How do I put my negative feelings aside about an upcoming vacation?
March 11, 2013 1:04 PM   Subscribe

My husband (A)'s family (parents, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew) are going on a trip in a couple of weeks. The trip has been planned for months, and he and I had decided long ago that it wasn't going to work for us this year. Yesterday, A. decided he wants to go. There are no hotel rooms available. We will have to stay on the pull out couch in his parent's room. I could use a reality check. Longer explanation inside.

I'm an introvert, and I have found that I need plans and time to prepare mentally for gatherings, especially with his family, who, while I like them all (and adore the kids), still feel closer to acquaintances than family to me. A. thinks I should feel the same around his family as I do around my own family, because the reverse is true for him, and now that we are married (about 6 months in), we are all "one big family". I know it hurts his feelings, but I can't force myself to feel a level of intimacy that just hasn't been established yet. It doesn't help that A.'s parents are pretty quiet people, and gatherings with them are often so oppressively silent that I find myself literally screaming inside my own head. A lot of the conversation that does occur is criticism of their daughter-in-law, which I find extremely uncomfortable, especially as I am looked at to join in (I don't).

So, now this trip is on the table. There are many reasons we were not going to go from the beginning, mostly financial, but also, personally, because I could use some more time getting to feel comfortable with the family before I go away with them. But now, there are no rooms left, and we will have to stay on the pullout. This fact makes me want to cry with frustration just thinking about it. To not even have my own room to retreat to to recharge sounds unbearable. I have made my feelings clear to A., but it's also not really a hill I want to die on and we will most likely end up going. I've suggested he go alone, but he'd rather I come, and I do think that it would look weird if I didn't go and he did.

In some ways, I feel like I am being unreasonable, and A. told me he wishes that I could just be spontaneous and be excited to go (and so do I!). But on the other hand, I feel what I feel and don't know how to change it. It's not helping me that when events like this have popped up in the past, I reassured myself with thoughts of "you are being silly, it will be fine, when it's over you will look back and laugh at yourself for being so anxious and upset" - and then the events turned out to be just as bad as I had feared.

MeFites, how can I work to change my attitude about this trip? Do you have any mantras or techniques you have used when first put into (extremely) close quarters with your in-laws? Can you recommend any resources?
posted by mary, queen of socks to Human Relations (52 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You don't have kids to use as (happy) props for this, but my father used to carve out time in a similarly cramped situation by taking us out for breakfast and solo beach time early in the morning (because, you know, the KIDS needed a little more to eat than the adults typically were getting served in the morning, and the KIDS needed some space to run it out every day). Can you build in walk time/library time/coffeehouse time in every day that's just for you and/or spouse? No negotiation, just cheerfully present as fact as this is what you'll be doing.
posted by availablelight at 1:11 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

First of all, you are really, really not being unreasonable. I love both my family and my husband's family and I would want no part of sharing a hotel room with any of them.

If you're really set on making it work, I think you just have to grit your teeth and get through it. It probably won't be as bad as you're making it out in your head, and if it is, at least it will be a good story down the line and will give you hard, cold evidence when explaining why you will not participate in future similar scenarios. I mean, really, the trip won't kill you. You'll get through it and will probably even have a good time for most of it. Or at least some of it. Right?
posted by something something at 1:11 PM on March 11, 2013 [9 favorites]

The only way it would be "weird" for you to take a pass on this (and I think it's totally reasonable for you to do so) is if you or your husband make it weird. It's not weird to not want to stay in your in-laws' hotel room. It's not weird for your husband to want to spend time with his family. It's not weird for married people to do different things sometimes.
posted by purpleclover at 1:12 PM on March 11, 2013 [55 favorites]

First thing - have a long, long talk with your husband about your general feelings about socializing with his family. And I don't mean "tell him you actively dislike spending time with them," because THAT won't go over too well, but more "look, I just need more time to trust them and feel as comfortable around them as you do; this isn't a reflection on them, this is just the way I am personally wired." You know, reassure him that it's not necessarily anything they're doing that is causing this, it's just the way you personally roll with anyone. Like you said - you feel what you feel, and he needs to get that this is how you feel.

But if you decide to go anyway, then I'd try to go into activity mode when you need to. When you get to a point where everyone is just quiet and sitting around looking at each other, just stand up and chirp, "welp, I'm gonna go for a walk/read a book/catch up on an email I really need to do/grade papers for my class/knit a sweater/iron the cat, let me know if you need me" and then go do something else. Or, if you're up for it, invite people to join you; sometimes doing something with family like this can be a bit more comfortable than the sitting-around-and-trying-to-talk thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:13 PM on March 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I would give my partner a pass for this trip, and he would do the same for me.

