Struggling to Accept
June 14, 2015 3:26 PM   Subscribe

My in-laws bother me and it's making me miserable.

Me: Female, forties, kids. Married for 16 years. My parents are married to each other and live in my town.

Spouse: Male, only child. His parents are married to each other and also live in our town.

Problem: In-laws interested in going to every one of their grandkids' sporting events and musical performances. My parents go very occasionally. I rarely inform my parents of upcoming events because I know they are mostly uninterested and usually have other plans. My husband tells in-laws our schedule and 9 times out of 10 they are present at events. My in-laws also like to see us a lot in general and invite us over to their house often which I resent.

Why this bothers me: Probably mostly because my parents are not there. Other reasons are I feel like I have to entertain my in-laws when all I want to do is watch my kids and hang out with my my mom friends.

Other factors that are petty and immature: I don't like them a whole lot and can't relate to them. My main problem with them is that they are boring. They are mostly friendless people who get bogged down in talking about politics. They live mundane lives and never travel or spend their money. I have other complaints but they are not worth mentioning. They are flawed humans like me. Maybe I am fearful that I will become them, or my husband will. They do love my kids and husband.

Sometimes I pout inwardly and can feel inconvenienced by them. Over the years I would vent to my husband. Example: "We were just there, why are they inviting us again?" Recently we were there for Memorial Day and they invited us for following Wednesday night to have dinner. Dinner lacks interesting conversation. I am a talker and feel like I can converse with the best of them but because I am slightly angry that I am there, I don't really feel like talking about New England sports or how the Republicans are to be blamed (FIL). After dinner entertainment is watching sports or politics on TV or some violent crime show that is not appropriate for children. My husband has told me that he dreads telling me about invitations because he fears my response. I no longer outwardly complain but feel resentful and inconvenienced. Sometimes I don't go for dinners but usually I do. My husband never pressures me in any way, nor has any expectations.

My question: I cannot escape my in-laws. Summer sports have just begun. How can I be more mature and zen when hanging out with them? I want to have freedom to talk with my friends freely in the bleachers. Sometimes it's easier when they're not there. Since they will be there how can I embrace it and be happier about it? Sometimes I have the inclination not even to attend if they will be there.
posted by Fairchild to Human Relations (35 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Realize that the situation isn't about you. Do your children want Grandma and Grandpa there? If so, smile and thank them for coming. If your kids don't want them always there, be less liberal with the invitations.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:33 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

First off, tell yourself that this is not your husband's fault. Stop making him afraid of how you're going to react.

Ask your husband to run interference for you at these events. Literally sit so he's between you and them. Every now and then (or on a secret pre-arranged signal), he says, "Hey, isn't that So-and-so over there?", and then you say, "Oh, yeah, it is -- and I needed to ask her about that thing. Thanks, honey!", and you scamper off.

Steer conversations to the grandkids. You can fill an hour or two just saying, "Wow, Kid #1 is playing the horn really well. Isn't he? ... You know, Kid #2 is thinking about trying out for baseball next year."

Ask questions about the things they talk about that aren't politics. Be interested in whatever topics you can manage to feign interest in.
posted by Etrigan at 3:36 PM on June 14, 2015 [16 favorites]

I would love if my in-laws ad an interest in my kid. They are your husband's family and childrens' grandparents. I would suck it up and be gracious as much as you can. And for when you can't? Invent a new interest in hiking and pretend you are headed there when ever you can't ake them.

Having boring grandparents that love your children is a relatively good problem to have.
posted by ReluctantViking at 3:39 PM on June 14, 2015 [46 favorites]

Some day you could be in this same position - a grandmother with a daughter-in-law who finds you boring and doesn't want you hanging around. What if you tried to be the daughter-in-law you hope to have some day, that is, treat them as you hope to be treated when you have grandchildren you love.

