Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Father-in-Law Is a Bigoted Jerk”

In honor of the upcoming holiday season, I am re-posting this column that was originally published on November 8, 2011. It was written by guest columnist, Billie Criswell, while I was taking maternity leave.


I’ve been married for two years to my high school sweetheart, Mark, but we’ve been together as a couple for nearly 10 years, so I’ve had plenty of time to get to know my FIL, Hank. But the more I know about him, the less I want to have anything to do with him. Hank loves being inappropriate and making intentionally over-the-top bigoted comments just for the reaction. On two separate occasions when we’ve dined out as a family, we’ve been seated near a table where two women were dining alone, and he couldn’t stop snickering the whole time about how they must be lesbians. He also slut-shames one of his nieces because she’s 30, unmarried, was an NFL cheerleader for a little while and dresses sexy. After one of Mark’s other cousins brought a new girlfriend to a family event, Hank couldn’t stop talking about the size of her breasts. I have actually snapped back at him a few times, but teasing is common in Mark’s family – you only earn respect with them if you can “dish it out” as well as you can take it, so if I do fire a comeback at him, he takes it as playful banter.

Hank’s behavior has only gotten worse in the past couple years. Mark doesn’t like his father that much either, but family is family and he still loves him, of course, as he should. Mark is getting less patient with me when I vent out my feelings after a visit. His parents live on the opposite side of the state from us, a four-hour drive. But because the drive isn’t *that* long, we do end up seeing each other about once a month or so – the next occasion on the calendar is Thanksgiving at their house. I dread having to put up with Hank if he’s in one of his “ornery” moods. My patience with him is thin and I honestly wouldn’t feel that bad about exploding and chewing him out if he provokes me. I’m not expecting him to change, but if you have any suggestions for how I can tolerate being around him without blowing up in feminist rage or annoying my husband by complaining, I could really use the advice before Thanksgiving. — Offended In-Law

While I certainly don’t blame you for being insulted, holidays are not — I repeat NOT — the time to unleash a possible family feud. This isn’t something new that popped up; this situation has fermented over time, and now you are feeling the pressure, but you should keep it corked while celebrations are ensuing, especially since you’ve decided to attend.

The first and best thing that you can try to do is not take it personally when he starts in on his rants. Expect them to come, and know that you are just going to tune it out when it does. Ignore him. It doesn’t sound like these comments are aimed at you (thank God!) so just decide not to participate. Try to focus on good qualities that he has too, because I am sure it’s not all black and white. There must be some redeeming qualities in other areas of his life that you may be overlooking in your frustration. See if you can dig deep to think about what they are. And when you feel frustrated with his behavior, concentrate on something else — compliment your husband or your mother-in-law’s cooking. Use shifting the conversation to your advantage. When his talk becomes too much for you, just leave. Excuse yourself for one reason or another. Bring a great book, your laptop, or a giant book of crossword puzzles and immerse yourself in something else for a few moments until you are cool enough to rejoin the group.

Lastly, have a talk with your husband before the holiday, as a preventative measure. You have got to stop your complaining to him because it’s not getting you anywhere and it’s not healthy for your relationship. Tell him you love his family, but the offensive language from his dad is becoming less tolerable for you at this point. Let him know that you have in mind a couple of coping strategies, but that in the coming months, following the holidays, you feel that you either need to limit your contact with his dad, or you’ve got speak up for yourself… and then the two of you need to form plan together.

Perhaps, following the New Year, you can both sit his father down and explain that you love him, but that he needs to be more mindful that he is offending you. The aim is not to “catch him in the act” and then have a big explosion, but to talk to him in a neutral moment, and to express your feelings sincerely. If you feel you can’t talk to him, I’m always a big fan of letters (not emails, letters) because it gives the person time to absorb what they are being told.

One thing you said was that your father-in-law thinks this is all in jest, or is intentionally trying to get a rise out of people… if I were giving him the benefit of the doubt, I would say that he might be shocked to learn how offensive his behavior has been over the years. Also, keep in mind that as we age, we are constantly redefining our boundaries, and so where you might have been able to put up and shut up before, you just can’t now, and that’s perfectly acceptable. You have to be able to articulate this clearly and without a big hoopla so that your stance can be respected and meaningful to those around you, especially to your father-in-law.

* Billie Criswell is a columnist and blogger from the “Delaware Seashore.” She loves zumba, bloody marys, and cooking. You can follow her shenanigans at Bossyitalianwife.com.

