Q. My mother-in-law invited herself to the annual weeklong summer vacation I plan for my parents. This trip is my Christmas present to my parents. It allows for my quiet relaxation, and for my aging parents to spend time with my young children. My mother-in-law also invited our sister-in-law and her family.
I do not want to plan every meal and excursion with five additional people in mind — this is supposed to be my relaxing vacation! My husband thinks “the more the merrier,” but he is just avoiding confrontation and hasn’t offered to talk with his mom about this. If I intervene it will probably be seen as another attempt by me to withhold her access to her grandchildren (not that she frequently asks to or is ever denied visits with them at our house). We did plan (and pay!) for a separate trip with her and our family already. How can I set her expectations that this is a trip for my parents without starting WWIII?
MORE, NOT MERRIER
A. If your husband won’t talk to his mother, do it yourself, sooner than later. Tell her you and your parents prefer small groups (that should make sense, especially after the last year). If it causes a conflict, maybe it’s one that needs to happen. Not everyone is going to be invited to everything. If she sees this as some attempt to keep her away, remind her of the other trip and offer to drop off the grandkids.
Keep the conversation short and remind her that this is what’s best for your parents. The end.
Because this is Love Letters, I want to focus on how you communicate with your husband about this. Yes, he’s avoiding conflict, and it would be great if he would speak to his own family about the trip. Ask him if he’ll ever be willing to talk to his family about what’s most comfortable for yours. If not, will he support you after you have these difficult conversations?
This can chip away at a marriage, so you need to figure out the system, even if you become the bad guy and he steps in after. The more isn’t merrier for you. Him acknowledging that is a first step. Then you can ask, “What do we do next time?”
Tell him you don’t want this to divide the two of you. You have to be on the same page, with a plan for how it works.
Have you tried explaining this to your MIL in a straightforward manner? If not, do so and if she reacts badly, that’s her problem
Looks like your husband isn’t the only one avoiding confrontation. People can’t take advantage of you without you letting them. Either speak up or suffer in silence, your choice.
^But it’s 20 times easier for her husband to explain this to the in-laws than LW. He needs to step in here and get the job done.
In my opinion, you have to get your husband on board. Even if you do the talking, you should be united on the issue. It sounds like this is an annual family tradition with your side of the family. It wasn’t anyone else’s place to invite themselves and others along. Phrase it as nicely as you can, offer an alternative, maybe a long weekend with the in-laws or invite them to your house/city for their own visit.
That kind of mother-in-law behavior resonates with me. My ex-husband and I made it clear to both sets of parents (both sets lived far away and not near each other) that each year Thanksgiving would be spent with one set of parents and Christmas with the other set, and that it would alternate each year. And every year his mother would complain about me “choosing my parents over her” — for whichever holiday was not their turn that year. I tuned her out.
Nobody invited themselves on my work trip to Ohio.
^Maybe next time schedule a work trip to the Bahamas.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.