Please don't drink in our home.
August 23, 2016 11:31 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I prefer that alcohol not be brought into our home. How do we politely tell my in-laws this?

My husband and I recently moved into our first apartment together. I mention this detail, because this is the first space we've had where we aren't living with others or under anyone else's rules. Prior to this, we lived for a short time (a month and a half) with his parents and up until now with housemates. While we had no real problems with any of these living arrangements, it's been very nice to have a space to ourselves where we can set the rules and live exactly how we like. We're able to not have pet(s) around the house, keep it very tidy and clean, we don't have to deal with a ton of noise, etc.

My husband and I don't drink. Alcohol is just not something we feel that we need/want in our lifestyle. I grew up in a household where alcohol was completely absent. He grew up in a household where alcohol was the root of a lot of embarrassing/negative behavior. We enjoy taking care of our health and living mindfully--we meditate, eat healthily, do yoga and exercise, etc, etc, etc. (Yes, we are hippie trash lol) To us, personally, alcohol doesn't fit into our lifestyle and we strongly prefer not to have it in our household.

My FIL is a heavy drinker, to the extent that it has been problematic in his household and the family has had to sit him down and tell him to slow down. As far as we can tell, he has. But during his first visit to our home, which was in the early evening, he brought over 2 cans of beer and after consuming them became very obnoxious and rude. My husband and I were uncomfortable with this, but didn't know what to do. We didn't say anything, because we didn't want to offend him. At the same time, we didn't appreciate the awkward atmosphere and bad vibes that his dad's behavior created in our home. We worked very hard for a long time to create a calm, positive and peaceful home and as someone who spent 25 years in an emotionally and physically abusive household, I really resent anything that disrupts that.

Is there a polite way to mention that we would greatly prefer and appreciate that guests do not bring alcohol into our home?

To be clear, we don't have a problem with alcohol consumption as a whole. We understand that bad/embarrassing behavior and alcohol consumption are not inextricably intertwined. We aren't prohibitionists that want to ban alcohol everywhere. We are fine if friends/family/other people drink around us at restaurants, or parties not hosted by us, or at their homes, etc. We don't think that people who consume it are "bad." We aren't judging others for drinking. My husband and I just don't consume alcohol ourselves and we don't want it in OUR home.

This is why it's very important that we find a POLITE way to ask guests not to bring alcohol to our home. We don't want people to feel like we are judging them or that we think they are bad/lesser. We have no ill intent at all.

Because my husband and I are very liberal in other aspects of our life, I feel that it is hard to explain why we don't drink or want alcohol in our home. I think people might think we're straitlaced or "no fun" (In fact, my MIL has called us that herself). Then again, it is OUR home, and I feel like we shouldn't have to explain/justify ourselves.

This really won't be a problem for us when inviting friends over, as our friends are similar to us. It's really just my in-laws and mostly just my FIL. If my in-laws lived far away, this would be less difficult. But they live close enough to come over a couple times a month and we just don't feel like dealing with this that often.

Thanks for your advice!
posted by galaxypeachtea to Human Relations (53 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
If your FIL is rude after 2 beers he is just rude, alcohol has nothing to do with it.

It's your home, you don't need a reason.
posted by Cosine at 11:35 AM on August 23, 2016 [58 favorites]


The issue is not about alcohol in your home, and you shouldn't police what other people want to drink. This is about FIL and his behavior, which you should address privately.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:37 AM on August 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


I feel like we shouldn't have to explain/justify ourselves

You are correct.

This is on your husband to handle. He needs to tell his parents that they are not to bring liquor to your home. And you both have to be OK with this being a deal breaker for visits to your home.
posted by archimago at 11:37 AM on August 23, 2016 [63 favorites]


There's no way to phrase this without sounding judgemental of drinking (at least in your FIL's mind).
You could confront the issue head on: "FIL, we don't want you or anyone to drink in our house. The things you say to husband and me when you drink are hurtful."
I suspect he'll choose drinking over seeing you, if you really put your foot down.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:39 AM on August 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes, this is your husband's job. And the way to handle it is going to vary based upon the type of relationship he has with his parents. If it were my family I would just call up my mom and say, "Hey, we've decided not to have any alcohol in the house, thanks for not bringing over beer anymore." I'm guessing that your husband knows it will not go well if he says this. And if that's the case, there probably isn't a way to do it that won't be perceived as offensive by his family. He's got to just pull off the band-aid - say it, don't get argumentative or defensive, and end the conversation if they try to get combative.

But to re-iterate, this is on him. You should not be the one having this conversation with his family.
posted by something something at 11:42 AM on August 23, 2016 [13 favorites]


First, I suspect he brought the last two beers from a six pack. He drank the other 4 on the way over. It is not rude at all to to say simply, "We prefer that no alcohol be brought into our house."
posted by AugustWest at 11:44 AM on August 23, 2016 [43 favorites]


I would combine your (collective) message with a lot of concrete detail about actually liking him, wanting him to come over, and good time you can have without drinking. "Don't bring alcohol when you come" could sound to him like "we don't like you", so you can counteract that with your words.

It could also seem to him like a power play (which it is, because you _should_ have power in your own home), so letting him have some sort of power might help too. Maybe he could choose among a few activities, or you could tell him you're grateful to him for some reason, or remind him that his rules are law in his home.
posted by amtho at 11:45 AM on August 23, 2016


It's your house. You make the rules and don't need to explain them to anyone.

"I'm sorry, we don't allow consumption of alcohol in our home, for reason I'd rather not get into. You're welcome to stay for dinner, but I won't be serving the alcohol you brought."