So: say no. Send your partner. You will both swear that while it is just soooo sad you couldn't make it, the last-minute thing just didn't work out (job, money, other plans, something). But he is there! So that's great! And you'll definitely be there next time and can't wait to hear all about it.

Between the 2 of you, set some ground rules BEFORE this comes up again: you'll do everything you can to make it to in-law events if you guys can afford it, are given X advance notice, and a guarantee of your own room/space to de-compress. In exchange, you'll show up, be pleasant, and do your part to build the relationship with your in-laws so it gets better each time.
posted by juliplease at 1:14 PM on March 11, 2013 [32 favorites]

Well, first off this:

I've suggested he go alone, but he'd rather I come, and I do think that it would look weird if I didn't go and he did.

It's his family. They'll likely get over this "weird" thing about two seconds into their big vacation adventure. Sometimes it's nice to reconnect with your family of origin without the pressure of your significant other. Especially while sleeping in their living room (in a hotel room, right, so mega-close-quarters?). It's not weird. Everyone will get over it. I promise.

If you must force yourself to go, you can do what I do in these situations (with similar feelings). I put it all out of my mind. I don't think about it. I just stop stewing. You already know it'll be exhausting and too-much togetherness but it has an end time, too, and that'll arrive really quickly once you get there. Plan escapes when you can (also, keep pestering the place for an open room if you can afford it) -- bring earplugs and an eye mask and headphones for your phone or iPad. Plan one restaurant or sight that you want to see and then go see it, on your own or just with your husband if no one else is interested. It'll pass, so just accept the inevitable fate and don't think about it too much.
posted by amanda at 1:14 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could, if you wanted to, choose to look at it from a glass-half-full perspective and welcome this as a chance to get out of your comfort zone. That's perfectly reasonable.

You could also say no, which is also perfectly reasonable.

I know you say you've told your partner that you don't want to go, but does he truly understand that you're dreading this trip to the point that you're asking for advice online about it? If not, show him this post and maybe he will relent.

Lastly, if you do decide to go, I would make it a condition that you take a separate car and can pull away whenever you need to.
posted by jbickers at 1:18 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

He decided to go at the last minute. You are, regretfully, previously engaged, since you were not planning to go. He's the one being weird. This is not your problem.

Don't go. I'd kill someone if I was put in that situation.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:19 PM on March 11, 2013 [54 favorites]

Yesterday, A. decided he wants to go.

This is definitely a thing A can decide. What can't A decide? That you want to go and live on a couch with people you're not particularly close with yet. There was a mutual decision to not go on this trip, so the decision to go on the trip must also be mutual. And if you're not on board, you're not on board. If thinking about this makes you nearly "cry with frustration," you're not going to logic your way into enjoying this. So you've got two choices: don't go and get some alone time and let A have fun without his having to worry about if you're having fun -- even the best I'M TOTALLY FINE WITH THIS facade starts cracking after a few days on the couch five feet away from Uncle and Aunt Everyone -- or go and find ways to spend as much time as you possibly can away from his family.
posted by griphus at 1:19 PM on March 11, 2013 [14 favorites]

I'm a total extrovert, I get on great with my husband's family, I like going places and being around people, I have no problems sharing hotel rooms, and I don't need that alone time to recharge. And there is no way in hell I'd go on this trip.

So yeah, it's totally reasonable for you to point out to your husband that all the reasons why this trip was a bad idea still exist then wish him a good time without you. And it would be totally reasonable for him to just go without you (and not reasonable for him to bitch about this given you guys had already made a decision to not go).

So when you do decide to go you need to own that decision. You don't get to mope or complain. Actively decide to grit your teeth and make the best of it, no blaming anyone and no resentment. Don't go into it assuming it will suck, instead be open minded about enjoying whatever you can. A positive attitude will be difficult to fake but still, do it anyway. Taking time to yourself whenever you can is also a good idea as much as possible too, but for the rest of the time just do the best you can.
posted by shelleycat at 1:20 PM on March 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

. A. thinks I should feel...

Your husband should not be telling you what you should feel, or expecting you to feel a certain way. He can hope that you will come to love his family as much as he loves yours, and he can wish that you would be excited about sleeping on a pullout couch at the last minute in close quarters with people you've been related to for half a year. But he can't expect you to or insist that you do or guilt you into feeling anything.

