Author Topic: Managing Holiday Plans  (Read 2804 times)

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mspallaton

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Managing Holiday Plans
« on: December 03, 2013, 11:09:13 AM »
Hi all,

I'm not sure if this belongs in holidays or in family since it straddles both - either way I hope you guys can offer some advice.

We are spending Boxing Day with MIL, younger BIL and older BIL and his family.  That's the plan at least.  Older BIL is one of those "I'm a great peacemaker" types and this is his first full day on the same side of the state as their family.  Here's the issue: we think older BIL or MIL may invite DH's father and step-mother to the Boxing Day gathering.

If that happens, DH and I will not be there - meaning we would make a swift, but polite exit.  We are not trying to make people not see anyone, but we don't choose to be around FIL or SMIL at all at this point.  I'm worried us getting up and leaving would be seen as blindsiding everyone at Christmas time.  Because we chose not to send the letter to FIL demanding an apology, really only MIL knows that we're so adamant about not seeing him.

If MIL invited him, it would be aggressive, but if BIL did... that might actually come from not understanding how serious things have become.

DH wants to call his brother and explain the situation -- basically he wants to say that it is BIL's choice and we're not trying to dictate holiday plans, but we wanted to make him aware that if FIL is somewhere, we won't be there.

Is that.... I don't know... reasonable?  I'm not sure if there is an etiquette to informing family members that you're estranged from someone or if we should just live our boundaries.  I do believe that BIL and MIL will get very upset if we get up to leave and will probably be pretty condescending and rude to DH.  They have a habit of calling any discomfort about anything he feels "ridiculous" and "emotional".  I, for one, don't see how choosing not to associate with someone who shunned you at your wedding is ridiculous, but maybe that's just me.

The point is - we would like to spend the holidays with them because absent the issue with FIL, they are nice people.  But we are worried that FIL may be surprise us by being there if we don't address it ahead of time.

miranova

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Re: Managing Holiday Plans
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2013, 11:21:04 AM »
I admit I don't know the backstory, but my first instinct is that you can't dictate who other people invite to their homes, and I know you said you don't want to, but trying to fish around for who is invited and who isn't puts unfair pressure on the hosts to accommodate your wishes.  It's just not fair to them to put them in the middle of this dispute.  They can invite who they want and you can show up or not.  I think it would be very rude for you to get up and walk out if FIL shows up.  I'm sorry but I have suffered through dozens of soccer games, school programs, graduations etc sitting very near my ex husband who is frankly, a world class jerk.  I would never see his face ever again if we didn't have children, but I have to spend some of my most treasured times with him in the room, because otherwise I'd miss my kids events.  It is not fun, but I believe it's the mature thing to do to avoid bringing other people into your dispute.  Do you expect from now on that people must choose which one of you to invite?  It's just not going to work, it causes more drama.  For holidays, you may have to suck it up and play nice so that other people's enjoyment isn't hampered by your choice to cut off a relative. 

m2kbug

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Re: Managing Holiday Plans
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2013, 11:25:38 AM »
I don't think it's unreasonable to figure out the guest list ahead of time.  There is no huge secret here on the dynamics, correct?  This is a continuous situation in my family and people plan around who's coming and who's not, and there are many phone calls back and forth ahead of time.  Personally, I would want to know ahead of time so that I can plan around the visit.  Example, I can come early or later (after they leave) or next weekend.  If traveling and staying with the folks, I can have "other plans" and be absent for a few hours. 

I think it would be fine to call Mom and/or BIL and figure out if they're planning on inviting Dad and Stepmom and then you can make your plans accordingly. 

Since you are the one refusing to be around FIL, then I think it's up to you to work your plans around your other family members who may be inviting him. 

It really feels like an ultimatum, him or me, but it's not.  You're just trying to avoid any uncomfortable situations.  You're not telling them who they may invite, you are just saying if you invite that person, I will not be there.

With this, you are also making your feelings known, and that way, if he shows up (whether they lied to you or he just showed up), you can politely exit.

Save yourself the drama and ask in advance who's coming.  It would be better to plan ahead than have to deal with the uncomfortable situation of walking out.

mspallaton

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Re: Managing Holiday Plans
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2013, 11:26:59 AM »
The only thing I will clarify, miranova, is that FIL and SMIL are more than jerks - they are emotionally abusive of my husband.  For our health, we absolutely will not see them.

There may definitely be a third or fourth or even millionth option here beyond what I've thought of -- but 'suck it up' isn't on the list.

