If you have a healthy relationship with your in-laws and enjoy spending time with them, that’s amazing! (And where’d you get that — Amazon?) If the thought of your father-in-law loudly clearing his throat one more time sends a paroxysm of muted rage through your chest cavity, though, here are a few tips to help you deal if you’re stuck hosting them, yet again.
First: Can they stay anywhere else?
If the in-laws grate on your nerves, must they stay with you? Are you sure? Is there any excuse you can reasonably conjure — a family member who isn’t vaccinated, a guest room that needs some emergency repair, or simply, a polite version of the truth? Not, “Your undermining of my parenting is rude, and I can’t stand to hear you chew.” Something more along the lines of, “With X, Y, and Z going on, we don’t have the bandwidth for company right now, but here are some nearby hotels.” Or one of these other honest, diplomatic options. If there’s no way out of hosting them at your house, I’m very sorry; please proceed to step two.
Schedule it when it works for you (and set a leave-by date)
Rule number one of hosting in-laws you don’t love hanging out with: Never let the in-laws dictate when they’re coming. Sure, they can make timing suggestions and offer up availabilities. But remember: It is up to you and your partner to decide when their visit works best. Don’t let them bulldoze your regular schedule, a fun event you’ve been looking forward to, or stay for a week when a few days is all you can reasonably do. Speaking of: Always set a firm leave-by date (with a reason to back it up), or their visit may threaten to extend by several days, especially if they’re travelling by car.
Set expectations and boundaries for the visit
If you have important work deadlines, holiday prep duties, or simply an exercise class you never miss because it’s important for your well-being, let them know ahead of time when you will not be available during their visit. Offer up ideas for nearby excursions and activities they can do on their own while you’re occupied. If you like to sleep in but they’re up at dawn’s first light, tell them ahead of time where to find breakfast and coffee and to help themselves, because you won’t be surfacing until around 10 a.m.
Agree with your spouse that they will take the lead
Your spouse might need a reminder that it’s on them to take the hosting lead. Let it be known you’re fine to do behind-the-scenes prep (or whatever you’re willing to do), but if they sit and read the paper or watch TV while you’re forced to make small talk for days with someone who subtly negs you for sport, they’ll be on your shit list. Be clear that you expect them to lead activities, conversation, and run potential argument interference, so you don’t get stuck essentially babysitting their parents.
Brainstorm conflict resolutions (and scripts)
Before they arrive, sit down with your spouse and list out the top five or 10 negative comments or issues you can foresee arising. Together, come up with how you will address these situations, and draft scripts for what they will say to resolve any conflict. And yes, pushback should come from your spouse whenever possible, so your in-laws know their child is the one responsible for the decision, and you’re not to blame.
Schedule extra self-care for before and after
It helps if you are not a ball of pent-up stress and anxiety when they arrive, so treat yourself to some of your favourite calming activities just before they get to town. A massage, a night out with friends, or your favourite HIIT class can help shore up your patience to withstand them flouting your house rules, or telling long, meandering stories about the retired duck-hunting couple named Ned and Sue they met on their morning walk to the pond (and how they’d never seen a hooded merganser before). While you’re at it, go ahead and schedule some self-care for after they leave, too.
Sneak away whenever you can (and involve others)
Remember: Just because they’re coming to stay doesn’t mean you need to be with them 24/7. Whether it’s working out, retreating to your room early to scroll TikTok, going for a walk, or stealing away for a solo trip to the grocery store, find small moments to give yourself a break from being “on.”
Another trick? Include other people, whenever possible. If you’re having a game night or a cookout, invite friends or other family members who can serve as conversational buffer and take some of the entertaining burden off your shoulders. You never know: Maybe your best friend’s husband and your father-in-law will end up bonding about their shared love of military history (so you won’t have to hear about the Battle of Midway, once again).
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