He married you, not an ideal Kennedy-compound-scenario where everyone shares the same emotions and levels of intimacy with each other. You are who you are, and you have every right to say "this is last-minute and although I am looking forward to a lifetime of getting to know and love your family as my own, right now I am not prepared to sleep on a pullout couch at your parents' vacation place. I am an introvert; I was an introvert when I married you and I will be an introvert even if your mother becomes my best friend in the world." Don't feel bad for being who you are.
posted by headnsouth at 1:20 PM on March 11, 2013 [25 favorites]

Firstly, I think is very uncool of your husband. Who's to say his quiet parents actually want their grown son and his uncomfortable wife on their pullout in their room that they pre-booked?

I would say you agreed not to go so you should stick with that decision. If he changed his mind and you didn't, then he should just go. What's the difference- he's uncomfortable without you, you'd be uncomfortable going. Someone is unhappy either way.

It's really not good to double back like this. I think he should honor your original joint decision and not put you or potentially his parents out of your/their comfort zones.

Make plans in advance for next year.
posted by bquarters at 1:21 PM on March 11, 2013 [10 favorites]

You're not being unreasonable--this is your temperament and it's ok for you to feel this way. I know your husband isn't trying to make you feel bad about who you are, but the "Oh geeze, honey, can't you just like and want to do everything I want to do?" comments aren't helpful. (This is more of a long-term idea, but you both might want to read "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain. It may help him understand your introversion better).

I think it's great that you're trying to make this work because you know your husband really wants to go. I would feel the same way you do about the prospect, but I would probably also try to figure out a way to make it work and go.

I would say the best thing would be to come up with a game plan with your husband. Plan before you even leave that you'll have, say, one meal a day alone as a couple. Establish that you are free to opt out of any activities that you don't feel like going on and that your husband will back you if folks start in on the chorus of "Oh, c'mon, it will be fun!" Make sure you and your husband are clear on these plans and that he will back you up if you need some time to yourself.

Definitely keep checking to see if there are any cancellations at the hotel. Is it an option for you to stay at another hotel or at an Airbnb or HomeAway lodging? I know, ideally you'd all be in the same place and hubby may protest, but having a private space to retreat to may make a big difference for you.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 1:27 PM on March 11, 2013

Are all 8 of you in one room/suite? If they each have their own rooms (3 rooms) Kick the niece and nephew out and have them sleep with their parents on cots.
posted by Gungho at 1:27 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Any chance you could go for just part of the trip (like, it's a week and he goes the whole time and you go for the last 1-2 nights)?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:28 PM on March 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

It is not a given that you will feel for your in-laws the way you feel about your own family. You are not necessarily one big family. You may be a nuclear family with two sets of extended family members constantly messing with your domestic bliss. That seems to be the normal mode. A clearly has a specific idea of what marriage means to your relationships with each others families that he is treating as a given. But it isn't.

The above is an issue you'll have to address, but it is separate from the fact that it is not cool to spring this on you at the last minute when you'd previously agreed you wouldn't go. A can go by himself, and I recommend you stay home and catch up on some reading or movies you've been meaning to watch.

OH, I see your actual question is about how you put your negative feelings aside... That, I don't know. I think your negative feelings are valid and to put them aside would just be to mask them.
posted by rocketpup at 1:30 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow, your husband has put you in an incredibly awkward position.

If I could have my own room, I might be pursuaded to make this work. If I was asked to sleep on the pull out---no freaking way. And I LOVE my in-laws. Shit, I for sure wouldn't do this with MY family.

It's one of the rules of our marriage. We stay in a hotel, in our own room. That's the plan, always.

That said, you can take a total pass on this.

Here's what you say to your husband, "Sweetie, I've thought it over and I think you should go by yourself. I would feel very uncomfortable sharing a hotel room, and I'd be miserable. Rather than stress you and me out, go on ahead and have a good time with the fam, and we'll try to make it together, next year. If you can find us a room, then I'm in, no problem, but this is just too much for me."

You are as entitled to your feelings as your husband is, and if he can't understand that you don't want to see his dad in his underpants, then you need to teach him some boundaries.

You don't have to go, you don't have to suck it up. He doesn't have to give it up to keep you company at home. I send Husbunny to KY to see his Mom alone. I go to my parents in TX alone. No one thinks anything of it.

There will be times when the spouse must show, for example, my parent's 50th Wedding Anniversary Party (which we threw for them.) Then a hotel room will be acquired, and a set plan will be made, especially with "down-time."

