kindness. It's only important to be authentic with your GF, with the rest of them you can be as false as Santa's beard. Stay at the house, by all means, but don't stop there, watch football with her dad, play with the family dog, help her mom with the dishes, take the the little kids caroling, etc. Detach yourself a little - a glog or three can help with this - and observe the madhouse your poor GF was raised in. Watch them dealing with each other. Family holidays are when of the dysfunction of a family is in full flower.

Negotiate time alone each day with your GF, and when you get it, or even passing in the hallway, look her in the eyes and how she'd doing, and if she's ok. Don't criticize her family, let her do it first, and listen when she does. Counter any criticism she's gotten from them with praise, like 'I don't know what your mom was talking about, I love your new haircut.' Neck when you go outside to fetch firewood. If the 4 days is a trial to you, imagine how a lifetime of it has twisted up your poor GF. Be her refuge of sanity and fun. Maybe leave the folks one night early, lying about a important report due, and spend the last night in a swanky hotel having a lot of sex.

If you can manage to do this and keep your wits your GF will be forever grateful, and you'll be in with the folks. It's important that she set the boundaries with them herself, and I bet by next year she will want to spend more of her time alone with you, and less with them, and she'll be better able to stand up for herself.

Good luck. Paraphrasing Sartre, hell is other people's families.
posted by tula at 12:24 PM on December 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


Wow, so many other people come from shitty Catholic families who hate SO's? I feel so much less alone!

I second the people who have been there and done that. Right now, you're a boyfriend, not a fiance/husband. You don't have that cred on your side right now, and acting like it won't help you. It will lead to screaming and fights and hell for your girlfriend, who will be torn apart in the middle with each side wanting her to pick them. And they've been around doing head trips on her longer than you've been around. Right now this is just one year. If you end up staying together for the long term, then you may have more power to renegotiate things. Right now, you don't have it.

Honestly... for love of your girlfriend, you're going to have to be the buttmonkey and resign yourself to an unhappy holiday. DON'T stand up for yourself if they pick on you, just suck it up and be pleasant, and kiss ass, and help out all you can. And if staying in a hotel is a Really Big Fucking Deal with them, as it sounds like it is (they seem to be taking it as a kick to the crotch), then DON'T do it. You are The Outsider/Enemy here, blending in with the pack is the best way to gain acceptance.

This kind of thing is why I have always insisted on not bringing anyone home for the holidays unless they are married to me, period. My last ex whined a great deal about this, but the thought of him getting into it with my Catholic relatives (as he would have, because he would have acted exactly as NekulturnY advocates even if I begged him not to) makes me shudder, plus I'd be hearing about his behavior for the rest of my life out of them.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:45 PM on December 8, 2006


I think that NekelturnY is right. However, it sounds like the OP's SO is screwed no matter what. The family sounds like they're trying to pull the Alpha Dog bullshit, and that kind of crap usually never ends. If he stands up, they get "offended" and if he doesn't stand up, they view him as weak.

Is there more to this story? Did y'all do something else to offend the future inlaws? Any way you look at it, it sounds like he's in for a nice lifetime of tiptoeing around these asshats.
posted by drstein at 3:03 PM on December 9, 2006


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