I imagine this is much more difficult for your husband than for you. Assuming you love your husband and kids, try to remember that your in laws are important to the rest of your family. Good luck to you.
posted by mulcahy at 3:41 PM on June 14, 2015 [14 favorites]

First of all, your husband has to be made to understand that telling your in-laws about an event is tantamount to inviting them to the event. If he is not going to be there to host them, he needs to not invite them. If he is going to be there, he's the host, and you can go off with your friends or whatever. The two of you also need to get together and decide what, as a family, is reasonable for visiting. (Like a weekend and then a Wednesday is crazy in my book.)
posted by DarlingBri at 3:42 PM on June 14, 2015 [57 favorites]

Two things I'd say...

First, it's not just you, and I don't think you are unreasonable for feeling the way you do.

Second, you and your spouse need to communicate better about your needs.

OK, so first, point one. I guess on preview I would disagree with others here. I would say don't beat yourself up for feeling the way you do. My inlaws are excellent people. I get along extremely well with one parent on that side... not quite as well with the other, though it's just a personality thing. But I've told my wife that I'm sorry, as much as I like them, seeing them once a week is enough. Maybe twice a week on certain occasions, but I don't need to be around them every day- it's stifling, even though they are kind and generous people.

It's not at all unreasonable for you to feel like there is a limit to how often you want to see your in-laws. It's not unreasonable for you to prefer your parents' company. Or to feel that your in-laws are boring... or hard to be around. That's just how it works for most of us, in my experience! It doesn't make you an antisocial a-hole for feeling stifled when they're around all the time, and you feel forced to interact with them or to entertain them.

My cousin has a hilarious story about this. He and his wife were in need of a temporary living situation and lo and behold, the house across the street from her parents opened up for a short-term rental, and at an incredibly cheap price. The price was so good that they took it. Now, his wife's parents are tremendous people- I've met them, they're really funny, kind, helpful, welcoming. But his wife's dad, who had just retired, began to take to coming over to the house almost every day to chit-chat, do work around the house, et cetera. The wife's dad was just being friendly, and it was only 15-20 minutes a day of interaction... but it drove my cousin insane. He got to the point where he began sneaking out of the house in the afternoon quietly so the father-in-law wouldn't see him leave (and stop him, and corral him into a conversation).

So, it isn't just you. Your in-laws could be utter saints, and if you told me you still got aggravated having them around so much, I wouldn't blame you.

Second, communicate with your husband a little more. Tell him what your needs are- it sounds like he's a reasonable guy, from what you're describing. Explain that his parents are good people and you like them, but you feel like they're around a little too often. Ask him to invite them to events less often (if he's inviting them to that much, I'd feel like you do... that really sounds like overkill to me). Ask him to help socialize with them when they come over or when they attend an event. Tell him that wandering off on his own too often is a party foul... you're all for being social and friendly, but you don't like being left with them all the time. Agreed with Etrigan- tell him to help you redirect conversations.

And above all, tell him that you're doing all this because you want to have a positive relationship with them! Acknowledge that it's a fact of life that he is going to enjoy spending time with them more than you will... and vice versa with your parents, but that's not a knock on anybody personally, it's just life. Point out that you like them and want to enjoy living near them (be positive about them... don't you dare call them boring and friendless), you feel they're great people, and you want to enjoy spending time with them... but it's been overkill lately, and you need his support in making sure there are some boundaries. Make sure you aren't making your issues about them when you talk to your husband... make it about your needs. And be sure to model the behavior you expect from him when it comes to your own parents.

I'd agree with others here when they are saying to be kind to your in-laws, and try to be gracious. Try to be more positive about them. Totally! But don't feel bad about wanting some boundaries... and make sure you are being clear with your husband about these boundaries so he can help you.
posted by Old Man McKay at 3:46 PM on June 14, 2015 [28 favorites]

Do you really need to go to these events? Maybe your husband can take the kids to visit with the grandparents while you go off and do your own thing. Even if they come to your house, you don't need to actually be there every time. I'd suggest starting small and slowly ramping up your "not availableness" - maybe at first you bow out of, say, 20% of events, and gradually increase over the next couple of years. You say your husband doesn't pressure you, which is wonderful (and be sure to let him know you appreciate it!), so tell him that while you don't hate his parents you'd still be happier doing something else while they come over.