If people like you, they'll shrug and stay for dinner. If people freak and insist they want alcohol, then you can politely ask them to leave.

You may find your selection of dinner guests dwindles over time.
posted by bondcliff at 11:45 AM on August 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


You don't need to justify it, and you are being very reasonable in what you want. It really shouldn't be an onerous request for any guest in your home.

Also, as an aside, I'm thinking 2 cans of beer (unless they're extra-fancy high gravity beers) is not enough to make a seasoned drinker belligerent. I think your father-in-law just is that way, and may have used the beers as an excuse to be a jerk.
posted by witchen at 11:45 AM on August 23, 2016 [9 favorites]


This is a tough one. It's your house, your rules. In this kind of strict policy case, I think the best approach is to be crystal clear and avoid any reasoning or negotiation. Next time you make plans for someone to come over, say "Hey Friend/Fam! Partner and I decided it's important to us to be strictly alcohol free in our home, so I just wanted to let you know."

The thing is, some people will forget, some will bring wine as a "thanks for hosting," some will likely misunderstand and think they can BYOB. How flexible you are about these instances is up to you, but it's pretty unusual (in my experience) for those abstaining to also ask others to do the same, so I suggest you try (with loving kindness) to be flexible.

That being said, because of your concern about maintaining an atmosphere of peacefulness and good vibes, I would also recommend thinking about how you want to deal with rudeness, whining, bad vibes in the absence of alcohol (and probably in some case, because of the absence of alcohol). FIL didn't get hammertime after 2 beers - that rudeness is something he might bring into your home even when he leaves the alcohol outside.
posted by sallybrown at 11:46 AM on August 23, 2016 [17 favorites]


Husband simply needs to say "there is no drinking alcohol in our home no exceptions"

It has to be a hill he is willing to die on. Period. If he is not ready for that then don't try.

An alcoholic rarely slows down. They maintain a level of drunkenness or go from binge drinking to more steady drinking, but most likely he dependent on alcohol and without medical intervention he is not going to stop, and it would be dangerous to do so without medical intervention.

In addition an increase in drunkenness on little beer could be indicators his liver and kidneys are shot, which will increase the effects of alcohol because his body just doesn't fliter it anymore.

Depending on his body, the amount he drinks, and how often he drinks, an expectation of no alcohol at your house (if over 2-3 hours) May be enough to start some early withdrawl symptoms. Longer events at your home could be out of the question.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:04 PM on August 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the responses so far! To clarify, all of our friends have known for years that we don't drink and they are either non-drinkers or very, very light drinkers who respect us enough not to bring alcohol over, especially since as hosts, we are always careful to provide several tasty drink options! And again, we have NO problems with others drinking around us, as long as it's not at our house. We aren't really trying to police what others do with their lives.

We aren't worried about our social life suffering. It's mostly just my in-laws we worry about...my husband is not very similar to them in many ways. He's very interested in writing, philosophy, eastern religions, language learning, traveling abroad, whereas his dad is...difficult to describe. He's never been outright hostile to me, but he is the kind of person who thinks its okay to make jokes about the LGBTQ+ community, offhandedly make racist comments (which is "ok" because he doesn't mean it), and doesn't really respect boundaries.

And thank you, AlexiaSky, for pointing out the medical issues--I didn't realize that withdrawal symptoms could appear so quickly! We'll definitely keep that in mind for longer events.
posted by galaxypeachtea at 12:11 PM on August 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't think this is possible as you've framed it.

I can understand the idea that moving in together creates a nice excuse to reset the relationship. But your husbands parents have made it quite clear that they are happy with the status quo, where everyone avoids discussing alcohol, and they continue business as usual.

This rule is just an extension of that fight. It's acknowledging that you can't change his behavior, but you don't want to bring it into your home.

This is an acceptable boundary to enforce. I'm not trying to say that it isn't. But it it will be very transparent to his parents that you are reasserting your opinion and concern. Every time he has to put the beer back in his fridge, or leave it in the car, he will be reminded that it's because his son and daughter in law have a problem with his drinking.

Saying that it is a rule is just creating a polite fiction to ignore or defer the conflict. Which civilized society does that all the time. But all parties have to agree to the fiction. And it sounds like his parents are very much not willing to play along.

And honestly I get it, if only because I see it a lot in my family dynamic. This is a deep wound that would cause a lot of pain if they were to acknowledge their full culpability in the matter. If they had the skills to get themselves out of that hole, they wouldn't have dug the hole to begin with. But it unfairly forces your husband (or really by this question, you) to do the emotional labor of maintaining the peace.
posted by politikitty at 12:12 PM on August 23, 2016 [9 favorites]


Funny, my ex and I did not drink. I have relatives with a history of heavy drinking. This was just never an issue.

You let everyone know it is a rule. They show up with two beers, the beers stay in the car or they do not come in.

If they get ugly, they leave when I ask them to because if they do not, I am fully prepared to call the police and have the police escort trespassers off my property.

If they turn this into a huge issue, I am happy to see less of them, or none of them.

You cannot be "polite" to abusive asshats who think "politeness" means taking their abuse. You can say it civilly, without cussing or name calling. But setting boundaries will piss them off no matter how nicely you do it. You do it anyway if you do not want to agree to be abused.
posted by Michele in California at 12:12 PM on August 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


Instead of having them over to your house invite them out to eat in restaurants, or have picnics. Invite them to go see a show with you, drama, movie, art, whatever. Invite them to take a short hike with you. Then if he's obnoxious you can just walk away.