These are negotiations in any marriage. Don't do ANYTHING you don't want to do, just because you're afraid it will look weird. You're going to be married to this dude for a long time, and asserting yourself politely now will pay dividends for the rest of your life.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:31 PM on March 11, 2013 [15 favorites]

you are being silly, it will be fine [if you go on the trip], when it's over you will look back and laugh at yourself for being so anxious and upset

Why not try reading that as:
you are being silly, it will be fine [if you don't go on the trip], when it's over you will look back and laugh at yourself for being so anxious and upset
Just don't go. I wouldn't go if I were in your position. Just because you're married doesn't mean you have to do everything together. You have many, many years ahead of you to show these people how un-weird you are, so don't worry about that.
posted by phunniemee at 1:34 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think you're being unreasonable or silly. My husband and I make decisions together, and if one of us has to go back on the decision, it's a discussion, but it's not an automatic "we're doing it now."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:41 PM on March 11, 2013

Whatever else you do, I really hope you tell your husband as firmly as possible, "You do NOT get to tell me how I feel or do not feel, and you also do not get to tell me that my feelings are stupid, silly, or dumb. You side with me first, not your family, and I will settle for nothing less. I am very upset and angry with you for trying to belittle me over not wanting to go on this trip when it causes me so much anxiety and discomfort. Please rethink your behavior right now."
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:44 PM on March 11, 2013 [23 favorites]

You can and probably should stay home this trip. If you go, you're going to just be a source of tension for everyone, and your husband and his family will get over you not being there. But you need to start making plans to get to know his family on your own terms and stop avoiding it, because you being stand-off-ish about them is something that is probably not going unnoticed by your husband or his family.
posted by empath at 1:45 PM on March 11, 2013

It sounds like if A wants to go AND wants you to go, perhaps he should do the legwork on finding an arrangement that will help make it a good time for you. You feel what you feel, and it's not okay for him to make like your feelings should be different. Feelings aren't voluntary, and they are real. He needs to believe you about your experience and support you in having a good time, ESPECIALLY with his family. Why would he want you to go and have a lousy time? THAT would be weird.
posted by spindrifter at 1:46 PM on March 11, 2013

Alternatively it’s curious that there are no hotel rooms available? At all? Can’t you stay at a hotel that’s a little further away?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:55 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was in a similar situation a year ago (involving my in laws and a 14 day caravan trip in a very small caravan). After a panic attack on the first night, we bought a tent and slept outside. Everyone realized that I was way too far out of my comfort zone and it made the rest of the trip awkward. I still had fun, but we shouldn't have done it this way.
Be kind to yourself, wish your husband a good trip, and enjoy some alone time.
posted by third word on a random page at 1:57 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

If they're quiet, and you're an introvert--maybe they feel the same way that you do. But when are you going to get to know them if you don't spend time with them?
I'd not be in love with the pull-out couch and would probably move heaven and earth and AirBnB to find another place to stay. And then figure out lots of other things to do and places to hang out so I'm not in the room with them very much.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:57 PM on March 11, 2013

You are married for six months. This is the time to set patterns. Patterns of both how you and your spouse communicate with each other, and how you two as One Unit interact with the extended families. When you two discussed it and agreed that it wasn't going to work for you this year, what were the reasons? Have those reasons changed? It seems very clear that your reasons for not wanting to go have not changed.

Your feelings are completely 100% legitimate. If A. wants to go and sleep on his parents' pullout, let him. But I would actually push him a little bit on this- you had discussed it, and made an agreement, and one party doesn't get to change it unilaterally. Your reasons for not wanting to go are totally valid.

I would counsel you to hold firm. If you are not comfortable, it's not okay for your husband to disregard that. Marriage is a partnership, or it should be, and if he is going to want to make decisions for the two of you, that is something that ought to be aired out sooner rather than later. On principle. How you handle this issue is going to set some precedent in your marriage, and do you want those precedents to be ones you can live with 25 years from now?

A lot of the conversation that does occur is criticism of their daughter-in-law, which I find extremely uncomfortable, especially as I am looked at to join in (I don't).

Have you talked about this particular aspect with your husband? Is he worried that if you two don't go, his parents will talk about you and A., or if you don't go and he does, that his parents will talk about you behind your back and he'll have to hear it? Frankly, I do not blame you for not wanting to hang out with people who cheerfully criticize one daughter in law in the presence of the other. Ew.
posted by ambrosia at 1:58 PM on March 11, 2013 [14 favorites]

The problem is by not going, your in-laws may stop gossiping about their other daughter-in-law and start gossiping about you.

Similarly, why did your husband have a change of heart? Were his parents pressuring him or something?

How independent is your husband from his family?

Sleeping in the same room with your in-laws sounds awful and you should not do it.