111 comments… add one
  • Budj

    Budj November 8, 2011, 9:31 am

    LW,

    You have a “socially inept father-in-law” in the sense that he prefers to socialize and show his affection to people by ribbing them a little too close to home (kind of like a school child). He doesn’t sound like a horrible person – just crass which results in occasional rudeness and constant offensiveness if you are of the type to be offended easily….I think you just need to realize you don’t socialize on the same level. You don’t need to join his preferred socialization style and at this point in his life I doubt he is going to change and meet your expectations.

    One thing I would ask is…as he drinks do the comments get worse? That would be a potentially fixable issue. I would assume that when alcohol is involved his filter / cap isn’t there and that may be something the family can talk to him about if you bring that up to your husband.

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    • Budj

      Budj November 8, 2011, 9:42 am

      Also – the picture for this article is making me lol at work.

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        Addie Pray November 8, 2011, 10:25 am

        I love, love, love me some All in the Family!

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      LW November 8, 2011, 1:02 pm

      They do get worse when he drinks, but it only takes two beers to loosen whatever filter or cap he might have, so I don’t know how productive it would be to mention the correlation. And he’s pretty bad even when he’s NOT drinking. If anything, alcohol just makes him louder.

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  • FireStar

    FireStar November 8, 2011, 9:42 am

    If you FIL’s sole purpose is to get a reaction then I’ve got to think that this situation was what a dead-pan face was designed for. While you are a guest in his house then you shouldn’t be gearing up to tell your FIL off over the turkey.
    Out at restaurants or at your home you can say “that’s inappropriate” and leave it there. You don’t need to launch into a tirade against him to express your displeasure.

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      mf November 8, 2011, 10:19 am

      Great point. The FIL sounds like he likes to get people riled up. Sometimes simply changing the subject may be enough to get the point across that you don’t want to hear his inappropriate remarks.

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      bethany November 8, 2011, 10:39 am

      Totally agree- There’s nothing that shuts people down faster than the blank look that says “I didn’t think that was funny”.

      The best resonse is no response.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom November 8, 2011, 10:53 am

      When he is rude in a restaurant you could go to the table being insulted and apologize loudly enough that you FIL hears and catches on that his behavior is embarrassing and inappropriate.

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      LW November 8, 2011, 1:03 pm

      I’ll have to practice – I’m really bad at keeping a straight face, especially when everyone else is laughing.

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        utopiaballroom November 8, 2011, 2:38 pm

        I was going to suggest too that nothing shuts sexist/heterosexist/racist jokes and/or comments down like an inquisitive tone. Innocently asking to explain the joke seems to work pretty well.

        FIL: Tells racist joke
        You: Wait…I’m not sure I get it.
        FIL: You see, it’s funny because black people steal…
        You: Really? All black people steal?
        FIL: *Looks like the jackass he is*

        (Fun fact: I googled “racist jokes” because I couldn’t think of any…I was…not impressed…with what I found…)

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  • avatar

    silver_dragon_girl November 8, 2011, 9:44 am

    Good advice, and I agree. I also agree with Budj up there- this isn’t likely to change, no matter what you do or don’t do. My family is a lot like this one in that we tease each other a lot (minus the overt bigotry, thank god), and I know how hard it can be to break that pattern. So I would do what BossyItalianWife up there suggests- talk to your husband beforehand and go to family gatherings with an escape strategy in mind.

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  • avatar

    PFG-SCR November 8, 2011, 9:56 am

    “I hope it goes without saying there is the obvious solution of just not going.”

    I don’t agree with this – this is going to put her husband in the middle of having to decide between his wife and his family, and I’m not sure that this issue is one that warrants that. Sure, her father-in-law sounds like a jerk at times, but I’m not convinced that he’s doing it with a malicious intent.

    That’s not to say that I think the LW is off-base in feeling like it’s inappropriate, but I’m thinking that she’s more offended than is warranted. When we get annoyed with someone (as she clearly is), we tend to make every small infraction seem much more significant than it really should be.

    Regardless, we are constantly faced with people that say/do things that we don’t like, and we just need to learn to navigate through or around them. For someone like him who seems to think he’s funny by teasing like that, it’s often best to ignore it. However, if he says something that you cannot ignore, make it clear that it’s not funny – give him an unapproving, perplexed look and say something that shows how displeased you are with the comment, but don’t do it in a confrontational way.