You're allowed to have friends and interests outside the family, and not feeling trapped will probably improve your attitude toward your in-laws. And honestly, they are probably more interested in spending time with their grandkids than with you, so they might not mind all that much if you're not always around for every visit. Win-win, or at least win-neutral. Good luck.
posted by Quietgal at 3:55 PM on June 14, 2015 [9 favorites]

Talk to your husband about reconfiguring the boundaries so that he is more comfortable and you are more comfortable.

Also, live your life! It sounds like they like spending lots of time with the kids, leave them and your husband there to socialize and go home and take care of your own shit. Just cheerfully say there's other things that need to be done and remove yourself from the situation.

The absolute very worst that can happen is they get their feelings hurt. But life is hard sometimes, and you have to say no to other people in order to say yes to yourself.

I grew up in a family where all things served my mother's parents. Nobody dared duck out of a holiday - to the point that we basically had to eat shit if we wanted to see my father's parents. The minute they were both dead my mother told me we were done with all that and I took her at her word and rarely see my parents now. I resent everything that came along with having our lives dictated by them, and I continue to be irritated at my mother's spinelessness in the face of any authority whatsoever, and she and I both would have been better served by the firmer application of boundaries.

You will actually resent them much less if you are willing to hold the line on this. You may have to be stoic in the face of their initial outrage, but just be endlessly cheerful to them while continuing to do what you want. Go talk to your friends, opt out of dinners sometimes, say no when you want to say no. There is nothing stopping you but social pressure, and I'll bet you tell your kids all the time that they have to stand up for themselves in the face of same, so show them what that looks like so they will also be better at it.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:00 PM on June 14, 2015 [6 favorites]

If your children like it then suck it up. Going to there games is about supporting them, not hanging out with your friends and having a good time. If your children hate having grandma and grandpa there then your husband needs to stop telling them your schedule. Actually, he needs to stop telling them your schedule anyway. He should invite them only to certain things. Do find some boundaries. Take separate vacations and go out to eat as a family without them. Invite them to dinner, so that you control the environment. Have your husband pick them up so that you decide when it is time for him to drive them home.

Make them work for you. Send your husband and kids to the in-laws for supper once a week and host a dinner club for your friends. Use them for babysitting and running errands. Make them feel useful. If you ask them for enough favors, they may start trying to figure out how to distance themselves from you. It's worth a shot.
posted by myselfasme at 4:25 PM on June 14, 2015 [6 favorites]

Plan escape strategies ahead of these events in the cases where you can. Maybe you need to talk to your friends at the sporting events about that important PTA thing or the upcoming school event?
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 4:35 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just remember that your kids are going to be their only grandkids. That's pretty profound for them, I'm sure. I agree with the others that you should set up boundaries, though, for your sanity. For starters, because you see them as often as you do, I don't think you need to feel obliged to sit near them at the sporting events. Just go sit with your friends.
posted by puritycontrol at 4:46 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

I feel ya. My in-laws also annoy me. They can talk about nothing other than themselves. Here's an exact conversation from about 2 years ago. I had just started a new job that very day and when I walked in the door at night, my husband was on the phone with his mother. He said, "A. just started her new job today, here, say hi to her" and passed me the phone. I said, "Hi, I just started my new job today." My MIL said, "Oh, I went to Bergners and got some new underwear ..." and went on from there about her day. I guess we'd spent enough time on me. That is pretty typical.

But here's the thing: I love my husband very much and they're his family. I never want him to feel defensive about them or caught between them and me. I don't care for them at all but he doesn't know that. It's a gift I give to him, each time we go see them and I sit and listen to them drone on about themselves and their illnesses and whatever pops into their heads that's interesting to them. My husband is a low-key guy and he doesn't ask for much so I figure I can do this for him.