I think the bigger question is how to navigate politically in this tricky family dynamic.

It's terrible these people talk shit about their daughter-in-law in front of you. You are smart to give them a wide berth.
posted by jbenben at 1:58 PM on March 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

You are married for six months. This is the time to set patterns.

ambrosia brings up a really, really important point: don't set a precedent you'll have to work around later. You don't want to turn this into carte blanche for GUESS WHERE WE'RE GOING TOMORROW FOR A WEEK? If you do end up agreeing to this, make sure he is completely aware of the fact that unilateral reversals of mutual decisions are not cool. And when I say "make sure" I mean tell him that during the same sentence in which you agree to go.
posted by griphus at 2:06 PM on March 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Thank you, everyone!

A. and I have had many conversations about my boundaries re: his family before, and how they are different from his re: my family. We still have some things to figure out, obviously. I have been very clear about my feelings, and A. acknowledges them, and is more asking a favor of me to give him this.

To answer a couple of questions/clarify: I recently spent a week (by myself) with my family. After that, A started feeling like he missed his family as well, and wanted to see them, and so the trip idea re-emerged. Yesterday, when we discovered there were no rooms, we considered it settled that we weren't going. Today, A's parent's have been contacting him, trying to figure out a way to make it work for us. "Alternative" options are basically just shuffling the 4 sets of people (3 couples, 2 kids) around on 2 different beds and couches in 2 adjoining hotel rooms. Super not-ideal, no matter how you slice it. Other hotels and airbnb, etc. aren't options for where we are going - this place is the only game in town. If we stayed in a different town, we'd have to rent a car, find parking somewhere and take a shuttle in every day - which would also interfere with my plan to drink my way through the week :)

It is more "weird" for me not to go because I have an extremely flexible schedule, which everyone knows, so I can't really pull the work card. But that is sort of besides the point... if I do decide that I am not going, I'm not that worried about that aspect. A's extended family have a LOT of events (think second-cousin's daughter's 3rd birthday) that we are semi-expected to attend, and I have set it long ago that I will not be attending them all, and that I won't make up lies, but instead will go with a general "can't make this one, have a great time, see you at the next one!" I am comfortable doing the same for this, more of a "sorry, so last minute, next year we will figure it out in advance and I'd love to!" But at this point, after all of your answers, I am feeling a lot calmer about whatever ends up happening.
posted by mary, queen of socks at 2:13 PM on March 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

These Birds of a Feather: "Whatever else you do, I really hope you tell your husband as firmly as possible, "You do NOT get to tell me how I feel or do not feel, and you also do not get to tell me that my feelings are stupid, silly, or dumb. You side with me first, not your family, and I will settle for nothing less. I am very upset and angry with you for trying to belittle me over not wanting to go on this trip when it causes me so much anxiety and discomfort. Please rethink your behavior right now.""

Seconding this. Speaking from the perspective of almost 15 years married, whether you do or don't go on this vacation doesn't really matter. How you work through whether you do or don't go on this vacation does really matter.
posted by Lexica at 2:22 PM on March 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

shuffling the 4 sets of people (3 couples, 2 kids) around on 2 different beds and couches in 2 adjoining hotel rooms. Super not-ideal, no matter how you slice it.

Perfect excuse for not going. Send them A with your love, and graciously bow out so they'll only have to find space for 1 person (and also to avoid going insane). Then plan a lovely weekend of doing your own thing, and look forward to welcoming back a husband who's been missing you (always fun!)
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:22 PM on March 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

Huh. I don't really see the husband as doing something so awful here, and he IS discussing it with her, he just really wants to go, and would be a lot happier if his wife came with. The way I read it, he probably wanted to go in the first place, at heart, but reasoned himself out of it (too expensive, not really worth it, wife probably wouldn't have a good time) and is now rescinding and realizing that it's more important to him than he thought. That's something I have, unfortunately, done in the past by trying to be rational and ignoring what I reeeeaaally want. So I think we should give the husband the benefit of the doubt on that one.

I agree that it's well within the OP's rights to say no, sorry, I am uncomfortable with that. But I also see how that would make the husband sad and how it might cause future relationships to be even more awkward than they already are.

I say, if you go, do what availablelight and EmpressCalipygos suggest. Assert your right to take time to yourself, and do so nicely but naturally, without apology - when you get there, make it your first mission (after putting down your suitcase) to go find a "me spot" near enough to make your default retreat. A cafeteria, a coffee shop, a long empty boardwalk, anything. Then, whenever you start feeling a bit claustrophobic, go there. Alone. Say "k, I'm gonna go get some coffee and read for a bit. I will see you guys this afternoon for (X activity.) Call me if you need anything!" and then go do your own thing. THAT definitely doesn't have to be weird if you don't make it - you'll be "the lady that likes to go drink coffee and read," not "the lady who sits there silently looking miserable while we talk/have fun."
posted by celtalitha at 2:22 PM on March 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

You have the perfect out on this trip. There aren't any rooms.