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      Ktfran November 8, 2011, 11:22 am

      Your last paragraph hits the mark IMO.

      One thing I’ve learned in the last couple of years is that you can’t control other people’s actions, only how you react to them. I’m a very sensitive person and the rudeness or thoughtlessness of others constantly bothered me. Now, I recognize what’s going on, realize there isn’t much I can do and consciously choose not to let things bother me. I’m much happier and less stressed. This was worked with friends, family and strangers. Also, it helps shutting things out you’re annoyed with.

      Try these strategies at Thanksgiving. Choose not to listen to or ignore your FIL. He’s not going to change, but you can change how you react.

      Also, I agree with others that the best response is a pointed stare and no response.

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        Valerie November 8, 2011, 11:28 am

        “Choose not to listen to or ignore your FIL. He’s not going to change, but you can change how you react.”

        YES. THIS X1000!

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      splash November 8, 2011, 11:25 am

      Who is to say what is unwarranted? If the LW is offended, she is offended and should have the opportunity to not put herself in that situation. The husband should be supporting his wife – not choosing sides – but supporting his wife in working to resolve a situation she finds unpleasant. If the husband chooses not to support a resolution to the problem, then he is choosing the status quo – which to me IS choosing to side with his father’s behavior instead of his wife’s feelings. Based on that, the LW should be able to make her decision about attending since the husband made his decision about not helping.

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        PFG-SCR November 8, 2011, 11:45 am

        I don’t think what she’s shared – which I assume is the worst of his behavior – is so offensive to a “reasonable person” that she should potentially damage her husband’s relationship with his family. By “reasonable person”, I’m using the term as an objective perspective, not as an insult to her in any way.

        Yes, she might be more offended than a “reasonable person”, but just because she feels that way doesn’t mean she has carte blanche to take any action she so chooses. Life isn’t always just about us as individuals, and so we don’t automatically get to just decide what we want to do without considering the impact on others.

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        splash November 8, 2011, 11:55 am

        I don’t know, I’m pretty hard to offend but you would be perfectly happy sitting through a dinner in a public restaurant while someone constantly makes comments about lesbians or the size of someone’s breasts all night long? The LW isn’t complaining that “ooooh, he is teasing me!” These are bigoted comments and if someone is offended by them, I think they have every right to be.

        If it’s okay to make sexist comments, then would it also be okay if the FIL spent the entire time snickering about two fellow diners who might happen to be black?

        As for how the hubby and his relationship with his FIL, I think I think I missed that part of the letter. The husband has not approached his FIL at all – even though he knows (over and over) that his wife is unhappy with the situation. So, the LW can’t express her feelings to the person who should be supporting her and helping her with difficult situations?

        What I am saying is that the LW certainly DOES have the right to make decisions based on her feelings. By confiding in her husband, she has more than given him the opportunity to help her with the situation. By him not choosing to, I think she is free and clear to make her own decisions. Let’s take your last sentence: “Life isn’t always just about us as individuals, and so we don’t automatically get to just decide what we want to do without considering the impact on others.” By your own reasoning in this sentence, life also is not just about the husband, so he also does not just get to decide what he wants to do without considering the impact on others – and yet he has. He has actively decided not to support his wife and come up with a solution to the problem.

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        PFG-SCR November 8, 2011, 12:32 pm

        “I don’t know, I’m pretty hard to offend but you would be perfectly happy sitting through a dinner in a public restaurant while someone constantly makes comments about lesbians or the size of someone’s breasts all night long?”

        I agree that it would be annoying if that happened – either she exaggerated by saying “constantly”, or the entire family is just as crass as her FIL. Not only did she not say the latter, but she didn’t even say if others in the family really take issue with her FIL – she claims that her husband doesn’t like him, but given how often they see his parents, and the fact that her husband doesn’t want her to keep complaining about this, I’m questioning if that’s accurate.

        Honestly, her comment that she doesn’t know if she can be around him “without blowing up in feminist rage” stuck out at me. All of her examples have to do with his comments toward women – does her FIL never tease any guys? She doesn’t say he’s sexist, so I’m assuming he is a “equal opportunity teaser”. But, she makes it about her feminist position by adding that comment…it just feels very Jessica Wakeman-ish to me, and that was punctuated with her using the term “slut-shames”.

