In-Law Filter: How to gracefully bow out of a family vacation?
May 10, 2021 7:51 PM   Subscribe

I learned that a significant portion of a very near-term vacation with my spouse, who I have not seen in three months, and my in-laws will be in an extremely rustic cabin in the woods instead of their perfectly comfortable house, which is inducing a lot of negative feelings in me for reasons. How can I get out of this part of the trip while hurting minimal feelings?

My spouse and I have been on separate continents for three months due to work obligations. We’re finally in the same country, and I had planned to link up with him, his siblings, and my in-laws later this week for a several day, low key visit at my in-laws’ house before he and I travel to a different city for a few weeks, just the two of us. I found out today that two of the four nights we’d be spending with my in-laws is at their very rustic mountain cabin a few hours away from their house. I’ve been through a lot in the last few months and the thought of six people crammed under a tiny roof with no privacy with my spouse who I haven’t seen in months, no cell service, no hot showers, and the only thing to do being hiking in bug-filled woods is spiking major anxiety and resentment. My spouse already knows I’m not super pro-cabin (but this is something he really enjoys/wants to do), and my in-laws believe I am joining them for all of this. How can I gracefully bow out of this part of the trip and arrange to join them at their house for only a night or two after they’re back from the cabin without ruining my relationships with everyone involved? I suspect my mother-in-law in particular may be hurt, as I have not seen them in two years and she has expressed how excited she was to see me. I do not think asking my spouse not to go is a viable option, as it’s been over a year since he’s seen his family. Scripts welcome.
posted by derogatorysphinx to Human Relations (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Would a Covid-related excuse work? That’s a lot of not-bubbled people in one house, all of whom have been traveling.
posted by HotToddy at 8:00 PM on May 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I need more details, I think. It's just two nights at the cabin? Where will people sleep? That does sound super cramped and bananas. I wouldn't want to go either. Were you going to be reunited with your spouse at the cabin or would you be seeing them ahead of time and then traveling to the cabin? Do you have flight reservations or can you show up at any time?

If it were me, I would simply say, "My plans have changed and I won't be able to meet up with you there after all! Have fun reconnecting with [spouse] and send photos!" Because, I think it's totally fine if spouse wants to cram in with his family of origin but that's not necessarily your idea of fun and it's nice to sometimes just do "family of origin" things and not involve all the partners and extraneous members. When I have declined those kind of in-law obligations, that is my reasoning. As far as I know, I've never been so sorely missed that it made any difference.

If you are traveling there by plane, maybe you need WiFi and work space for the first part of your trip? If so, get a hotel and hang out there. You can either go pick up your spouse to take him home, saying hello to everyone and maybe spending a few hours at the cabin, or just skip it entirely. Then meet him back to your awesome hotel and have a good time before you head off for the next leg of your adventure.

Or, maybe the two of you can do that plan? Both of you stay at a hotel, make a day trip out to the cabin - an appearance - and then leave. But, if he wants to stay, say, "No problem...I'll see you tomorrow when you get to the hotel."

You aren't ruining anything by not wanting to sleep on a floor or in a weird way when you haven't seen your spouse in three months. I wouldn't do that trip on a regular situation - I need my space! If I hadn't seen my partner in months? No way. NO WAY!!
posted by amanda at 8:05 PM on May 10, 2021 [13 favorites]

What a shame, something work related has come up and you must have internet access and a bit of quiet time to muddle through it. You'll be so happy to see them once they are back in town and work should all be cleared up by then.
posted by Cuke at 8:06 PM on May 10, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: And really, you are doing your spouse and his family a mitzvah to let these no cell-phone, bug-loving, crammed-in-and-dirty hiker people have their good time! Let them have it. You can have hot baths and some naps elsewhere (hopefully). You just have to kindly set your boundary. Or talk your spouse into the same boundary - he can rustic cabin hike another time? Or make it a day trip only? Or just one night away from you?
posted by amanda at 8:09 PM on May 10, 2021 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far- not to threadsit, but will provide some additional COVID context. Everyone involved is fully vaccinated and spouse’s siblings have been living with my in-laws (and not socializing outside the family bubble) for the last year.

@Amanda- I am flying to my in-laws’ state of residence late the night before the road trip to the cabin, so I would be reunited with my spouse for one night at my in-laws’ house before the two-night cabin jaunt.
posted by derogatorysphinx at 8:18 PM on May 10, 2021

the less said the better. "Something came up and I won't be able to make it. Have fun!" If anyone asks you can mutter something vague about work.

Don't worry about being missed. Parents crave time with just their kids, too, even when they love their kid's spouse.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:23 PM on May 10, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, you definitely don't have to go to the cabin. I think most people would understand if you just nicely told everyone the truth. "Hey spouse's family, I'm so excited to see you guys again, really looking forward to it! I am going to have to pass on the cabin experience though, and just meet up with you guys afterwards. All this traveling has wiped me out! I desperately need good hot showers, super comfortable beds and some downtime getting my email inbox under control. Have a great time at the cabin with Spouse! I'm looking forward to seeing all of you when you get back."
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:25 PM on May 10, 2021 [20 favorites]

Any chance you could meet them on the way back from the cabin, i.e. you get to the house while they are getting all bug bitten at the cabin have a little quiet time to recover from your trip, see them all when they get back, have a friendly family puppy pile with them and then you and your hubs continue on after a night at their place? Mybe you could have a meal waiting for folks when they get back. I think it's okay to say "no cabin, no road trip" after you get back from an international trip.
posted by jessamyn at 8:43 PM on May 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Ideally you tell your spouse and he covers for you.