It's good that they're interested in your kids. Mine have never been much interested in my son. He has special needs and I feel like they sort of wrote him off. He doesn't talk much and they've never tried to read with him or engage him. So you have the opposite problem - but it's not really a problem if you can change your thinking on it. When they show up at a game, go say hi, spend a few minutes catching up, introduce them to your friends if they happen to be standing there. Then GO sit with your friends and do what you want to do. Let them watch and enjoy the grandkids themselves. You're not obligated to host them. They came to see the kids, not you.

They won't be around forever. Honestly they don't sound that bad to me .. annoying as hell, I get it, but can you give them some points for not being evil and mean? Can you just try to make them feel welcome and good around you if only 1) for your husband and kids' sake and 2) so you don't regret your behavior when they're gone.

Think how they must feel .. they almost certainly know you don't like them yet they love your grandkids and of course their son so they have to keep venturing into hostile territory. I am sympathetic to you. I get that it's hard. But you're never going to look back and be sorry you were nice to them.
posted by Kangaroo at 4:53 PM on June 14, 2015 [6 favorites]

My main problem with them is that they are boring. They are mostly friendless people who get bogged down in talking about politics. They live mundane lives and never travel or spend their money.

This is not really a valid reason to hate someone. They are interested in their grandkids and want to attend sporting events. They want to be involved in your lives. That sounds like family love.

It's up to you how you want to limit them in your household life. Call first, only on one weekend day every other weekend, etc. But please, don't let your ill feeling toward them limit them to not being there for your kids and your husband. They are his parents! If you hate them so much, what does that say about your husband?

Maybe you are feeling a little too closed in on and need to get away and take a break for yourself? You don't have to be Debra in Everybody Loves Raymond and be a martyr. It's not a sit-com, you can go off and take a break at a resort or something. If they come over, let them babysit and go out and get a pedicure. Etc. It's not all or nothing, you get a say in your life, but you have to speak up and tell people. I need time alone with my family. They aren't going to read your mind, and fuming about it doesn't do anybody good.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:55 PM on June 14, 2015 [6 favorites]

I vehemently disagree that going to your kids' games means you're only there to support them and not to enjoy a day at the park chatting with your friends as well. I feel that mindset creates martyrdom, resentment and is a recipe for all kinds of family malfunction. It's perfectly legitimate for you to want to enjoy these events and not have to host your in-laws there.

So with regard to events outside their house, you have to make the deal with your husband that if he invites his folks, he's got to be the one to entertain them, i.e. he can't be inviting them to events that require you to be the conversationalist. If he invites them he has to be there and take responsibility for the interaction with them. You can phrase this gently like "we have lots of obligations and I need to be able to enjoy opportunities for social time when I get them, so please, if you invite your folks, I need you to be there to hang out with them so I don't have to feel guilty about using the time to catch up with my friends."

(But first, be sure to acknowledge that you are grateful that his parents are involved and devoted grandparents. They are! And you are lucky that they are.)

And if you want to cut back on dinners at their house, kill two birds with one stone and turn down the invitation, but instead tell them the kids want 1:1 time with them and invite them over to hang out (i.e. babysit) your kids on Saturday or Sunday nights so you can have a date night with your husband. Or have them come over while you have dinner with a friend. You're sorry you have to be out that night, you promised a friend you'd come see her, but the hubs and kids are looking forward to seeing them, etc. and you'll catch them next time.

Whatever you do, stop pouting and being nasty about it. These people are your husband's loving parents. You have kids. Someday you will be someone's mother-in-law. How would you want him/her to handle these situations? Probably you would want them to not come over if it made them angry, right? And you certainly wouldn't want them to get in the way of you seeing your own kids and grandchildren. So tell your husband you want to figure out a way to make everyone happy. I'm sure he'll be relieved to help you figure out some excuses.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:38 PM on June 14, 2015 [36 favorites]

This is only addressing a tiny part of the problem, but can you bring an after-dinner activity with you? Maybe cards, or a board game-- something that provides an alternative to the TV?
posted by yarntheory at 5:40 PM on June 14, 2015 [5 favorites]

I didn't get the sense from your question that you in-laws even care that you "host" them? I mean, they are there to watch their grandkids. Would they truly mind if you popped off for 10 or so minutes to chat with your friends?