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        splash November 8, 2011, 12:50 pm

        I’m not sure why you’re trying to figure out alternate scenarios and changing what the letter writer wrote…in every letter we could give advice based on if the LW is exaggerating, but there wouldn’t be much of a point in that.

        If the LW relayed those scenarios, then I am inclined to make my opinions based on what she actually communicated. Many many commenters on here have said that the LWmust just ignore the FIL and realize that his behavior is not going to change and just deal with it. Not sure why it would be farfetched to believe that the family might choose to do the same thing and thus think the LW must be exaggerating…

        If his comments are sexist then “feminist rage” is a fairly appropriate term, IMO. Based on these scenarios relayed by the LW, he isn’t “teasing.” How do you tease someone who is not at your table and you do not even know (the “lesbians”)? Maybe he really just IS sexist – and thus no, would not be “teasing” males. Otherwise, it would be appropriate for the LW to comment about the FIL making constant penis jokes.

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        6napkinburger November 8, 2011, 12:55 pm

        Let me tell you, constant penis jokes is NOT better or less offensive than boob “jokes.” It made me SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO uncomfortable when my ex’s family would make them. Like, turn my stomach uncomfortable. I know that wasn’t your point. Just saying. Awful, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad. Maybe it was also that his dad looked like a pig, so it was this morbidly obese piggy man calling his son’s penis small. So freaking uncomfortable, I can’t even explain.

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        splash November 8, 2011, 1:01 pm

        LMAO, I just read your comment =P I completely agree it wouldn’t be any better! This discussion of FIL’s discussing boobs and penises reminds me of the Dear Prudence letter from yesterday about a wife catching her FIL sniffing her panties in the laundry basket.

        (TMI? oops!)

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        LW November 8, 2011, 1:22 pm

        Haha! Jessica Wakeman-ish. Love it.

        He does target women much more than men. He’ll proposition his wife in front of the family. He goes after my sister-in-law when he thinks she’s being too controlling or “bitchy.” As to the slut-shaming of the female cousin, what I meant was, he often implies that she is promiscuous simply because she’s gorgeous and single, when there’s really no evidence of that. He barely knows her as a person and only sees her at family events so I really don’t know what else he could be drawing his conclusions from.

        Maybe that’s an incorrect usage of the term “slut-shaming” – it’s a recent addition to my vocab.

        He’ll take any opportunity to make fun of women or men he suspects to be gay. Not in a hateful “damn those gays and their gayness” kind of way, but in a “Heheheh, look, gay people!!” way. He’s one of those who doesn’t really care one way or the other about gay people as long as his sons aren’t gay. But he seems to treat them like some sort of novelty or zoo attraction.

        It just makes me want to scream “HOW IS THEIR SEX LIFE ANY OF YOUR BUSINESS??!”

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      • avatar

        LW November 8, 2011, 1:09 pm

        The stuff in the letter is just his typical behavior whenever the family gets together. I don’t want to reveal too much about a private matter, but let’s just say, things get much uglier when he goes off his meds.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom November 8, 2011, 1:39 pm

        It does sound really awful but I don’t know of any way to change his behavior. I guess it depends on whether most of the family finds the things he says funny or if they feel the way you do. If they feel the way you do and quit laughing at the things he says he might slowly quit because he probably does it as much for the postive feedback as for any other reason. If they all think it’s funny or ok then you’re stuck in this for the long term. If his wife and sons would ignore his remarks and change the subject or continue the conversation as if he didn’t exist you could probably change his behavior.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom November 8, 2011, 1:32 pm

        And by not going he would also miss seeing the rest of his family so it would hurt him and the rest of his family and still not change the behavior of his father. The LW knew her husband had an obnoxious father when she married him and it’s something neither she nor her husband can do much about. They can visit his family less often but holidays are about family and should he have to avoid his entire family for years.

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        splash November 8, 2011, 1:39 pm

        By getting married he did decide to begin his own family. And no one suggested that the husband not go.

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    • avatar

      Lorenzo Poe November 10, 2011, 11:28 pm

      Both my father and FIL are like this. Guess it comes from a certain age growing up in the south. I just put up with it to ease my marriage. But once we were expecting it got better. I told my father lose the off color comments or never see your grandchild. My wife’s mouth popped open when I did. Then I told her “you get to tell your father”. Worked for the next 10 years. May need a tune up now though we don’t see them as much.

