Life Advice


Health & Spirit

Sister-in-law's FaceTiming ruins New Year's Eve

Carolyn Hax on

If it wasn't conceivable in the moment to respond in the moment and show her kindly to a room with a door, three minutes into FaceTime Part I, then make it so next time: "I'm going to interrupt you for a sec -- let's move you to the guest room where you can talk freely. It's too chaotic in the family room. Hi [relative's name]!! [smiley-waving at iPad screen]."

If your home is too small or thin-walled even for that, then, after a polite time allowance for calls, you step in with apologies and say you're all unable to play with the calls going on -- "thin walls, so sorry."

It was in fact dishonest of all of you to allow the behavior to continue for two hours as if you had no objection to it, only to attach consequences that kick in a full year after the fact and that your sister-in-law won't even know she brought upon herself, much less be able to address. With loved ones, you either voice your objection clearly or you waive your right to punish them for it.

As for what you do about it now, the short answer is, nothing. It happened, it tanked your party, it was as much a result of your failure to stop it as of your sister-in-law's choice to start it.

But now you know.

Invite her to whatever you normally would as a forewarned, forearmed host. Be ready -- as in, respectful enough -- to speak your mind and to give her a chance to speak hers. And consider a no-devices-in-communal-spaces rule, since all of us should.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful hostship.


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