Your mother-in-law and your husband might consider going to Al-Anon meetings.
posted by mareli at 12:15 PM on August 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


I kind of feel like you should make a cross-stitch sign for your front door that says:

No Booze
No Guns
No Soliciting

At least then it's funny.....
posted by bq at 12:15 PM on August 23, 2016 [9 favorites]


I don't think there are any magic words, sorry. His dad has probably been like this his whole life and that's not going to stop because you have a no alcohol rule; he's not going to turn into a friendly, tolerant person for a few hours while he's sober. He might be worse, because he'll be resentful that someone has pointed out the elephant in the room. I think the best you can do is address his behavior regardless of sobriety, and accept that you may have to kick them out of your home.

Has your husband been to Al-Anon? Seems like they would have some good advice here.
posted by AFABulous at 12:17 PM on August 23, 2016 [9 favorites]


oh, and he's just going to get wasted before he comes over, possibly in the car.
posted by AFABulous at 12:18 PM on August 23, 2016 [31 favorites]


"Just to let you know, we are keeping a completely alcohol-free home going forward. Is there some seltzer/soda/milk/tea we can have on hand for you?"

And here's the thing: if your in-laws insist on doing it anyway, you have to stop hosting them in your home, because if asking once isn't enough for them to respect you, they don't respect you and there's simply nothing else you can do but not let them come over. There's not an inbetween step if asking isn't good enough.

Just make sure you internalize that not having alcohol in your home is a boundary you are entirely entitled to, but not being an alcoholic is entirely on your father in law to accomplish, and those things have nothing to do with each other. All you can set and defend are your boundaries, not their actions.

I would suggest doing a quick fade on having them over, and only meet them on neutral ground going forward. I agree with the others - he's going to be pounding it in the car and probably "sneaking" it into the house, his behavior will not improve and might be worse for the disruption to his routine.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:19 PM on August 23, 2016 [14 favorites]


This is an interpersonal issue between yourselves and your husband's family. It's firstly his issue to deal with.

The rudeness and disrespect are about the relationship. The habitual drinking is physical dependency and psychological habit.

Seperate these issues in your mind, even if the solution addresses the situation as a whole. It's more compassionate towards everyone involved AND it's closer to the reality of what's going on.
posted by jbenben at 12:20 PM on August 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think that if you want to set this rule, and nonetheless be seen as polite by people whom it strikes as an odd and cold rule, then you would have to offer them an explanation. I don't really get what your explanation is, given your insistence that you are not being judgy. But I guess you have an explanation, presumably based on what you fear/believe will happen if people drink alcohol in your home.

If I went to somebody's house and they asked me to put the bottle of wine back in the car, I would think that they were impolite and judgy unless they offered a particular, honest, and self-effacing explanation of why this was important given their own personal life experience and quirks.

But it sounds like the only people you are actually concerned about friction with, is your in-laws. So, work with your partner to figure out whether - with them - it is better to be thought of as judgy and controlling, or to have it out with FIL about his drinking, or something else.
posted by sheldman at 12:21 PM on August 23, 2016 [9 favorites]


Just tell them that you don't want alcohol in your home.

It sounds like you haven't previously announced your preferences (beyond participating in "we think you drink too much" type interventions). So it seems to me like least some of your worry about "offending" or "asking politely" may be based on your assumption that your in-laws have magically picked up on the fact that you disapprove of all alcohol and so choose to drink in spite of knowing that it makes you uncomfortable. What's entirely more likely is that your FIL thought he was being sufficiently respectful by only bringing (and drinking two beers).

I used to attend game nights at the home of a person who didn't allow alcohol in his home. Maybe for religious reasons, maybe because his under-drinking-age kids often joined in on the games, but whatever, that was the (entirely reasonable) rule. He communicated this whenever he communicated invites: We're having a game night on Friday the Xth, feel free to bring snacks but no alcoholic beverages please.

If he hadn't communicated this, I likely would have shown up to the first game night with a six-pack of beer to share. Because I like to respect people's homes, if he had asked me not to drink in his home I would not have, but it would have been awkward. So I appreciated the heads up.

On the other hand, I have a friend who disapproves of her parent's drinking habits, and is uncomfortable leaving her baby with them because "I don't want drunken babysitters." But she hasn't told them. So her mother doesn't understand why she doesn't get Grandma-time with her only grandchild and it causes friction. I suspect that my friend doesn't want to offend her parents by making it clear that she thinks they cannot be responsible with alcohol around her child. Having met, and had drinks with, her parents I personally think she's wrong, but either way the situation could be addressed by just using her words and saying "Hey, Mom, li'l Johnny's been asking to hang out with you, and I was wondering if you could watch him for a few hours while Hubby and Me go on a date -- I hope you don't mind, but I'd feel more comfortable if you didn't drink while he's in your care."

And you should do exactly the same with your in-laws: "Hey, we're hoping you'll stop by for dinner on the Xth, we've decided that we don't want to have alcohol in our home so please don't bring it." Or whatever the equivalent language that you would actually say to in-laws is. And you should make that request trusting that that they will respect your boundaries.

They might ask for reasons/clarification (given that you haven't expressed these preferences before), and if they are reasonable about it, you might want to let them know that it's just not something that you're comfortable with having in your home, and ask that you hope they understand.

Now, there's a good chance that FIL especially might dig in and refuse to respect your boundaries. Just hold your ground and make it clear that their invitation into your home is predicated on them not drinking. At all. And if they insist on drinking, feel free to stop inviting them (and let them know why).
posted by sparklemotion at 12:40 PM on August 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


If I went to somebody's house and they asked me to put the bottle of wine back in the car, I would think that they were impolite and judgy unless they offered a particular, honest, and self-effacing explanation of why this was important given their own personal life experience and quirks.