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  • mandalee

    mandalee November 8, 2011, 10:05 am

    Okay, take out “father-in-law” and replace that with “the majority of my husband’s family minus a few people* and I feel your pain LW.

    I’ve had in-law relatives tell me that “I need to find God” in my wedding card or “risk a very unhappy ending to my life. I am very spiritual but not Catholic, which in their minds, means woefully “lost”. I have gotten called out publicly for supporting gay marriage, having gay friends, and not hating various ethnic and social groups….on Facebook, where all my gay friends/ethnic friends have to witness this.

    My best advice to you is what I try to follow. You are never going to change the habits of your father-in-law, and you’re probably never going to see eye to eye on most topics, or come to appreciate his off-color comments. But, for the sake of your husband, you need to at the never least tolerate his presence.

    If you must stand up for yourself at times when you’re truly offended, do so calmly and matter of fact, and refuse to engage in further discussions to keep the peace and don’t let it get to an elevated level. Also focus on the redeeming qualities that he may have, there has to be at least one! (hopefully) Maybe he’s really into a sports team you like, or you both like to cook, or a book or a news outlet- anything.

    Also, as much as he’s your father-in-law, you can still distance yourself slightly. Maybe take some time for yourself when focused to spend times with the family for long periods of time (holidays). A walk outside, scrolling through Dear Wendy in a quiet bedroom, whatever you need.

    Best of luck LW!

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      AKchic November 8, 2011, 12:31 pm

      *hug* I get some of that too. Especially since I’m pagan and raising my kids the same, and most of my family is Catholic or Baptist. Even the coke addict is welcomed into the fold and catered to before me because he goes to church with them. I’m the total black sheep of the family. My grandpa was the only one who didn’t put up with the overt religious BS and as patriarch, he made sure that my kids and I were welcome to every family get together and informed of everything. When he died, we were cut out of everything (my grandma even changed the will to cut us out until I start taking my kids to church and “save” them, apparently there’s no hope for me).

      I let my freak flag fly proudly.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom November 8, 2011, 1:40 pm

        Too bad grandma doesn’t care to practice Christian love.

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    Elle November 8, 2011, 10:10 am

    “Hank’s behavior has only gotten worse in the past couple years.” – the timing raises a couple of questions for me. Is it because you are part of the family now, and Hank lets it all loose, because that’s how family is treated? Or maybe he has some undiagnosed neurological issue slowly creeping into his brain?

    Have you talked to the MIL at all? How does she feel? Though I assume that by now, she’s no longer paying attention to what Hank says. You should talk to your MIL, see if Hank’s behavior worsened for her as well (people who are homophobic are also more likely to be misogynistic as well). You’re lucky you only see him once a month, she has to live with him every day.

    And a more general comment about attitude. If you’re freaking out NOW about something that MIGHT happen a month from now, guess what? It will happen! It will also be made worse by your expectation and nervous anticipation waiting for the other shoe to drop. Think about Thanksgiving, about how you will like your holidays to be. Expect your Thanksgiving to be a pleasant experience, and if your FIL throws a comment here and there, ignore it/him by using one of the strategies Billie suggested – she gave great advice!

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    • avatar

      Phalluster November 9, 2011, 2:32 pm

      What an incredible response; I have never seen such a thing. You have a remarkable amount of baggage to unpack.

      You honestly believe these “racist”, “homophobic” comments might be the product of some neurological disease? How many House M.D. episodes have you overdosed on? Here’s a better answer: the father-in-law feels alienated by an increasingly fractured, diverse, and unpredictable society. As he sees norms collapse around him every day (gay marriage, transgender public funding, affirmative action for underachieving minorities, metrosexual male fashion, socially acceptable hypersexuality, etc.), he retreats to the comforts of the family that he built for himself. You would redefine his patriarchal legacy (a wife who is a woman and a son who is not gay!) even before you inherit it. Leave the man alone you aspirant social engineer.

      Your assumptions of the mother-in-law are even more hilarious! She has tuned her husband out, or secretly lives in misery?? HAHAHA. Maybe she dotes on his every word! Maybe she believes in his backwards misogynistic view that women should be seen and not heard! Maybe she is still wildly in love and lust with a man who speaks his mind rather than kowtowing to a grandstanding in-law. Wouldn’t that just blow your mind?

