Holiday Conflicts With The Mother-In-Law

Dear Dr. Bill,

My husband has one sister who is married and she has two kids like we do.  Unfortunately, my mother-in-law always shows favoritism to her daughter’s family over ours.  Last fall when I called about visiting on Thanksgiving, we were told to come the day after because there were already plans in place with her daughter’s family.  When I asked about plans for Mother’s Day, she told me she “would have to let me know” because she doesn’t know what’s going on with her daughter’s family.

I’m tired of always making plans around my sister-in-law!  Why doesn’t our family get equal recognition?  Right now I feel like saying “Forget it!  Let’s just stay home instead!”  What should we do?


Dear Laurie,

I empathize with your dilemma.  It’s tough to feel like your family comes in second place with your in-laws.  Blood really is thicker than water, and in your mother-in-laws eyes, you may always play second fiddle to her own daughter.

Your husband needs to have a chat with his mom and dad and let them know how you’re feeling.  This may be tough for him, but it’s his responsibility to hash this out with them, not yours.

I don’t know what you’ve decided to do about Mother’s Day this, but I’d set some firm boundaries with his folks regarding future holiday plans.

When discussing dates with his mom, say something like this: “Mom, we’d really love to spend Thanksgiving with you this year.  We’d like to make our travel plans and purchase tickets by the first of September, so can you let us know by then?”

Then stick to your guns—if she can’t commit to you by the deadline, make other plans.  If she plays the martyr and acts hurt when you tell her you can’t come, don’t buy into her manipulation.  Tell her you’re sorry that she’s disappointed, but that you’d love to get together with her soon.

Thanks for writing Laurie.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

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