Q: My in-laws just stayed with us for several days over the holidays. Truth be told I don’t like them very much. My father-in-law seems a bit full of himself and my mother-in-law can be very controlling and critical of me, my housekeeping, and my parenting. Now they want us to come down to their vacation home in Florida over spring break. We just saw them! My mother-in-law is already dogging me with questions. It’s causing tension between my husband and I because I’ve been putting her off. I just want a longer break from her before we start planning the next visit. Is that too much to ask?
A: These situations can be dicey. Dr. Elizabeth Carr suggests, “In many cases it can be helpful to have your spouse serve as an ‘ambassador’ for any difficult communication with his or her own parents and leave you out of it as much as possible.” So step one might be to have your husband reach out to his mother and let her know how you both appreciate the invitation but will need some time to put your heads together about your schedules; and that he will be reaching out to her later to follow-up. Then you two need to have some respectful and compassionate heart to hearts until you’re on the same page, not just about the practical plans but about your vulnerabilities and needs on the matter. Once you’re on the same page, only then does he circles back to his mother to negotiate and finalize the plans speaking for you both.