      What is more likely, honestly? That this woman’s in-laws are happily married after all these years, or that the husband has an impinging mental illness and his wife is recluse in shame? By assuming the latter, you tell us all much about your own mental harangues. Don’t feel bad; it was the funniest thing I’ve read all afternoon!

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  • avatar

    mf November 8, 2011, 10:13 am

    Good advice. One more thing: if you’re staying with his family over night, get a hotel room. That way you have the option of limiting contact with your FIL if he gets to be too much to handle.

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      bethany November 8, 2011, 10:43 am

      The hotel is key to dealing with parents/in laws- You’re an adult now, you need your own space and time away from the rest of the family.

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      Addie Pray November 8, 2011, 8:16 pm

      Getting a hotel would NEVER go over well in my family. Everyone would feel personally rejected. We like to pile up on top of each other and be in everyone’s space, every minute of the holidays. Privacy, whaaaa?? It’s lovely.

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        Adaas November 8, 2011, 11:56 pm

        Then again, it’s YOUR family so of course you feel more comfortable. I don’t mind that with my family, but my in-laws? Not so much.

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        Adaas November 8, 2011, 11:58 pm

        And that was meant in jest, just to clarify 😀

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  • avatar

    Fabelle November 8, 2011, 10:35 am

    His comments are definitely inappropriate, but he sounds harmless overall– if you’re taking his every out-there remark & weighing it against your feminist idealogies, then of course you’re going to be offended. My advice is to look at him as a whole person, instead of adding up everything he says into a giant hate pile? It sounds kind of abstract, but just try to see him as your FIL instead of “everything that’s wrong with the world”. You don’t have to count it against him that he’s representative of a population that’s less aware of the deeper implications behind a joking comment about a woman’s too-sexy outfit, or whatever. He’s just an older guy who enjoys teasing & crossing the bounds of political correctness.

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      splash November 8, 2011, 11:14 am

      Just because he is the FIL and related through MARRIAGE does not excuse behavior that is socially unacceptable – regardless of how the FIL thinks of it. If something is commonly unacceptable – like repeatedly commenting on the size of someone’s breasts to anyone who will listen – then it should be addressed. If the FIL said something racial would the response be the same? “Oh, it’s okay, he’s your FIL, so it’s totally okay and harmless. Keep the peace with your hubby by not expecting him to support you – his wife – at all!” Somehow I don’t think so.

      After hearing repeated comments by the LW of how she is getting fed up and offended at the actions and comments made by the father of her husband, I would certainly expect the husband to do something productive to ease that bridge rather than getting upset at his wife. His wife who is on the receiving end and is not the one performing the offending behavior, might I add.

      The LW is not asking how to separate the husband from his family, but as his wife, I think she more than deserves his support rather than his ire at her being offended and upset.

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        Fabelle November 8, 2011, 12:25 pm

        I would agree with you, except the comments are offensive on a general level & not directed at her– there’s nothing for the husband to even mediate. In this case, I think she just needs to acquire a different perspective on it. The FIL seems to know that his comments are socially unacceptable, which is why he (as far as we know) only voices them in the company of the family. She’s already making her disapproval known by retorting occassionally, so I would say she should just stick with that & try not to let it blow out of proportion.

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        splash November 8, 2011, 12:52 pm

        Why isn’t there something for the husband to mediate? Wife is offended and father is causing the wife to be offended. Sounds like cause and effect that he could certainly do something about.

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    Valerie November 8, 2011, 11:04 am

    “Hank loves being inappropriate and making intentionally over-the-top bigoted comments just for the reaction.” THIS describes MY father to a T. I’d like to offer some insights as someone who grew up with a father like this:

    1) LW, you need to stop complaining about your FIL to your husband, like yesterday. All that your complaining is accomplishing is damaging your relationship with your husband and causing a rift, because I can guarantee that your husband is taking your complaining very, very personally. Why? Because, likely in his mind (at least, this is how it feels in my mind) saying “your dad is an asshole” = “I hate going to your house” = “I HATE YOUR WHOLE FAMILY.” And that’s really, really unfair to your husband. If you need to bitch to someone about your crazyface FIL, FINE! Call up your mom or vent to your BFF, stop complaining to your husband.

