Life Advice



Must I Resume Hectic In-Law Visits?

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am thankful for this past year's reprieve from family travel expectations. As an introvert, I dread those expectations coming back -- especially when my husband's mother is such a force of nature.

How is one to deal with a host who rushes her visitors from place to place, exhausting them? I wish for home immediately!

I feel like the opportunity to visit is ruined by her artificial and manic itinerary-keeping. It physically damages my body, and also prevents my husband and me from having sensitive discussions with his siblings. MIL is always in the room, supervising every interaction.

I have heard of one couple using the busy busy itinerary technique to wear down critical in-laws, but why do this to younger in-laws, who have not criticized their host?

It says to me, Let's get this OVER WITH, and that my host doesn't want to be with me or spend time together. The visits are definitely not geared toward my husband's interests or energy level, nor to mine. I took my cane everywhere on our last visit, and she was horrified for a moment, then completely forgot about it until I needed to sit down. She then scowled the entire six minutes I was seated.

MIL treats us like hostages the minute we arrive at her home. She doesn't notice or seem to care that we aren't having a good time with her running around and setting tasks to keep us busy and worn out. MIL is hiding something -- at best, it looks like alcoholism.

It is too unpleasant to return to the old routine of traveling a whole day just to see her act like a toddler kept up too late, and it can't be pleasant for her, either. If she is hosting out of obligation, it would be nice to get rid of that.

I'm getting a lot of messages from MIL's manic behavior and drinking that she might not want us to visit -- or that the real people she invited are perhaps different from her imagined son and daughter-in-law. I suspect greatly that she has been inviting us out of habit rather than actively choosing to spend time together.


Do I need to let MIL know in writing that I'm not returning once the pandemic is over? Or is it better to let her forget, as she will, in her busy world? I don't feel the need to explain.

GENTLE READER: There is no need to explain. And the excuse that one is eschewing social life in favor of safety will fortunately, or unfortunately, be valid for a long time to come.

But as a general rule, Miss Manners assures you that family and overnight guests do have some autonomy when it comes to taxing itineraries and unwanted late-night drinking. I am afraid that we are not up for a big sightseeing trip today or I wish that I had your stamina, but it is time for me to retire are perfectly acceptable reasons not to be dragged through the mud. Both literally and figuratively.


(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)






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