Dear Aaron & Rachel
My family lives in one town and my husband’s family lives in another so we usually split the holidays by going to one families’ side for Thanksgiving and the others’ side for Christmas. We’ve done this for about 4 years ever since we were dating. But something happened a couple months ago involving me and my Sister-in-Law and I REALLY don’t want to go to his families’ side now. They’ve all taken her side and said things behind my back that makes me really uncomfortable. It’s even uncomfortable at times when she’s not around so I can’t imagine what Thanksgiving is going to be like when everyone’s there with her! My husband and I have talked about switching holidays this year but then I’ll still be going over there for Christmas and I don’t want to do that, either. This is a bad time to get in a fight. What do I do?
Well, there’s really no good time for a fight with family, but some times definitely seem worse than others. And there is nothing like fear of running the holidays with anything from general discomfort to anxiety to full-blown family drama! Perhaps, it is a good idea to visit his family for Christmas instead so things can cool down a bit. Eventually, you are going to have to deal with his family, as relationships are all about compromise. You can’t avoid them forever and not expect it to impact your relationship with your husband. Is there a way that you could speak with his sister beforehand so that things don’t get out of hand on the holiday itself? A conversation with her and/or other family members beforehand may ease tensions. Good luck!
I agree with Rachel that it may be best to switch holidays for now in order to buy you some time. But you’re right that it’d just be kicking the can down the road. So don’t take too long to address it or else you’ll have an awkward Christmas, too. As an employer there are a lot of times I have to eat some ‘humble pie’ and reach out to an employee who feels they have been slighted by me. It’s hard as the boss to go to an employee and try to make amends. But it’s the most boss-like thing I can do to take the high road in order for my employee to have a good employment experience. As hard as it might be to reach out to your SIL it’s perhaps the most sisterly thing you can do. It will show good faith to her and your husband’s family about your character that will give you miles of respect that you can capitalize on when you need to down the road.
One thing to remember is that a lot of times people don’t actually need an apology. This is something you were taught when you were a kid that actually has no application to adulthood. A lot of times people just want to know that you understand why they did what they did. That said, you can express that without having to agree with them or condone what they did. You can express understanding for why they did certain things and leave it at that without an apology. Of course you have good reason for why you did what you did (hopefully) and you can explain that, too. If you can do that and keep a level head doing it then you’re off to a good start and you’ll get loads of respect from your SIL and the rest of your in-laws, too. AND you’ll also have a better Christmas.
About Rachel: Rachel Russo is a Dating, Relationship, & Image Coach who works with marriage-minded singles and couples in NYC and throughout the US. Checkout her website at RachelRusso.com
About Aaron: Aaron Anderson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Colorado and writer for various websites about marriage and relationships