Although this is among our most favorite times of the year, the holidays can often deliver more stress than pleasure. To help us safely navigate the occasional treacherous waters of entertaining extended-family over the holidays, we reached out to our friend Richie Frieman — The Modern Manners Guy – to give us some pointers on how to keep everything running smoothly with the in-laws.
‘Tis the season for good friends, good family, holiday cheer . . . and oh yeah, keeping sane through it all. This time of year, you may be forced into certain family situations that will test your patience, and make you want to drown your sorrows in some spiked eggnog. In fact, right now some of you are nodding your heads saying, “Yup I hear you!” One area that stresses people out most this time of year is dealing with in-laws on their annual holiday visit. Where’s the spiked eggnog?
Let me first say, that as much as I understand your pain, not all in-laws are bad. I happen to have fantastic in-laws. Seriously. I will also say that mine is an incredibly rare situation. For the majority of people, in-laws are more frustrating than having your car break down in them middle of the highway, with people shouting, “Get the H— off the road!”
As a manners and etiquette guru, you probably think it’s bizarre for me to point out that in-laws can be trouble, however I’m a realist. Do not think for one second that being mannerly, means being a push over, especially when it comes to family. Family is the most important thing in life, and sometimes you have to curb your emotions to appease certain unmannerly family members, like your in-laws. So with, I’ve provided my top 3 tips on how to survive your in-laws during the holiday season, and maintain your sanity for a happy home.
Tip #1: Dodge Them
Lying is never proper, however, when you’re in a sticky situation you can’t escape, like your in-laws, you have to be “creative”. This starts with open communication between you and your spouse, who by now should understand how your feelings. “I love your parents but either I skip out for a few hours each day, or I may throw a chair through a window . . . Your call.” Now throwing chairs is never proper, and hopefully your spouse will choose the safer option of the two.
So, when you begin to hit your boiling point, kindly excuse yourself to “help a friend”, “run errands”, or tend to a “work issue”. What you’re doing here is being honest with your spouse and not hurting your in-laws’ feelings. The holidays are not the best time to start an argument, so to avoid any tension, allow yourself space for a few hours each day. However, do not skip out on set plans. Your “out” is reserved for the downtime when the other option is sitting on a couch your in-laws for ten hours, while they tell you how the uncomfortable the guest bed is. Oh, joy to the world.
Tip #2: Your Spouse Is Your Ally
Sometimes tolerating the rudeness of your in-laws during their stay is the only way to keep the family happy for the weekend. However, I will say that this is not something I advocate all year round. If someone is being mean to you, you have to speak up, but the holiday season is never a good time to curse out your in-laws.
As I said in Tip #1, again be honest with your spouse. Either with a nudge, an eye roll, or a cough, have a signal for them to intervene. For example, if your in-laws share different political views ask your spouse to speak up for you. “Oh dad, come on, who cares about politics right now. Let’s figure out what where we’re going for dinner.” They will most likely listen to their child over you, so use that to your advantage.
Tip #3: Bring In Other Family Members
“There’s strength in numbers” is a good way to combat unruly in-laws. When you know the in-laws are coming to town, invite other family over to share in your pain . . . I mean joy. By having more family around, you allow your in-laws to socialize with others, and give you some much-needed breathing room. This way you get a break, and you also look like the hero for bringing more family over to celebrate. In the end, it’s a win-win.
Even if your in-laws aren’t heaven sent, they are still family and that’s what is most important during the holidays. So take this time of year to remember how much you value family, both naughty and nice, as well how much you value the gift of long geographic distance between you and them.
For more information on Richie, please check out his site at Modern Manners Guy, follow him on Twitter at @Mannersqdt and, check out his new book, “REPLY ALL . . . And Other Ways To Tank Your Career” (St. Martin’s Press), IN STORES NOW!