@m2kbug - the dynamics are not secret - everyone in the family knows what FIL pulled on us.  What they don't know is that it was the final straw for DH so that's where the issue arises.  From your advice - it may be important to be very careful about the way it is messaged.  We are VERY willing to move our plans and accommodate anything we can to minimize inconvenience to others -- it sounds like we just need to make sure they know that.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2013, 11:28:36 AM by mspallaton »

m2kbug

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Re: Managing Holiday Plans
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2013, 11:36:01 AM »
@m2kbug - the dynamics are not secret - everyone in the family knows what FIL pulled on us.  What they don't know is that it was the final straw for DH so that's where the issue arises.

You don't have to do any huge clarification for other family members.  You can explain to those closest to you who you associate with regularly and talk to regularly.  As for your MIL and BIL, since they're the ones who may invite FIL, I would clarify with them what their plans are now, and just say that if FIL and SMIL are invited, we would like to come over earlier (you'll bring muffins!) or do something the following day (whatever works). 

Again, this is pretty typical family affair for my clan.  It's not a big deal to go through the "who's coming" routine.  Hopefully your family will be okay with this as well.

I find it odd that your MIL is so invested in this relationship with her ex-husband and wife.

MindsEye

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Re: Managing Holiday Plans
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2013, 11:51:19 AM »
OP, here is my advice...

Make things simple and easy on yourself and your DH.  If you are worried that your BIL will invite your FIL and step-MIL (both of whom you very understandably want to avoid), then just don't go to the Boxing Day get-together. 

Instead invite your BIL and MIL to your house for a gathering at a later date.  That way you can control the guest list and have 100% certainty that your FIL and step-MIL will not be there.

(Frankly, if your BIL regards himself as a "peacemaker" I would worry that no matter what you said to him or what you asked him, he would just ignore you and make sure that your FIL and step-MIL were there and force some kind of confrontation.)

TurtleDove

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Re: Managing Holiday Plans
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2013, 11:53:30 AM »
I find it odd that your MIL is so invested in this relationship with her ex-husband and wife.

POD.  This is all very strange to me.  OP, I understand what your response was but I still POD miranova.  So the FIL and SMIL are jerks.  Don't let it bother you, and certainly don't borrow trouble by stressing out about a possiblity they will be invited to the same place you are on boxing day.  If you are adamant that you will not be in the same room as FIL and SMIL ever again, then simply don't go to boxing day.  Just don't expect everyone to support that decision or to not be upset with that decision.  Be firm in that decision and own it.

miranova

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Re: Managing Holiday Plans
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2013, 12:12:31 PM »
The only thing I will clarify, miranova, is that FIL and SMIL are more than jerks - they are emotionally abusive of my husband.  For our health, we absolutely will not see them.

There may definitely be a third or fourth or even millionth option here beyond what I've thought of -- but 'suck it up' isn't on the list.



Emotionally abusive would be a kind description of my ex, so I assure you I do know what it is like.  But that is neither here nor there.  My point was that involving other people in your dispute with this person isn't kind to those other people.  I know because I've been on the other side of it for 20 years.  My parents have been divorced for well over 20 years and I just recently got a LONG email from my dad begging me to make sure my mother wasn't going to be at certain event.  This is not fair to me, as it is not my dispute.  I'm not saying you are going that far, obviously you are not.  But I do think you are being a bit na´ve if you think that you won't cause stress to other family members when you start always asking who else is invited before you accept any invitations.  It gets tiring to the host to try to keep people apart and accommodate everyone's disputes.

mspallaton

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Re: Managing Holiday Plans
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2013, 12:20:41 PM »
I understand - we may simply have to not see people on that day and make other plans.

I will admit that I'm not particularly concerned about their stress as much as my DH's.  He's long been the lowest priority for lack of stress in his family.  He's allergic to cats - when he lived at home his older BIL would bring their cat into town and leave it there for three weeks and DH just had to deal.  So, I'm more concerned with what etiquette allows - even if it bothers someone else.

All that being said - I know both DH and I are open to rearranging whatever we need to so that others aren't put out on the actual day. 

That makes the next question this - any recommendations on backing out of the Boxing Day plans?  We originally made them with just BIL and MIL and realized later that they might add FIL without consulting us so we're going to have to back out of plans we already made.
-------------------------
For those who have expressed confusion about MIL... I agree.  I can't, for the life of me, understand why she is so hung up on a man who left her and her children for another woman.  I have and will continue to bite my tongue because while I don't generally guess the nuances of etiquette easily... I know for a fact that coming out and asking her why she's not over her ex is bad form...

heartmug

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Re: Managing Holiday Plans
« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2013, 12:26:06 PM »
I do think it is a good idea for your DH to have a conversation with his brother and possibly stop this, so your MIL can have a pleasant day without one of her sons getting up and leaving.
The trouble is not that the world is full of fools, it's just that lightening isn't distributed right.  - Mark Twain

TurtleDove

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Re: Managing Holiday Plans
« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2013, 12:50:57 PM »
To be fair, apparently FIL (and SMIL) are accepting these invitations from MIL.  It is peculiar, IMHO, on everyone's part.