This would seem odd to me. There are many people who don't drink for religious reasons. There are many people who don't drink because of a past difficult personal or family history with alcohol. These are both good reasons not just to abstain themselves, but not to have alcohol in the home for others to drink. I would think it spectacularly rude to demand that my host share, say, a painful past drinking problem with me before I could accept that he prefer that I not bring alcohol into his own home.

If you have a good set of friends, OP, you shouldn't take any losses from this, except from your father-in-law. Casting it as a general rule will give him plausible deniability about the reason if he wants it, but the odds are unfortunately quite high that he won't want it and that there is no way you can say this without provoking conflict. You need to be prepared in advance for him to show up already drunk, and belligerent about it.
posted by praemunire at 12:45 PM on August 23, 2016 [22 favorites]


Not to be a spoilsport, but if your FIL has an alcohol problem and he's not allowed to bring alcohol (provided he agrees in the first place), he'll make sure to get wasted before he gets there. So I don't think you'll be solving the problem. Not saying you shouldn't have the rule, but your husband should get ready to have a "I do not want to spend time with you when you're drunk" conversation with his father as the next step. Or, you know, just don't host them.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 12:49 PM on August 23, 2016 [14 favorites]


I get it. I don't have a no alcohol rule in my home (and I have alcohol here that I sometimes offer to guests and occasionally even drink myself), but I don't want my home to feel like "a place where people drink." This isn't just about the drinking, it's about a certain kind of "nice" atmosphere that I like to have a break from in my home (all the things that go with "nice" drinking are similarly not what I want -- olives, fancy cheeses, pate... etc. If I wanted that crap I'd go to a reception at work. Please bring BBQ chips...Lays, not some hippie brand). My home is where I come to get away from all those things, which I don't particularly enjoy, so I don't really like people bringing it here. I realize that your background and reasons are very different, but my point is that I understand how not wanting alcohol in your home doesn't mean you think there's something wrong with drinking and are judging people for doing it.

Anyway, if you your FIL is an alcoholic then you have to be prepared for the fact that he will either sneak out to drink it in the car or sneak the alcohol in (and lock himself in the bathroom or whatever) to drink. I think socializing elsewhere is the best solution. "I know you like to drink, and since there's no drinking allowed in our home, why don't we go to XXX restaurant so that you can drink whatever you want (assuming he's not driving)."

Also be prepared for some people (maybe not your primary circle, it sounds like), thinking that you are bothered by a particular kind of drinking -- drunkeneess, or beer, or hard liquor, or whatever, and that the thing they do is not that, so it's ok. e.g. I have a friend who would think it unhealthy and possibly indicative of problem if a person drank several beers a day but sees "classy" alcohol as something different, so wine or scotch are okie doke. e.g. 2: A family member makes it known she wants no drinking at a family event she is hosting. Another family member makes pitchers of sangria, all the while tut-tutting how disrespectful it is that some people were drinking whisky. This family member still doesn't grok that the sangria was disrespectful, too.

Anyway, you don't need a reason and banning alcohol from your home doesn't mean you're anti-drinking. But you get to make your home a haven from anything you want and set the rules there. But alcoholics aren't great with rules, so you need a solution that doesn't require that a person with an addiction put that addiction aside in favour of basic respect. Go to their home. Go to restaurants. Go camping.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:51 PM on August 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Your husband can say to his mom "Mom we'd love to have you and Dad over to dinner in our new place this weekend. Now that we're on our own we've decided that we want to keep our home an alcohol-free zone. Our friends don't have a problem with this as most of them are pretty much non-drinkers like us, but we want to make sure that you and Dad are really clear. If this not something you think you can manage, we can do our dinners and family get togethers in restaurants or wherever, but this is a firm decision about our home. What do you say? Will you and Dad come for dinner on Saturday?
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:53 PM on August 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


This would seem odd to me. There are many people who don't drink for religious reasons. There are many people who don't drink because of a past difficult personal or family history with alcohol. These are both good reasons not just to abstain themselves, but not to have alcohol in the home for others to drink. I would think it spectacularly rude to demand that my host share, say, a painful past drinking problem with me before I could accept that he prefer that I not bring alcohol into his own home.

But those who don't drink and don't want alcohol in their house for religious reasons are being judgy - they think that God wants the best people not to drink, and that those who drink are not the best - and being that sort of judgy without good reason is impolite in my view. As for those who are in recovery or who have awful associations with alcohol, just say "I know it may seem cold, but I need this space to be alcohol-free because that makes me feel safe and maybe I'll tell you more about why when we know each other better." Otherwise, the best guess is that they are being judgy.

And if you want to be judgy, just go for it! But own it.
posted by sheldman at 12:54 PM on August 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


It is a lot scarier to set a boundary about your FIL being drunk around you (which is obviously directed at him and his problematic behavior, and doesn't allow the fig-leaf of being about you and your house regardless of who is visiting) - but I think at the end of the day it will be a lot more effective for your husband to simply tell his father that he doesn't like spending time with him when he's drinking, and to please be sober when he meets with you.

I have alcoholics and other problem drinkers in my family (of origin and in-laws), and I strongly echo those above who say that prohibiting drinking in your house is almost certain to not solve this problem, since your FIL is very likely to simply "pre-game" and show up drunk. Then pick an ugly fight with you or your husband about how he's "following the rules" and you're mad anyway.

