Toxic drunk pauses in the beer aisle
The problem is my in-laws.
I know I'm supposed to be cordial and hope that things get better, but after all these years things are what they are. I know nothing is going to change.
I would rather stay home than be anywhere with my in-laws.
I feel like I have paid my dues (20 years' worth), and if I want to stay home for the holidays, then it should be my choice. What is your opinion?
-- Ho-Ho Humbug
Dear Humbug: You don't detail how your in-laws' behavior contributes to this poor relationship, but you are obviously resigned to a completely static state regarding them. But even if they can't/won't change, can you? And could some changes on your end make a difference?
Yes, you are "supposed to be cordial," but -- here's the tough part -- you're supposed to be cordial even if things don't get better.
In this context (and many others), your behavior is all you have. So yes, you should behave in a way where you can feel good about your choices. This does not mean that you should tolerate abuse, but there are cordial ways of reacting -- for instance, by saying, "I don't like the way this is going, so please excuse me -- I'm going to take a break," and exiting from the scene.
One of your jobs as a parent is to demonstrate to your son how people should behave when they are presented with challenges and disappointments. Do you want your son to see that Dad would rather miss Christmas than tolerate his son's grandparents?
It would be great if you and your wife could come up with a holiday plan that minimizes your exposure to these people. If they live locally, you might want to drive two cars to their home, if possible. That way you could make an appearance, but then be able to quietly exit when/if things get too sticky for you.
Dear Amy: The question from "Very Hurt New Wife" reminded me of my own situation. Like this new wife, I married an older man (we are both retirement age), who likes to stay busy and basically works all of the time.
After a long period of adjustment (where I thought about leaving the marriage), I finally saw that my husband was happy, occupied and that his work habits were keeping him engaged and healthy.
So, instead of asking him to do less, I started doing more. We are both very busy and engaged, and we're still pretty happy to see one another at the end of the day.
-- Happily Married
Dear Married: I'm impressed.
(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers may send postal mail to Amy Dickinson, c/o Tribune Content Agency, 16650 Westgrove Drive, Suite 175, Addison, Texas, 75001. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.)