EllenS

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Re: Managing Holiday Plans
« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2013, 01:21:30 PM »
Here's the thing.  Making a sudden exit from a social event does imply censure/rejection of the host as well as the objectionable guest.  It does carry the implication that BIL has done something wrong in inviting him.

So, to try to see what's reasonable, OP, I'm trying to look at this from BIL's point of view.

If somebody posted a question like this:
"Our whole family usually gathers on Boxing Day - me and my 3 brothers and our families, my mom, and even my dad and step-mom. I know not every family can do that, but I feel like we're very lucky everybody can get along so well, and it's an important tradition to us.
Here's the problem - Dad and Stepmom have been real you-know-whats to my youngest brother and his bride. I really don't want to take sides or get put in the middle, but I hear from Mom that they have decided to cut him off entirely.  I can't say it's unjustified, but I am really hoping we can all spend some time together on neutral ground. What do I do?  If younger brother starts asking whether Dad will attend, or -God forbid- walks out of the party.  Should I just not invite Dad?"

I think the general consensus on the board would likely be, that as host he should invite whoever he wants to invite, answer any direct questions truthfully, and let the guests make their own decisions about attending or leaving.  He would probably get some advice as well, about how it would be kind but not necessary to offer flexible times to meet with you.

I think there is a difference between you asking whether FIL and SM are invited, versus telling your feelings/decision to BIL and expecting him to change his plans accordingly.  I think making a grand announcement that "we are estranged!" makes it BIL's problem, which it should not be.
If however, you asked about FIL/SM being invited, and said, "Well, in that case could we come over earlier, or get together with you the next day, because we're not comfortable staying if FIL/SM come", then you are taking responsibility for managing your own problems, and offering BIL a reasonable modification, and showing you're not looking to punish or keep your distance from the rest of the family.

From what I remember of the backstory, even if BIL invites him, there's no guarantee that FIL would even show. And it would be a shame to miss out on the family just because of something that MIGHT happen.

JMHO.

Hmmmmm

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Re: Managing Holiday Plans
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2013, 01:35:59 PM »
Since MIL is the host and she is aware that your DH is cutting all contact with his father he can speak with her. "Mom, I know brother would like to spend time with Father on Boxing Day. But be aware that if he is there, wife and I will not stay. You of course can invite whomever you choose and there will be no hard feelings if you decide to have Father and SM over. We'll make plans for another day."

Then it is up to MIL to decide whether to allow other son to invite he's father or not. And she'd also be able to decide if she should for warn other son to NOT invite Father over if she thinks he might do it without asking her first.

If you guys end up blindsided and arrive to them being there then greet the rest of the family with big smiles but say "We are just dropping in and can't stay. Enjoy your day." "No really, we can't stay. See you soon." and leave.  And make sure to not take anything inside the house with you until you are assured there is not unexpected guests. It makes an escape so much easier.

darkprincess

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Re: Managing Holiday Plans
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2013, 01:46:05 PM »
DH and I have CO one of my brothers. We did tell other family members that we would no longer be seeing them and that we didn't expect them to change anything due to our decision. When there is a holiday or event where CO brother is invited to, we go out of our way to see family at an alternative time.
SIL is a peace maker and we are aware that she has several times told us the CO brother is not going when he really is, or has invited CO brother to an outing that I planned, a trip to the park. We simply left with smiles on our faces and no drama. I admit we no longer trust what she says about their attendance and don't invite her to outings any longer.
You do not need to be around toxic people, and if people you love can't respect that, then you know where they stand and need to respond accordingly.
A invitation is not a summons. Feel free to leave the party early or don't attend at all if MIL says the they are coming

Mikayla

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Re: Managing Holiday Plans
« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2013, 02:24:51 PM »
I find it odd that your MIL is so invested in this relationship with her ex-husband and wife.

POD.  This is all very strange to me.  OP, I understand what your response was but I still POD miranova.  So the FIL and SMIL are jerks.  Don't let it bother you, and certainly don't borrow trouble by stressing out about a possiblity they will be invited to the same place you are on boxing day.  If you are adamant that you will not be in the same room as FIL and SMIL ever again, then simply don't go to boxing day.  Just don't expect everyone to support that decision or to not be upset with that decision.  Be firm in that decision and own it.

I agreed.  It may not be as simple as meets the eye, because your DH may be asked about it.  And with family, I don't think it's always possible to bean dip in the response.  But it does get your message across a lot more clearly than anything else, and hopefully with minimal drama.

I also like the suggestion of hosting your own event.  This reinforces it, as well.