I so, so, so know the feeling of wanting to enforce boundaries around your home when you have a loved one with a substance abuse problem who is doing the problematic behavior around you - but I also know that you have to be uncomfortable honest with the person about THEIR DRINKING being the problem, and not try to hide behind ever-more-convoluted rules that attempt to get them to show up sober. Don't beat around the bush telling your FIL it's about drinking in your house when it's actually about his being drunk around you - just tell him you love spending time with him when he's not drinking, but you aren't interested in spending time when/after he's been drinking. Then kick him out or leave anytime you get together and he's clearly not sober. It's a much cleaner and easier boundary to set.
posted by iminurmefi at 12:58 PM on August 23, 2016 [9 favorites]


It would be useful if you clarified the rule in your mind before communicating it. It sounds as if, from you description of the experience with your father-in-law, that the rule you really want to have is that "We don't want to socialize with people whose drinking has negatively affected their behavior."

"We don't want alcohol brought into our home" probably overlaps that concern pretty closely, but it doesn't match it completely. What are you going to do if your FIL comes over, already drunk, and behaves rudely?

Because instituting the rule is probably going to be the most difficult part of this, it's worth figuring exactly what rule you want before you take the trouble to communicate it. Once you've done that, your FIL (and others) will either comply (so no problem) or decide not to visit your home (which may be a problem, but it's a different problem). So make sure you only have to go through that awkward phase a single time. Dealing with the possible unpleasantness of saying "Please don't bring alcohol into our home" may not be that big a deal, but it would certainly be much worse if two weeks later you had to say "And don't come over here when you're drunk, either."
posted by layceepee at 12:59 PM on August 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


We have an alcohol free home. I agree with the others that since there is a specific issue with your husband's family he needs to address it directly. But otherwise, we just tell people in advance and if someone forgets or gets confused and brings a bottle, we say thank you, leave it in the bag on the buffet near the front door and let them know it will be going home with them.

We deliver the message warmly and always assume the error to be an innocent misstep. We haven't had anyone seem put out yet. :)
posted by hilaryjade at 1:04 PM on August 23, 2016 [10 favorites]


Not to be a spoilsport, but if your FIL has an alcohol problem and he's not allowed to bring alcohol (provided he agrees in the first place), he'll make sure to get wasted before he gets there.

A few people have brought up similar points, which I think are valid. But it seems to me that a large part of the decline in smoking in the U.S. has to do with the removal of spaces that are considered acceptable to smoke. Similarly, best case, even if FIL is an alcoholic, he may in fact care about his relationship with OP and husband enough to actually refrain in (or before) their presence. Medium case, maybe if he does feel compelled to "pre-game" for visits, that might be something that can be brought up to him to knock down his arguments that he "doesn't have a problem." Worst case, he refuses to stop drinking/being drunk in their home and they need to stop inviting him.

And while: "don't be drunk at our house" may really be the result you want OP, consider that "don't drink at our house" is a much cleaner and easier to enforce ask, unless you want to start bringing out the breathalyzers or conducting field sobriety tests when FIL insists that 2 beers in an hour isn't enough to make him drunk because he's a "big guy" or a has a "tolerance." Ask for the concrete thing first -- if pre-gaming is a problem, address that separately.

But those who don't drink and don't want alcohol in their house are being judgy - they think that God wants the best people not to drink, and that those who drink are not the best.

As true as this may be, I don't think that it follows that judgyness equals rudeness when it comes to what happens in one's own home. What's rude would be refusing to respect, or demand reasons for, the boundaries of others. Non-alcohol related example: I was raised in a shoes-off-in-the-house culture, and therefore have that rule in my house. I feel no obligation to explain that rule to people, because I shouldn't have to. Therefore, OP, regardless of how you actually feel about people who drink, I wouldn't let the fact that you are being judgmental stop you from setting reasonable boundaries.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:04 PM on August 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


I rarely drink, because I don't tolerate it well. Most forms of alcohol make me ill. I am fine with other people drinking, but I would be appalled if a guest showed up with some expectation of drinking alcohol in my home. I would also be baffled as to where on earth that idea came from. My house is not a bar. Why on earth would you assume it was a place you were going to drink alcohol without so much as asking me?

This honestly just was not a Thing when I was married and we had people over. No one ever thought to bring alcohol. I really cannot say why. But the idea that anyone would make it into an issue just seems beyond rude to me. Those people are more than welcome to never come back ever, thank you.

Perhaps we were just famously straight-laced? I dunno.

We did have a no smoking rule. My ex would have just said "No Smoking" and that would have been it for him. He would have provided zero accommodation. But I kept a single art deco ash tray in a cabinet and I would hand it out to our smoking guests so they could smoke on the porch or patio, but not in the house.

My oldest son once witnessed his father snatch a cigarette out of a guest's mouth and grind it under his boot on the kitchen floor while reiterating the "No Smoking" rule. This did not turn into drama and I only know of it because my son likes telling the story now that he is an adult.

So, different issue, but we enforced it very strictly and it did not cause us to be pariahs with no social life or something. I have no idea if people talked about us behind our backs, but the no smoking rule was respected and people just did not bring alcohol. And, no, our friends were not all tea-totallers. But our house was alcohol free and it caused zero social friction.
posted by Michele in California at 1:08 PM on August 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


A little white lie no one has mentioned that might ease the way in this: if you've only had the in-laws over one time, your husband can add this to his spiel: "Oops, we forgot to mention this to you before you came over last time, but we don't allow alcohol in our house." That might help lay the groundwork that this has actually been a hard boundary before the conversation, you just neglected to mention it.
posted by purple_bird at 1:11 PM on August 23, 2016 [9 favorites]


"Can you bring dessert this time? We're all set for beverages. Thanks, can't wait to see you guys!" might work as an all-purpose script, if you ever need one.