"I don't want to put you out."

"I'm not comfortable sharing a room."

"I'm going to catch up on work, and this is the perfect opportunity to get A out of the house!"

None of these are lies, and frankly, I think your husband is pissing EVERYONE off in this scenario!

I'm sure no one wants either of you bunking in with them, and they're all probably muttering under their breath, or venting to their respective spouses, "Christ on a cracker! What the hell is wrong with A? He's know about this for MONTHS, does nothing about it, and we're supposed to let him and his wife sleep on our floor? It's MY vacation too dammit!"

Stay home. If he's missing his folks, send him along. He can sleep in the rental car.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:30 PM on March 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

In my world, people who have been married six months do not sleep in the same room with their parents, ever, unless there has been a fire or flood. To me, the weird part is that your husband is okay with it.
posted by sageleaf at 2:42 PM on March 11, 2013 [9 favorites]

Ugh, I know exactly the kind of stress you are talking about. And definitely the need for your own room to escape to. Last year, my partner's parents stayed at our house for a week. I get extremely stressed out when people I don't know well are in my space…and I ended up dealing with my stress for the first few days by avoiding them a lot.

So, by mid-week we had a teary, stressed out conversation. Mr. Elastic was mad that I was avoiding them (they noticed) and I was mad/stressed out because I felt like he wasn't helping me to feel more comfortable. After that convo it went SOOO much better. I got the fuck over myself a little bit, because I felt terrible that they thought I didn't want them there. And Mr. E was a lot more understanding and made extra efforts to help me feel comfortable. He understood that I didn't WANT to act the way I had been acting earlier in the week, it was just the anxiety taking over.

If this were me (which, of course, it isn't!), I'd go. I'd use the remaining few weeks to mentally prepare. I'd have conversations with A. about how you're going to need some help getting through the week. Discuss particular issues you're worried about so he's aware of them, knows when to check in with you, and can perhaps help to steer the situation to more comfortable territory. Maybe have a code word with A. for "I'm stressing, help me make an excuse to get out of here!" Go for lots of walks by yourself. Bring a book. Bring some work with you, if possible. Maybe you can plan an evening for just the two of you. And lastly, I'd try to just let go a little and have fun!!
posted by hannahelastic at 2:49 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

You don't need an excuse to not go. You can just not go. This doesn't have to be a test about your husband's family's sensitivity or caring about you. You can even say that it's just this thing that you have - that you are uncomfortable about the living arrangements, and that you know it might sound silly, but it's just this thing about you. Let everyone else deal with the feelings they have about this. If it looks weird, so what? People will think whatever they think.

On the other hand, you don't need to have it be a "project for self-improvement" if you go. You can just go and have it turn out however it does. There will probably be parts of it that will be awful and maybe other parts that will be nice or at least tolerable. If you decide to go, you can just tell everyone that you a private kind of person and that every now and then you'll likely disappear to have some alone time and that no one needs to worry about you doing that. Again, people will think what they think, and that's fine.

The whole thing of "I feel the way I feel" is true. It's also true that you can decide to go or not go, and you don't need to worry about others' feelings that come about around this decision - they are going to feel whatever they feel.
posted by jasper411 at 2:49 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

My understanding is that Americans don't get many holidays, therefore they are really treasured. Most couples use this as time to um, reconnect. Plus, you're newlyweds! I don't think it's appropriate that you share with his parents - I'm sure they'd prefer some alone time too! The idea that you squander a week off being totally miserable, and that your husband is ok with this is awful, especially when he had ample opportunity to sort out living arrangements which suited everyone. Now 3 people (you and the other couple you're bunking with) have a real dampner on this trip just so your husband can be happy.

It's sweet of your in-laws to attempt to accommodate you but I'd just bow out altogether - both of you - and say that it's not fair that everyone gets inconvenienced because husband couldn't get his act together. Go away somewhere, just the two of you, instead. As you said, there are plenty of other opportunities to get together with the relatives later. Chances are they will all be relieved.
posted by Jubey at 3:07 PM on March 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't think you are being unreasonable at all. I like thepinksuperhero's idea of compromising and going for a couple of days at the end of the trip. That way, you will get brownie points for showing up and your hubby will get some bonding time alone with his family. And pretty much anything is bearable for a day or two.