Similarly, it doesn't seem like either they or your husband care about your attendance at their house every single time they invite you. So . . . maybe don't go as much, and see how that goes.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:58 PM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

You know, you're part of the family too, and your needs count. I think that when it comes down to it, the single most effective way to cope better with spending so much time with your in-laws is to feel like you have some control over the amount of contact you have. Right now, you both spend a lot of time with them and also have backed yourself into a corner where the in-laws and your husband are setting the terms, which makes it a million times more aggravating.

I hear you so hard on the realization that complaining about your in-laws to your husband is not very kind--and I think it's great that you don't want to put him in the position of cringing every time he has to tell you about a new invitation. That said, I think your solution of just swallowing your irritation at the constant intrusions is not fair, at all, to you. The way you want to thread this needle instead is to have a single conversation (or maybe a single series of conversations) with your husband about your need to have a bit of space from his parents, and negotiate what level of contact you feel you can be a good sport about. Anything above and beyond that, your husband is free to accept but only on his own behalf, and only while making excuses for you. His part of the bargain is to be the person who is mindful of what he's telling them about, accepting or rejecting invitations, and generally managing the relationship. Your part is to be cheerful and friendly when following through on whatever level of togetherness you've agreed to--both to your in-laws, and also to your husband afterwards.
posted by iminurmefi at 6:02 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

It sounds like there's a bit of jealously that his parents are always around, and yours choose not to be. But you also don't invite your parents, thinking they've got other plans. Maybe you don't invite your parents because you don't want to be disappointed if they don't show? Try inviting them more (or ask if they want more invites to sports events?)

Regardless, your kids have grandparents who want to be a part of their lives. If after-dinner is boring, then maybe dine and dash? If you see them all the time, it doesn't have to be a 4-hour commitment to see them for dinner.

Definitely at sporting events, just excuse yourself and say 'oh, there's Mary, I'm going to go chat with her for a while'. Do the inlaws really need to be entertained?

Sounds like they really are just being good family, and want to be involved and around. It stinks that your parents maybe don't want that sort of relationship, and I'd be bummed too, but it's not right to take that out on anyone but your parents.
posted by hydra77 at 6:04 PM on June 14, 2015 [8 favorites]

Don't be surprised if your in-laws are wishing you'd stop entertaining them & just let them spend time with the grandkids like they'd like to. Said from the POV of someone who has had her mothers grumbling about my SIL on & off for years. "I wish she'd just shut up & let me enjoy the game." has been her refrain more than once.

See them settled, do the greetings small talk thing, then see a friend across the field or hall or whatever & go sit with them.

The talk to your husband solution the others have all suggested is the best way to go with this, but just remember don't assume how your in-Laws feel either. Have you tried talking to them directly?
posted by wwax at 6:05 PM on June 14, 2015 [6 favorites]

Postscript. One other thing to think about when balancing your desire to allow your in-laws to have a close relationship with their son and their grandkids versus your desire to have some (well-deserved) breathing room is whether there are entire activities that you can peel off and--in your mind if nothing else--think about as "their activities" with the kids. Maybe you can re-categorize attending games as something special your in-laws do for your kids, and that both frees you to attend or not (because they are there as the cheering section for your kids) as well as making it more okay to draw a line when talking to your husband about something you really want to be *your* activity with your kids (like maybe Sunday dinner every night is just your immediate family). Having them constantly (or unpredictably) encroach just a little bit on everything you do with your kids can, I think, make them seem much more overbearing in their involvement compared with spending a similar (or greater!) amount of time but all in predictable ways.