In this particular case—bringing over two bottles of beer seems pretty rude no matter what the household rules are. If it's an alcohol-friendly household, that's not enough to share! This is someone who's carrying his habit around with him, not someone who's thinking about the needs of others, so your rules, no matter how politely stated, may not register. I agree that this is more of a "having a word with the drinky FIL" issue than a "how do we nicely convey our policy" issue.
posted by the_blizz at 1:12 PM on August 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


You are certainly entitled to maintain an alcohol-free home. In-laws might assume it's all about them, and you can tell them or not tell them that it pertains to every guest.

If they accept the rule, you'll probably still have to deal with the rudeness that happens because of alcohol your father-in-law consumes before he arrives at your house. This bad behavior is actually the real problem, and has to be addressed with the use of boundaries. That is, you make a boundary for yourself: if he (or they) are unpleasant, rude, insulting, etc., you can't continue a visit that's in progress, and you will avoid making plans with them in the future. You're not telling him not to drink; you're saying what you will do if he does the thing you can't deal with.

It's very hard to assert oneself with family members, even if they're sober. Patterns have been set, and also the parents are used to having authority. Please make yourself believe that you and your husband are now (in all situations) your own primary family and his/your parents are now part of "everybody else." Saying, "Spouse and I have decided..." or "Partner and I have discussed it and we feel..." is powerful. It reinforces your own feeling that you're part of a team, and creates a firmer impression in the mind of whatever family member you're talking to.

The only way you can change how family members treat you is to change how you act toward them.
posted by wryly at 1:14 PM on August 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Skipped to the bottom to say I'd let everyone I invited know that ours is an alcohol free home. Period. You don't need to explain it. If someone asks why, say that it is uncomfortable for you to be around alcohol and hence there never is any consumption in your home.

Alcoholics hide in plain sight, using other people's social consumption as a mask for their own addiction. So you aren't always going to get happy campers when you tell them your rule - you are outing some people. But you are also entitled to have a home that is as you'd like. If you wanted no shoes in your home, all you'd have to politely do is tell people that yours is a shoe free home. Or if you don't want meat in your home, all you have to do is let people know there isn't any meat consumption in your house. Or if you wanted a kosher home, all you'd have to do is tell people that and how that works . . . see? It is your home, your choice. The politeness is just in courteously letting people know how things are if they come to see you.
posted by bearwife at 1:18 PM on August 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


I also agree the FIL will just get drunk before coming over, or drink secretly in the bathroom or whatever.

Is this person driving drunk? Because that's a whole other worry.
posted by jbenben at 1:29 PM on August 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


I like alcohol and freely allow it in my home, but if someone like your FIL showed up at my place, I wouldn't like it either. I think it's ok for you[r husband] to say "Please don't come over if you've been drinking. And please don't drink at our house. We like hanging out with you without alcohol." And be prepared to set a hard line boundary. If it happens again, tell them to leave and don't invite them back.

It sounds like you've got the friend part covered! I think most people are considerate of others' issues with alcohol. If I knew someone didn't drink, I wouldn't bring wine as a hostess gift - regardless of any strict prohibition of having it in the house.
posted by bluefly at 1:31 PM on August 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm generally of the opinion that it's hard to regulate stuff like this when you have guests. For example my fiance and I keep our shoes off in the house (for no special reason, we're just both shoes off in the house people), but then people come over, and you can't really demand people remove their shoes without becoming Those Weird People Who Make You Take Your Shoes Off, so c'est la vie I guess.

However, bringing over a personal supply of alcohol for one's own consumption (which is what bringing over two cans of beer is) is rude. Your FIL has already crossed a social line by choosing to do this. It's not on the two of you to be polite in response to your FIL's rudeness. Just tell him not to do this. I would sit him and your MIL down and tell them you don't want alcohol in the house. No excuses, no reasons. Just what you said: "We prefer not to have alcohol in the house and for our guests not to bring alcohol." Period. The end.
posted by Sara C. at 1:39 PM on August 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Another idea is to host the in-laws for breakfast or brunch, and avoid evenings as much as possible. You'll also save money if you go out to eat.
posted by witchen at 1:52 PM on August 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


Just a point because of the phrasing in the first "marked as best answer." Be sure to say "alcohol," not "liquor."
posted by raccoon409 at 2:15 PM on August 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Agreed with the posters above that your main problem here isn't really "me and my husband prefer that no alcohol is brought into our home", but "my FIL has serious problems with alcohol and he becomes rude and obnoxious and throws his bad vibes all over our house".

For the general no-alcohol-in-the-house issue, I really liked sparklemotion's comment above:

"I used to attend game nights at the home of a person who didn't allow alcohol in his home. Maybe for religious reasons, maybe because his under-drinking-age kids often joined in on the games, but whatever, that was the (entirely reasonable) rule. He communicated this whenever he communicated invites: We're having a game night on Friday the Xth, feel free to bring snacks but no alcoholic beverages please."

If I were a guest at your home, I would love to hear "feel free to bring X, but no alcoholic beverages please" beforehand so I didn't embarrass myself and feel awkward by bringing wine or beer as a gift that is clearly unwanted.

But as for your father-in-law, oh jeez. There are layers and layers of compounding problems there that only overlap a little with him drinking in your house. You are dealing with the following:

- he is not your father or your relation; he is your husband's father
- he was rude and obnoxious to both of you at your own house
- he exhibited drunken behavior after two cans of beer
- he may have started drinking long before those cans of beer
- your mother-in-law is not on your "team" here and thinks you two are "no fun"
- your husband probably has a lot of long-standing experience with unhealthy family dynamics regarding his father's drinking
- your father-in-law's drinking has gotten worse lately to the point where his family had to ask him to cut back
- you have spent 25 years dealing with emotional abuse and physical abuse
- you and your husband are uncomfortable and unused to communicating boundaries and enforcing them
- you are very concerned about not seeming 'judgey' or 'prohibitiony' about your requests


It seems like you feel a lack of power in this situation. I know that it feels awkward and uncomfortable to ask your father in law to not drink at your house. I agree with other posters that this should be an issue that your husband addresses with his father.