That rustic (almost neolithic) cabin is simply not everyone's cup of tea! A supportive spouse saying, "Nope, derogatorysphinx isn't joining for the side trip--not their thing!" is really all that's required, perhaps with some reinforcement if challenged. "No, DS didn't want to ruin everyone else's get together by insisting we do something different but it's just not what they are looking for after six months. I'll see them again in two days! It's all good. Now let it rest."

I know in laws are weird, but my gut on this one is any "little white lie" excuse gets interpreted as you not prioritizing seeing them. Being up front that it's the cabin doesn't leave them inventing reasons.
posted by mark k at 8:53 PM on May 10, 2021 [6 favorites]

If I was invited camping with my (technically) in-laws my response would be "yeah, nah."

I vote for telling your spouse and letting him sort it out (since it is his parents and family, and their cabin, after all).
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:59 PM on May 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

Could you stay at your in-laws' place to recover from jet lag while they're gone? You could sleep in even if they're hitting the road at 6 a.m., have the day to yourself, take it easy the next day, maybe shop a little, and then prepare a nice home-cooked meal for the whole gang (your first in three months?) the day they return.
posted by kate4914 at 9:42 PM on May 10, 2021 [8 favorites]

A variation on kate4914's plan: stay at the in-laws place 2 nights, then out to the cabin for a day and one night.
posted by at at 9:46 PM on May 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

I personally would not be up for any type of driving trip (even as a passenger!) After spending an international flight on a plane, and contending with jetlag mentioned above. Something like I'd love to go, but I don't think I can take that much traveling all at once.

Also you may want to express concerns that any flight delays etc could impact the trip and that wouldn't be any fun either! I'd talk to your spouse about wording it gently, but what you are asking for seems perfectly reasonable. Of course you want to see them, just not after a hours long road trip in a small rural cabin after making your way across the globe.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:31 PM on May 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I get the whole his family want to see him too, but not sure how I'd feel about a family that forgot that he and his partner are their own family unit and would want their own time to reconnect and that would come first, before whisking their son off to the middle of no where. I can fully understand why you have a lot of negative feelings about the whole thing.

I'm mad on your behalf if that helps as I could see my inlaws doing the same unthinking bs. The polite grown up in me suggests you check into as nice a hotel or B&B as you can afford spoil yourself for a few days and tell your partner to meet you there when he's all done and have your reunion on your own terms in your own space. I'd use work or health as a polite excuse, because honestly to me this reads that if they're willing to make plans like this, they don't care if you come or not. I'd then greet tired and sore from no sleep and sleeping on the floor partner in the sexiest outfit I have at the hotel room door to remind him what he missed.
posted by wwax at 8:22 AM on May 11, 2021 [9 favorites]

Best answer: If you hold to your own desires (one night with spouse, then you stay at a hotel, hot baths, and a nice few post travel), while they go to the cabin, will you hold a resentment against anyone?

Partner feelings: Do you feel devalued or unseen because your partner *wants to go to the cabin*? Do you feel your partner is not prioritizing you enough and "should" want something different? Do you fear Partner will be *exhausted* when they return / not make special time?

How would refusing to join them at the cabin "ruin the relationship with everyone involved"? Is it against your values to "refuse an invite"? Are you worried about missing the tradition?

I mention this way of thinking, because I have gone on vacations where I had logistics frustrations, and it was the *going* that ruined the relationship, not the skipping.

As far as a script, it can be a simple as this "inform": "I will see you all when you get back, and to stay at your house for a few days, and catch up then. Bring me back a cool rock, and take some pictures for me."

If you explain the logistics of why you aren't going, they might try to solve and meet you partway and compromise. You are so far from where they are on this, that any compromise is unlikely to be good enough. It's okay to not want to go to summit Everest, and staying at Everest Base Camp is not a compromise that works for anyone :)
posted by gregglind at 6:03 AM on May 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

"I'm just not a cabin person, and I want to make sure spouse has some special time to visit with their parents on their own. I'm excited to see all of you back in the land of hot showers and comfortable beds!"

It sounds like you will be at their house the night before they leave -- I would arrive at their house with a gift for their house (something that obviously isn't for taking to the cabin), and be very excited to see everyone, you are looking forward to doing (activity that is not a cabin thing) with them, etc. The next day see everyone off on the trip and give a "useful" gift that is very much meant for the entire group going to the cabin. A care package of bug repellent wipes or hiking snacks or something.

If you are staying at their house in the meantime, maybe have something welcoming ready for them when they come back. Snack plate, hot chocolate or cold drinks depending on the season. If you will be busy, something you can leave out with a note welcoming them back.

Keep the tone on all of this very gracious, as if (because you are, in a way -- you could have avoided the awkward conversation around not going and been miserable instead!) doing them a favor by not imposing on them with your simply don't want to drag everyone down by not having a good time, want to give you all special family reunion time, not-a-cabin person self.
posted by yohko at 11:30 AM on May 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

How'd it go?
posted by amanda at 6:01 PM on June 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

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