    2) I think you need to put yourself in your husband’s shoes for a minute. Do you have any idea what it would have been like growing up with a father like that? I can tell you, it was HORRIBLE sometimes. It was horrible going places with him and having to be tense all the time because we never knew when he was going to say something inappropriate. It was horrible having friends over. It was horrible bringing dates over. Fortunately I married a guy who deals with crazy people all the time, and he just takes it in stride, and he loves my family and even my crazy dad. He doesn’t judge and I love that about him, and I love knowing that, no matter what Dad says, my husband won’t care. Despite my crazyface dad, I still LOVE going home and seeing my family. I can’t imagine what it would it would be like knowing that my husband hated my dad, that would just bring back memories of how horrible it used to be.

    3) I think you need to change your frame of reference and look at the good qualities your FIL has. One thing my husband always says about my dad is that, “despite all the crazy things he says, you can tell he really loves his family.” or “your dad is always so generous, you know he would do anything for his kids.” or “your dad has always treated me like family from day one.” Yes my dad can be an insane asshole sometimes, but these things are also true.

    4) Unfortunately, I think that when you’re spending time with your FIL and your husband’s family, it’s a “fake it till you make it” situation. When your FIL is being inappropriate, it’s really your husband’s family’s job to call him out on it, not yours. You could talk with your husband about this, but if your husband (or even your MIL who has been stuck with this asshole for years) isn’t willing to say anything or hasn’t after all these years, I highly doubt they’re going to start now. If you still can’t stand the remarks your FIL makes, I love the suggestion of stepping away if things get too crazy.

    5) This might be where your husband’s family differs from my family, but we DO tell my dad when he’s being inappropriate and that we don’t like his comments. You know what this changes about my dad’s behavior? Not a damn thing. Not a thing at all. I think it’s important to keep in mind that even if your husband’s family doesn’t call out your FIL, it doesn’t mean they agree with him or they approve of what he has to say. It just means that they’ve learned to ignore him and his ridiculous banter after all these years.

    Anyway, sorry for the novel. Best of luck at Thanksgiving, LW!

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      splash November 8, 2011, 11:18 am

      Why does the LW need to stop complaining to her husband to keep the peace? Why is it HER responsibility to keep the peace? I think that the husband could certainly be more supportive of his wife’s feelings, and he should be proactive about helping her. After all, how is he actively working on keeping the peace with his wife?

      I don’t think she should have to basically suck it up and deal with it like you seem to be suggesting. I think I would personally have one last talk with my husband of how I think his family is great but I could not support the comments made by his father…and until the behavior is toned down or until the husband is willing to HELP with the situation, I would not be putting myself into a situation I would find to be stressful, unpleasant and offensive.

      If the LW just keeps on keepin’ on, what incentive is there for the husband to do anything to make the situation any better?

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        Valerie November 8, 2011, 12:00 pm

        I would TOTALLY agree with you 100% if the FIL’s comments were aimed directly at the LW, but from the letter, it doesn’t seem that they are. In this situation, where the FIL’s comments are just offensive in general, it seems that the LW has a few choices on how to act:

        1) She could keep complaining and refuse to see her husband’s dad. I really don’t think putting her husband in a “it’s me or your dad” situation is going to end well for the LW, because in reality “it’s me or your dad” = “it’s me or your whole family.” (Based on my OWN current personal family situation), if I married someone who gave ME that ultimatum, I would choose my family. Sorry, but it’s true. “You don’t want to come to Thanksgiving? Fine, see you later!” When the LW married her husband, she married his family too for better or for worse. Also, it doesn’t sound like her complaining is being constructive. I think the LW needs to come up with some constructive strategies. (See #3).

        2) I’m suggesting that she should “keep on keepin’ on” because NO MATTER what anyone says or does, the FIL’s behavior isn’t going to change. It just isn’t. I think that the LW needs to change how she reacts to the FIL’s behavior, because nothing is going to change, even if her husband (or the LW) says anything.

        3) I will say that if it would make the LW feel better about the situation, I don’t think it would bad to express to her husband that he needs to start calling out his dad. The LW needs to understand though that even if her husband calls out his dad, the behavior isn’t going to change. This is why, right now, there ISN’T an incentive for her husband to make the situation any better, because the situation ISN’T going to get better. OR, the LW could ask her husband to step out of the room with her when the FIL gets going on an offensive rant. She could say, “next time your dad gets going, I’m going to step out of the room, I’d appreciate if you’d follow me.” This also won’t change the FILs behavior, but it could help the LW cope with him. If the husband isn’t willing to do this for his wife, then I agree that they have bigger problems to deal with.