I feel pretty confident in predicting that if you can find a way to feel more in control of the times and ways they are participating in your life, you'll find it easier to let go of the petty annoyances. There's nothing worse than disliking people for petty reasons and KNOWING your reasons are petty, but in my experience that's usually gone hand-in-hand with feeling like I was being forced to be close to someone against my will. Taking back some measure of control can really expand your heart to appreciate their good qualities--or at least be less annoyed by their bad ones!
posted by iminurmefi at 6:10 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Why are you entertaining them or "hosting" them at events? Isn't the event the entertainment? And the "host" is the ballpark or whatever? You're there, they're there, just go do whatever you want to do and let them entertain themselves by watching your kids. If they expect to be entertained by someone, your husband can either do it or the in-laws can cope with the fact that you have your own life. It's typical in some families to expect the wife to do all the family maintenance. My own mother wrote a weekly family update letter to her in-laws even though my father had a functioning brain and fingers. But you're not obligated to do gendered emotional labor that you find so unpleasant.
posted by Mavri at 6:33 PM on June 14, 2015 [7 favorites]

I feel ya! I am married to the Only Son and birthed the Only Grandchild of The Perfect Couple. It was a pain in the ass at first. The three of us could never be our own little family, because the in-laws were there for EVERY SINGLE thing our daughter did or participated in.

Here's how I've handled things:

-At sporting events and the like, I just finally started doing my own thing. If you show up "uninvited", well, sorry, it's not my job to entertain you. My own thing included visiting with my mom friends, volunteering to work the concession stand or whatever, or even sometimes just sitting by myself.

-I stopped going over for dinner as often. (Hard to do because my in-laws are great cooks.) I was busy with work stuff, or school stuff when I was taking classes. My husband was usually a pretty good go-between, and would "white lie" about my busyness, even when I just didn't feel like going. So get your husband on board.

-I tried to frame it in my mind as a good thing for my daughter. Hard to do, I know!!!! But I figured, well, at least my kid has some other adults in her life who demonstrate how much they care about her, so that's got to be a good thing. It's been a little rough on her at times, being the focus of so much attention, but I think overall, it's been beneficial.

-I had to finally decide, it's not about me, they're gonna do what they're gonna do, so...whatever. If they want to arrange their lives around marching band season or tae kwon do lessons, well, who am I to judge.

Good luck, op.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:43 PM on June 14, 2015 [9 favorites]

I could not do this and you are my hero for being a trooper.

Your husband needs to practice boundary setting, holy toledo!! I hope you can find a calm & mature way for him to grok that this is just way way more socializing than necessary. I wish you the best. I don't know why everyone in this thread is OK with the lack of autonomy your husband is going along with. You're entitled to enjoy your immediate family on your own terms, your inlaws are ENTIRELY intrusive.

One thing just popped into my head!

You probably would not find your inlaws boring or tiresome if they weren't around all the time. You married your husband, not them. Likewise, your husband married you and it is past time he set up some adult style boundaries.

Lay off their character flaws when you talk about this issue with your husband. 90% of what irritates you about them would likely evaporate if you did not have to see them 2x's to 3x's per week.

I wish you the best, and a speedy painless resolution, too. Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 7:13 PM on June 14, 2015 [5 favorites]

You probably would not find your inlaws boring or tiresome if they weren't around all the time. ... 90% of what irritates you about them would likely evaporate if you did not have to see them 2x's to 3x's per week.

This! I have close friends who I would absolutely strangle if I had to see them as often as you see your in-laws, assuming they didn't strangle me first.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 7:20 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

My husband never pressures me in any way, nor has any expectations.

This is gold. This is worth everything. Your husband needs to be your ally in you getting the summer of 2015 "off" from a lot of these obligations. Just for the summer.

If you are invited to hang out more than x times/month or whatever works for you (realizing that zero times is unrealistic) your husband can go if he wants but quickly offer an out for you. "Thank you for inviting us to dinner! You are too generous since you took us out on Sunday, too! I'll be there but Sharon is busy this week. What can I bring?" or "That's so kind of you! We have plans that night, though. Let me check in with Sharon and see when we're free." "Actually, that's really funny since we were going to ask you if you could babysit the grandkids for us that night."

