When my now-DH and I had been dating for something like 2.5 years, I mentioned that I was trying to figure out where to go for my vacation.
Then-BoyF said, "we could go here." I said, "We??" He said, "well, I want to be with you!"
OK, I figured, we're pretty much a couple, so OK, why wouldn't I want him along?"
(This after I'd learned the lesson about not vacationing with good friends whose idea of "sleeping in" was 11:30am and who wanted to eat at Perkins and sit there for 3 hours. She wanted to make my week in Calif. a joint vacation, and I said, "No. I want to have total autonomy, I don't want to compromise for anyone. Not on this vacation." So including my boyfriend was a big concession.)
A couple of weeks later, he says, "My parents want to come along."
I'm like, "No, sorry--this is MY vacation, and I didn't invite them."
He says, "but we haven't had a family vacation in a long time!"
I'm like, "Well, fine, but I'm not in your family. You're not having your family vacation on MY vacation! I get only 2 weeks. This is the one I'm spending to relax, since I use the other week to visit my family half a continent away. It won't be relaxing if we go w/ your parents!"
He wheedles, well maybe we can vacation in the same place, but we'll travel up separately, etc.
OK, finally, I agree to that.
First, we got stuck w/ his brother. We stayed in a B&B just outside the town, and they were supposed to stay somewhere else. Suddenly his brother was staying at the same B&B, so after we arrived, we were responsible for his transportation. And he was annoyingly passive aggressive in the TRUE sense--in this case, it was expressed in that he'd take forever to get ready to go, bcs he didn't want to be on that vacation. He was in college and about as self-focused as a 14yo. And I had no patience for him. I wasn't rude, but I didn't like to be around him bcs it was so much work not to express my exasperation. But we had to take him back and forth to the B&B. And so the B&B wasn't a romantic place to stay anymore.
So it wasn't MY vacation, but it wasn't "our" vacation for us as a couple either.
I don't like to eat in sit-down restaurants all the time; his parents do. Every meal, we had to negotiate where to eat, or if we said we were eating somewhere else, they'd pressure us not to. And they'd offer to pay, as if that would make us fall in with their plan.
Then his dad got the idea that we'd go out on the harbor in a boat ride; Boyfriend and I wanted to climb a mountain (we were in Bar Harbor, Maine). We declined. His dad pressured. It would be fun. I said, "No, there's nothing to see, the coastline of Maine all looks the same, andI can see it from the other shores just fine, and looking at water is not interesting. I don't want to do this."
His dad said, "I'll pay for it! We can be together." I said no. He wheedled. I said no. Finally my Boyfriend said, "we'll climb partway and meet you for the boat ride." I ended up giving in.
And then we got SADDLED WITH HIS BROTHER again, who didn't want to go climbing and made us get a later start than we wanted, and didn't think he could do any hiking, and was always asking for reassurance instead of just shutting up and letting the day unfold. PLUS a deadline. Which his brother kept fretting about, so it wasn't like there was a 3-minute time frame in which I could just enjoy the climb and not thing about the deadline.
So we climbed with an eye on our watch, and just as we were really having fun, we had to turn around. I Female Dog plenty about it to Boyfriend, since he was the one who got me into this.
Then we go on the boat ride, and I'm trying to find something good in it. And it was boring. And loud. And windy. And COLD. And concentrated time with his parents, who are lovely but not (at that point) anyone I'm relaxed around or know very well. I was SO mad that I cut short climbing the mountain, which I was loving, in order to go on a boat ride that I did NOT want to go on in the first place and that I'd tried to say no to.
THEN--on the drive home, somehow BF and I end up SADDLED WITH HIS BROTHER AGAIN. (In all honesty, it was probably an awful vacation for him to, since he kept getting dumped on us, which can't have been comfortable; he had to know he wasn't really wanted). And when they both had French onion soup for lunch, the two of them slurped so loud that I went into the women's bathroom and leaned on the wall for 20 minutes until I was pretty sure they were done; it was the only thing I could do to keep from screaming at them.
It was bad enough that I seriously thought about breaking up. I told my boyfriend, never again. Not ever. Just no. He agreed. If he hadn't, I'd probably have dumped him. It's been 25 years--I'm *still* sort of pissed off about it.
Then, when the kids were young, we spent ONE weekend at a resort w/ his parents for some social-club gathering; his parents assured us it would be fun, the kids would like it, etc. The kids did sort of like it--and DH & I did not enjoy it at ALL. His parents keep bringing that sort of thing up, "the family can be together," and we just say no. They say they'd like to vacation w/ us, and we say no. They offer the idea that we can split up and do our own things, and we just say no.
DH and I have very, very similar ideas of what a vacation should be; we're really good at saying, "Oh, sure, I'll go enjoy that thing you really, really WANT to do." And we're really good at saying to one another, "I'd kind of like to do this silly thing" without worrying about being scoffed at.
But I won't ever, ever vacation--truly *vacation*--with his parents. To be honest, while I spend vacation time on visits to my family, I don't consider this true vacation either; they're family trips, which is different.
I can't say they are or were "dictators" in the unpleasant sense--maybe "iron fist in a velvet glove."