General Etiquette > Family and Children

Managing Holiday Plans

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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.

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. 

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.

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.


--- Quote from: mspallaton on December 03, 2013, 10:26:59 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.

--- End quote ---

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.


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