He could bring it up by saying something like:

"Hey, dad, last time when you were over here, I felt uncomfortable after you had been drinking. Next time you guys come over, let's stick to soda & juice."

- father in law makes angry rumbly comments about how sensitive you are-

"I know you see it as me being sensitive, but I didn't like it when you said X, Y, and Z to my wife and did A & B. That's not okay in our house."
posted by amicamentis at 2:22 PM on August 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


He could bring it up by saying something like:

"Hey, dad, last time when you were over here, I felt uncomfortable after you had been drinking. Next time you guys come over, let's stick to soda & juice."

- father in law makes angry rumbly comments about how sensitive you are-

"I know you see it as me being sensitive, but I didn't like it when you said X, Y, and Z to my wife and did A & B. That's not okay in our house."


I wouldn't get into any of this at all. Because that is basically trying to do an intervention, only NOT. There is no middle way here. You start talking about "I am not comfortable with YOUR drinking" and that is automatically judgy. Someone who is an alcoholic is going to have a cow at that point.

I would say nothing whatsoever about HIS drinking or how his behavior is related to his drinking. "Oh, sorry, we forgot to mention our no alcohol rule. We ask ALL guests to not bring alcohol. Thanks."

Then, if he shows up with alcohol, you say "No can do. Those stay in the car." If he has a cow, he can turn around and go home.

I would address his behavior completely separate from his drinking. If you talk about how he behaves when he drinks, you are de facto dealing with his alcoholism. If you are not doing an intervention, this is not a thing you should try to deal with. It is his choice and his problem. Poor boundaries are a big thing with substance abusers. Respecting their right to drink or drug on their own time, not under your roof, and then when they are under you roof expecting them to behave, no excuses, or leave, can weirdly help them become more functional generally if they like you enough to go along with your rules so they can visit. And if they just do not cooperate, then they just do not come over.

Do not get into his problem drinking. This is not a thing you want to take on. That is an enormous, huge, giant can of worms worth of personal baggage that goes all the way back to his birth and gets into dirt from both parents and possibly grandparents and OY. You are not his therapist. You are not being paid to do that and if you try to do it unasked, it is always drama.
posted by Michele in California at 2:35 PM on August 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am on the 'this is pretty much impossible; meet in a public place' side. Either he will get drunk on the way over, slip out to run down to the pub for a few shots, or just be a constant jerk about it in hopes of getting you to give up, or, as with the person I tried to enforce a rule like this with, he will show up smelling like a frat house recycling bin and acting half drunk and half grumpy from being hungover, all the while claiming that he is sober, so what the @#$* is the problem? First you make a big deal out of nothing, then you make a rule, then I follow the rule and you are still rude to me! The nerve of you!

Just meet up elsewhere. If he is a jerk after two beers, he is either pre-drinking, or just a jerk with or without the booze. Either way, it is a no-win situation to maintain a peaceful home with that sort of person now. I'd make a hard boundary about socializing elsewhere before you deal with this dude being a grandfather and making scenes in front of children.

There are not a lot of good ways to enforce decorum once you have already opened the gate and let that sort of person be a regular in your home; it will just be a race to the bottom if you end up in scenarios where the local police must visit your home or regrettable things are said or... To wit: "... witnessed his father snatch a cigarette out of a guest's mouth and grind it under his boot on the kitchen floor while reiterating the "No Smoking" rule." Right. It's the old saw about wrestling with a pig: you both get dirty, and the pig likes it.

> he is the kind of person who thinks its okay to make jokes about the LGBTQ+ community, offhandedly make racist comments (which is "ok" because he doesn't mean it), and doesn't really respect boundaries.

Great; all the more reason to just meet up at a restaurant or at their house or wherever. You mention you have worked hard to create a "calm, positive and peaceful home." The idea that light drinking might be incompatible with this is a total fiction. You are complaining about your FIL's behaviour, which has little to nothing to do with two cans of beer.

> My husband and I were uncomfortable with this, but didn't know what to do. We didn't say anything, because we didn't want to offend him. At the same time, we didn't appreciate the awkward atmosphere and bad vibes that his dad's behavior created in our home.

Deal with the problem, not the red herring, especially as neither of you are comfortable with showing him the door when he acts up.
posted by kmennie at 2:42 PM on August 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Everything you tell me about your FIL makes me think he will just drink his six pack before he comes over instead. (Or sneak out to the car to drink or whatever). It sounds like it's not that you don't want alcohol in your home, you don't want the negative effects of drinking in your home. Which can happen regardless of whether a physical bottle ever makes it through the front door.

Unfortunately this will be the start of a much bigger, more painful discussion with your in laws about his drinking. Everyone knows the situation, right now you're just maintaining polite fiction - until you're not.
posted by Jubey at 3:23 PM on August 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you are using polietely to mean "without pissing people off" you can't. Just meantion it to people when you invite them over and then deal with the fallout. It might be easier if you have a formal house warming or something (or a couple) and include a note with your invited that alcohol isn't permitted in your home. This can help defuse things a bit by not making appear personal or mostly directed at one person (even though it totally is).

bondcliff: "It's your house. You make the rules and don't need to explain them to anyone."