I know the sports thing is hard. Unless you feel your kids wouldn't be disappointed if you missed a few games, that's a tough one.
posted by Pearl928 at 7:41 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

What happens if you go to the soccer game and you do what you want to do (chat with your friends) while your husband chats with his parents? Maybe nothing bad!
posted by J. Wilson at 7:49 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

I guess I would say, you don't have to go every time you are invited - can husband go with just kids and you get a break? And as for them coming to events, can you wander off and chat with your friends? Keeping it polite, friendly but more loose would probably help things.
posted by Toddles at 7:57 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I would say 100% just do your own thing. Say "hi, in-laws!" and then socialize with your friends. Your in-laws are a couple, they have plenty to talk about with each other (or not, and want to watch/dote on kids). I am a people-pleaser and I've had to learn to let go like this too.

I'm from a small town where everybody shows up to everything and eventually you realize that you just have to essentially say "hi, bye!" or you'd go crazy. You can always chit chat a little about something and then say see ya. It feels a little rude at first, but only the most prickly and sensitive type of people will actually feel that way. Frankly, if they do feel that way, your husband sounds chill and it's not a big deal, there's no other option for you (without silently screaming every time you see them).
posted by easter queen at 9:19 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also keep the conflict away from the kids.
My mother's resentment of having to hung out with my grandmother made me resent my grandmother.
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 10:26 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

I totally get why it would be frustrating to feel like you're forced to be around these people you really don't like, but maybe if you give yourself a little bit more agency to say no and set boundaries, you wouldn't resent them quite as much. Frankly, it sounds like your expectations of what you should do are really forcing your hand here. The in laws sound very present, but they don't sound like they'll make your life hell if you turn down their invitations, and you say that your husband isn't pressuring you either, so stop putting pressure on yourself. Yes, these people are part of your life, but you still get a say in how much part they play in your life.

The first thing that stuck out to me is the fact that you feel like you have to host them at sporting events/performances. You really shouldn't have to do this. Can't you just let them do their thing? If they won't leave you alone, then you need to make sure your husband only invites them to events where he is also in attendance, and then it is his responsibility to run interference between you guys.

Also, why not just go to fewer dinners with them? Sure, show up to holiday stuff and make an appearance occasionally, but if your husband and the kids are happy going over to his parents on a pretty frequent basis, why not just let them? Seems like this is a great time for you to relax and enjoy some alone time or go out with friends or to a movie or whatever. And your husband can just say that you had other plans and couldn't make it, and who cares if those other plans are Netflix and an at home manicure? Basically, you need to find a level of engagement that seems manageable.

I think it's important to find a balance that works for you but also doesn't prevent your husband and kids from spending time with the in laws. Personally, I had one set of grandparents (and extended family) that basically wanted nothing to do with me (even when they only lived a few hours away by car). On the other side, my grandparents were more present (although they lived much farther away), but my grandmother was so critical, cold, domineering, and narcissistic that I still to this day have to play the part exactly right or risk her ire. My point is, I would have loved to have grandparents who were boring but super happy to be involved in my life and not incredibly demanding and hyper critical. Seriously, it would have been amazing.

But that doesn't mean you need to enjoy spending time with them! You just need to set your own boundaries, and then let your husband and kids have as much as a relationship as they want with the in laws.
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:44 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

If I were this mother and wife, I would be pretty hurt to have my husband and children go off to the grandparents house 1x or 2x per week without me, while I did other things. I don't think that suggestion is at all fair! Once or twice per month is a lot more reasonable. It doesn't feel good to be without your partner and children too much.

I guess this argument can be made for the grandparents towards their son and his offspring, except I think the whole point of parenting is to help your offspring grow into adults that have autonomy and independent lives. These grandparents are not allowing their adult son and his wife to have an independent life and family of their own.