PS. Lying is never a good idea, but I would recommend against being too up front about exactly how flexible your work schedule is. Let them think that your work does make the occasional demand.
posted by rpfields at 3:30 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would remind your husband that your PARENTS deserve some privacy on THEIR trip too.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:42 PM on March 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Husband should channel his enthusiasm into finding a room for you both. If that means calling reservations/front desk every day to get first on the list for cancellations, so be it. If he can find a room for the two of you, go. But, if he can't, send him on his own. If he's comfortable sleeping with his parents, let him. It is not, however, reasonable to assume you'll be comfortable doing this. Hell, I'm SUPER close with my parents and I wouldn't consider slumbering with them outside of an emergency situation and would never assume that my spouse would be ok with it. Sharing a hotel room and bathroom with someone else can be a very intimate thing.

As for A making you feel bad about not being "spontaneous" or "excited" about this proposition, he needs a reality check. He is asking a huge favor of you, not dazzling you with a delightful getaway vacation.
posted by quince at 4:14 PM on March 11, 2013

I was too impatient to read all the comments because hey, this is crazy. My daughter has a very nice boyfriend who practically lives here, and I do part of his laundry and most of his food and I really like him a lot. Really. But sharing a bedroom is so extremely boundary-crossing, I have no words. If the young people came to me with the idea they would sleep on the couch in my bedroom, I would just say no. NO.
It's not about you. You are the normal person here.

Back in the day, before the young lady was born and right after, we often went on holidays in very cramped situations with her father's parents, and it was tough. Still, I'd always recommend one lives through this type of things, because family, etc. etc. But having a private room is an existential basic. Even if it is tiny, or a two-person tent. You need to be able to be alone.

Learn from this that in the future, you need to set time aside to be with family. Your husband needs it, and needs to understand that he needs it. But this time you have to pass because you hadn't planned in advance. Luckily, life is long. There are plenty weekends and holidays ahead, and missing out on this one is not the end of life.
posted by mumimor at 4:20 PM on March 11, 2013

Just because you can go (and he'd rather you did) doesn't mean that you must go. I get that this isn't the hill you'd want your marriage to die on, but I think that even for a person with a flexible schedule, this is a bit much. Ask your husband for a compromise - he can go, and either you'll come up and join for a couple nights or you'll go to something this year you normally would have passed on.

Frankly I'm surprised that anyone thinks this is a good idea, based solely on the last minute- ness of the idea alone, never mind all the other stuff.
posted by sm1tten at 5:52 PM on March 11, 2013

I have an extremely flexible schedule, which everyone knows

Having a flexible schedule doesn't make it weird for you to choose not to come on this trip. It would be weird and dishonest if you declined every invitation by saying, "Sorry, can't get the time off!" but to decline this one invitation without making up an excuse? Not weird, especially with the room-sharing situation.

I also think that it's worth talking about what is and isn't a vacation for you. A vacation is supposed to be relaxing and fun, not stressful. Maybe it would be good if you could be spontaneous about going on vacation--maybe, in fact, you could show that to your husband by surprising him with a weekend away sometime. Maybe you could even find a way to incorporate a family event (fly out to attend that 2nd cousin's birthday party and then go off just the two of you for a few days in a nearby city). But this family trip wouldn't be a vacation for you--it's too long to go without breaks from the group, too isolated (if the one hotel is the only option, I'm assuming the location is pretty isolated), and the quarters would be too cramped. This is a situation you'd be wise to avoid, much more than it's an opportunity to show you can be a good sport.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:54 PM on March 11, 2013

Jumping on the bandwagon to say it's kind of rude for your husband to not only change your agreed upon plan, but to disrupt everyone else's reservations out of a last minute sense of regret. His family has no shortage of group outings and this sounds like the opposite of a 'the more the merrier' situation.

In short, you're not wrong here. Tell him to go if he wants to go, but in my book the lasting weird impression would come from agreeing to sleep in your in-laws room, not from opting out of it.

Good luck.
posted by Space Kitty at 6:00 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've been married for nearly fifteen years and I love my in-laws with more or less the same blend of deep affection and irritation with which I love my own parents. Even still, I would not do this. I wouldn't be comfortable going on holiday and sharing the same bathroom with them, much less sleeping in the very same hotel room.