This. This is what being an adult is all about. I had to have the similar fight with my father about smoking in my house (100% verboten). It wasn't pleasant and he tried to bully me about it and eventually he just didn't visit my home until 20 years later when he'd quit. Oh, well; my house and everything I owned didn't reek of cigarette smoke. Ultimately you have to be willing to incur this cost. If you aren't then you won't be able to make the prohibition stick.

galaxypeachtea: "Because my husband and I are very liberal in other aspects of our life, I feel that it is hard to explain why we don't drink or want alcohol in our home. I think people might think we're straitlaced or "no fun" (In fact, my MIL has called us that herself)."

Unless you have a religious reason for not drinking (and even then somewhat, it just shifts the perception) drinkers are going to think this and there isn't anything you can do about it. The higher they are on the teetotaller to raging alcoholic scale the more they are going to think it. I've had a guy I was working for just up and volunteer that he didn't trust people who didn't drink when he found out I didn't.

Personally I wouldn't cross the "what if he pre-games/sneaks booze" bridge until it becomes a problem as it is entirely possible your FIL just won't ever informally visit. Especially if you don't host big family events like Xmas or Thanksgiving. Give it a year or two for the rule to become established and then see if this is a problem.

Sara C.: "then people come over, and you can't really demand people remove their shoes without becoming Those Weird People Who Make You Take Your Shoes Off" This is actually one of the holy wars so don't feel like a weirdo for asking.
posted by Mitheral at 3:57 PM on August 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


You don't have to have your inlaws over to your home. You don't have to invite that energy in. You can just always go to their place or a public place. And when FiL gets belligerent it's time for you to leave and you do. No fuss. No negative vibes in your home. This is a legitimate option and solution.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:21 PM on August 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am a drinker. I have been Drinky Mc DrinkyPants. The idea of bringing two beers, for myself to drink, at a friends' house, seems insane to me. Either you bring enough for everyone to share as a host gift, or you don't bring booze. There is no circumstance in which you should bring stuff that only you like to someone else's house, whether it's beer or peanuts.

The fact that he did this sounds like he's an actual alcoholic - that it's more than just "embarrassing things" your partner doesn't like, but alcoholism from his alcoholic dad and maybe the rest of the family. This is completely reasonable! This is even normal! Children of alcoholics frequently have no-booze wedding receptions, etc.

I think the real problem here is that you can't have the conversation about "Seriously not even one drink, what the hell is wrong with you" without confronting FIL about his alcoholism. That's the real problem that needs solving, not your house. Your house is simple to explain: your FIL is not simple to have things explained to.
posted by corb at 4:21 PM on August 23, 2016 [10 favorites]


For me, all these explanations are just noise. To answer your original question, you just say "By the way, we have an alcohol-free home. FYI!" That's not rude, not out of line, and totally your call. Any normal person won't even blink or ask why, because that would be rude. For your father-in-law, your husband just calls him up and says "Hey Dad, we have decided to have an alcohol-free home. No big deal, please respect our decision moving forward." None of this has to be judgemental, it just is what it is.

But keep in mind that grownups also get to make their own decisions about whether to visit your house, or not.
posted by raisingsand at 4:25 PM on August 23, 2016 [8 favorites]


Up until the late-70s, it was expected that you would provide an ash tray for any smoker who visited your home. And you would endure the lingering smells on your furniture. Mid-1970s, people started to ban smoking in their homes. I remember seeing cute little signs by the front door: "Thank you for not smoking!". At first it was controversial. Many people thought it was rude to expect smokers to walk outside for their smoke break.

Today, it would be the height of rudeness to light a cigarette in someone's home -- unless explicitly invited to do so.

I sympathize with your problem. I don't want people drinking alcohol in my home. And I'm ok if the same people drink in a restaurant, or at other peoples' homes.

You might try sending an email to all your family and close circle of friends. "Dear Family and Friends: We love having you all as guests in our home. We look forward to the next time you come over. After some thought, we've decided that we need to keep our home free of alcoholic beverages. This decision has to do with our own needs in our home. We're ok if you choose to enjoy alcohol when we all meet outside our home. But inside our home, we're asking everyone to enjoy food, and non-alcoholic beverages, and leave the alcohol outside. If you'd like to ask us questions, we'd be happy to chat about it. Looking forward to our next get together!"

This way you announce it to a general audience. You are not targetting anyone specific. You can ask your in-laws if they saw the email.
posted by valannc at 6:18 PM on August 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


I like to drink, but I sometimes refrain from drinking in the homes of some of my friends without them even having asked. Maybe the friend in question is trying to stay sober, maybe the friend in question is on probation, maybe I think the friend just isn't comfortable around alcohol, or maybe there's some other reason.

While I do like to drink, I like my friends a lot more than I like drinking. I don't think I'm an unusually good friend (or anything of the sort) because of this.

If someone isn't willing to respect your desire to keep alcohol out of your home, then I'm not sure that person should be welcome in your home.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 8:01 PM on August 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm like you -- except that NOBODY in my entire family drinks and none of my close friends do, either. I literally go weeks without seeing anyone drinking. I don't really get why people enjoy alcohol, but I've given up on trying to understand it. Me, I can't get past the bitter taste of the first sip.

I think it's hard to ban it from your home if you're in a "mixed" social circle -- which is why I often provide it at my own parties. I just try to schedule those parties at times when people won't get roaring drunk (no Friday or Saturday nights!).
posted by Guinevere at 8:15 AM on August 24, 2016


I think this is becoming way too complicated and I'm not sure why the in depth answers are necessary. State your rule as politely as possible, give them a chance to abide by it. If they don't (or if he shows up drunker than you feel comfortable with), from then on go to their home or out to eat. It's as simple as that.
posted by blackzinfandel at 6:49 PM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


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