I mean, if I wanted to be a part-time romantic partner and parent - I'd get divorced, give up full custody of my kids, and get a boyfriend who didn't live with me. That's not what I want, and I'm pretty sure the OP feels similar. Suggestions that she step back from her husband and children to make space for the grandparents are well meaning, but not exactly fair or appropriate.

The OP deserves alone time with her husband and children, because they are the primary unit. While it's nice the husband is agreeable all the way around, he's agreed away some of the joy and intimacy between himself, his wife, and their children.

This situation calls for balance and boundaries. The OP deserves no less.
posted by jbenben at 12:00 AM on June 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

Just because they are there doesn't mean you have to entertain them. Go talk with your friends and let them just sit and watch and do their own thing.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:16 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think one important thing to consider is that for some people, culturally, an event by one of the kids is one that the family rolls in to as a show of force. I can't even tell you how many shitty kid's plays I've attended. For some, it would be weird to not be invited to those events. It's not about you hosting - they are going for the kids, I imagine.
posted by corb at 10:24 AM on June 15, 2015

You've got some good advice here for sports games. Just breathe. You don't have to socialize with them. You don't owe them your company. Maybe they've come to expect it, but that isn't your problem. Go socialize.

I'm navigating a variation on this, having just moved to the town where my parents live. They are lovely, but they have complained for years about "never" seeing my brother (who lives across town). They see him every six to eight weeks, which is about my speed, thanks all the same. I like them, I just don't want to see them all the time or have tea with my mother turn into my primary social outlet.

It can be really hard to make time for things that you want to do. If your husband wants to spend oodles of time with his parents, is there a group you'd like to join? A craft or workout or tech skill to pursue? Can you re-arrange things a bit so that you and your husband set the schedule? Is there a way to turn this into opportunity? "Mrs Fairchild is going to be at the Ladies Bike Repair Night on Tuesday but I'd love to bring the kids to dinner, especially if you can help Wee Fairchild with his algebra homework before the TV goes on."

Can you sit down with your husband and set down some strategic boundaries:

We need to have dinner as a family, no in-laws, no TV, at least four nights a week.

Or maybe we need to have dinner at home on week nights.

Or we can't have dinner with them more than once a week and at least 50% of those need to be at our house.

Whatever seems reasonable, or at least a halfway point between what you'd like and what you've got.

And then stick to them. Firmly. Practice some responses -- "we need to have family dinner this Sunday and get the kids to bed on time. But we'd love to see you a week later" or "Janey and Joey need to focus on their homework on school nights."

You're a unit. You're in this together. This isn't about him protecting you from his parents, it is just about setting boundaries as a family.
posted by amandabee at 2:00 PM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Girl. I hear you. I'm 42 and live in an apartment building in Italy with my in-laws downstairs. The best thing is I don't speak Italian that well so that really lifts a lot of the conversation nonsense.

I'm going to tell you something that will blow your mind. Here it is: you are not responsible for the happiness or comfort of others. You are not responsible for the happiness and comfort of your in-laws at games they choose to attend. They can bring their own deck chairs and coolers full of beer and the Sunday crossword. They can bring friends they want to talk to; they can bring their smartphones to text their friends. If they choose not to have smartphones, that is a choice they make. If they choose not to make any friends there, that is their choice. That's their town too.

Especially since they come to every game, you can totally say, "Hey Bob and Carol! Good to see you! I'm going to be over her with Sally and Marcia! If you need me, I'll be right over here!" And then go and gossip with Sally and Marcia as much as you'd like.

Pick an amount of dinners you're willing to go to a month and tell your husband. I think one or two a month is totally reasonable. Other than that, they're his family and I'm sure they'd rather just have their son with them alone. Trust that.

My husband is downstairs with his family all the time; great!!!! That's my time to be on the internet or read a book or play with the baby or call a friend or whatever. If his family expects more, well too bad! I live here and I'm not crazy about it.
posted by Piedmont_Americana at 3:40 AM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

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