This is an enormous ask. not just of you, but of your in-laws as well. Are you completely sure he's not sort of pressuring everybody into this, and not just you?
posted by Andrhia at 6:03 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Man, this is triggering all kinds of family inlaw drama memories for me. And I LIKE my inlaws. Just not all at once for days at a time. So here are some things:

Set up a number...five, three, whatever...of Family Outings you will do each year. Include holidays in this. So if Xmas and Thanksgiving and Easter use up your three, that's it. No spontaneous events, third cousin birthdays, whatever. That is outside of what you do with your family.

Stop treating your time as valueless, even if it's "flexible". You are still working. No, you can't drop everything. Make that clear and stick to it.

Be super enthused about the outings you do go to. Make a special dessert, talk to everyone, take pictures, snuggle babies, play with children.

Never share a room with other related adults unless it's an emergency. Your husband can do as he likes, but seriously, that's pretty awkward.
posted by emjaybee at 6:56 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ah, you see, I would consider this a feature, not a bug: If we stayed in a different town, we'd have to rent a car, find parking somewhere and take a shuttle in every day. In a somewhat similar situation, this is exactly what my husband and I did. It was so worth the extra expense and time to be staying in a different town from everyone else. We hung out with the group when we wanted to, had the drive back to where we were staying to unwind, and had our own hotel separate from everyone, with a chance to have some couple time to ourselves. It was really worth the extra trouble/transit issues for that reason alone. If he really wants to go, I would try to get a cancellation where everyone else is staying, but in the meantime book elsewhere. The pull out couch is a non starter.
posted by gudrun at 7:29 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is your reality checked yet? This is a terrible idea for everyone; but really, it doesn't have to be a huge thing. "Honey, there's just no way I'm staying on a pullout bed in anyone's room; that isn't my idea of a vacation. I don't think it'll be comfortable for you or them either, but maybe I'm wrong and you'll have a terrific time. Love you, see you when you get back."
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:31 PM on March 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

A. told me he wishes that I could just be spontaneous and be excited to go

This is the classic line used to try to guilt-trip someone into crossing their boundaries. It is ludicrous to suggest that not wanting to share a bedroom with your in laws means that you are insufficiently spontaneous.
posted by medusa at 10:38 PM on March 11, 2013 [10 favorites]

My reality is checked! Thank you all so much. It was incredibly helpful to hear pretty much everything that was already going on in my head reflected back in all of your comments (positive AND negative-ish... empath, I agree with you that I need to figure out a way to develop more of a relationship with them on my own terms). A and I had a really great conversation last night where I was able to explain all of my feelings (I kept thinking back to this thread and saying "Oh, and another thing!") and get us on the same page.

As I had sort of suspected, A's mom was the real driving force behind the sudden plans, and as A did think it sounded fun to go he got swept up in it, while still feeling some reservations about putting people out. She kept texting him things like "We'll figure it out, it'll be fun" and when he said "Well are J+B on board with this plan?" (his brother and SIL) she kept glossing over it and basically saying that they would just have to deal with it! Not cool, obviously. After she texted that she had sent J an email outlining her proposed change of plans, we called J ourselves to try to explain that we were 100% understanding that this was last minute and a big change and we felt uncomfortable about all of it, but since she had sent the email, we wanted to actually speak (texting and emailing leads to a lot of misunderstandings in this family, in case you couldn't tell). After thinking it over for a bit and speaking with B, it turns out that no, this plan is NOT okay with them at all (and rightly so).

So we are not going, unless a different room opens up before then, and I am very happy with how everything turned out. If we do end up going, I will have my privacy, and A understands what I need to maintain my sanity through the trip. The best part, though, is A and I being on the same team again and that he understands everything I said; it feels like a real step forward. Thanks to all of you for your help!
posted by mary, queen of socks at 7:06 AM on March 12, 2013 [21 favorites]

celtalitha: "The way I read it, he probably wanted to go in the first place, at heart, but reasoned himself out of it (too expensive, not really worth it, wife probably wouldn't have a good time) and is now rescinding and realizing that it's more important to him than he thought."

And thank you for this, especially, celtalitha. That had not occurred to me, and when I asked him about it in our conversation, you were completely correct. He HAD been, for months, thinking "what-ifs" about us going on the trip. I think this was an important part of the talk for us to have.
posted by mary, queen of socks at 7:20 AM on March 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

we called J ourselves ... we wanted to actually speak ... speaking with B, it turns out that no, this plan is NOT okay with them at all (and rightly so).

Excellent work! This is as important for long-term harmony as your communication with your husband. If the two sons and their two wives present a united front and keep communication open, mom won't be able to go behind anyone's back and do the divide-and-conquer thing or gossip about whoever's not there.
posted by headnsouth at 8:54 AM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

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