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        splash November 8, 2011, 12:10 pm

        I agree that she shouldn’t make the husband choose…and it doesn’t sound like she intends to do that. I just want more involvement from the husband because in this situation his very inaction means he really HAS chosen his family over his wife. I guess it just riles me that it seems like the husband is getting a pass on being complicit in the situation. In my view a husband and wife should be a supportive team. Not necessarily agree on everything, but be supportive if the spouse has an issue that they could use help on.

        I like your last comment. It really is the husband’s place to bridge the gap between his wife and his family. I think that the family actually wouldn’t pay much attention if the wife were to leave the room by herself, but it might make the FIL pause if he realizes that he is jeopardizing his quality time with his son when he offends his son’s wife. Maybe you’re right that the husband is getting annoyed because he really can’t figure out how to help the situation…and the LW providing specific suggestions may give him a start.

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        M November 8, 2011, 12:43 pm

        “When the LW married her husband, she married his family too for better or for worse.”

        I couldn’t disagree with this more. I am in the process of getting married and have been taking a number of workshops, doing some reading with my fiance, etc. and everything points to the fact that when you get married you start your OWN FAMILY. You don’t marry into a family, you marry a person and create a new version of your own family that’s different and unique from either one that either of you came from. There is a book entitled the 7 principles of a successful marriage *which I am a huge fan of) that goes into some detail on this front – but to sum up – when you get married your primary role becomes that of spouse, and potentially/eventually parent, and your role as child becomes secondary.

        “if I married someone who gave ME that ultimatum, I would choose my family. Sorry, but it’s true.”

        Also, it’s one thing for family to be important, even vital to your home life, but to make them more important that the person you’ve chosen to marry gives me great pause. I wouldn’t ever marry someone that was so willing to chuck my feelings for their family – because I feel that it isn’t a true marriage when you haven’t committed yourself to your spouse and your new family 100%. Just seems like it perpetuates a lot of problems… problems that could be solved by choosing your wife/husband over your mommy/daddy/siblings.

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        Valerie November 8, 2011, 2:09 pm

        I should clarify what I meant by this: “When the LW married her husband, she married his family too for better or for worse.”

        I totally agree with you that when you get married, your primary goal is to start your own new family. Just as an example, I just got married too, and turns out, my husband is going to have to work on Thanksgiving. So instead of going home to see my family, I’m staying home, cooking Thanksgiving myself (eek, first time!) and as soon as my husband gets home from work, he and I are going to have our own little Thanksgiving celebration together, because he is my new family now, and he is absolutely my primary importance.

        What I was TRYING to say is that the LW’s husband’s family will ALWAYS be a part of him and that, like or not, she’s going to have to see his family and spend time with them, even the family members who she doesn’t like, because to refuse to spend time with her husband’s family would be incredibly unfair to her husband.

        To clarify this as well: “if I married someone who gave ME that ultimatum, I would choose my family. Sorry, but it’s true.”

        I was saying that to point out that I personally DIDN’T marry someone who would put me in that position. Both my husband and I come from extremely close families, and each others families are very important to each of us, and that I couldn’t imagine being put in such a position. That’s all I was trying to say 🙂

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      6napkinburger November 8, 2011, 12:21 pm

      This is a very interesting perspective. My ex’s parents (aka entire family, but especially his father and mother, who were no longer married) were like this and he always took everything I said very personally, and it made him very sad. One night, he kinda lost it and got angry (in a justifiable, not a scary abusive, way) and said, “what do you want me to do about it? It’s my FAMILY! I can either accept it about them or hate them. What am I supposed to do, hate my family?”

      That was eye opening for me, in that, I kinda did hate his family, but what was he supposed to do about it. As you point out, you can’t change them. Some people, you can let them know that they offend you all you want, you can leave the room everytime they say something inapporopriate, but it will never make them change their behavior; it just means you leave the room a lot and you miss out on time with the rest of your family, and you are constantly angry, not them. But some things are changeable, if you can get your partner to refuse to engage with some things. My BF and his brothers would make penis jokes, all the time. I freaking hated it. Penises (or vaginas) should not be mentioned outside of a relevant context (medical, gender studies, etc) conversation. Especially not to joke about punching each other, or how small each other’s were. It was the crassest thing ever. And I told my BF how uncomfortable it made me, and so he wouldn’t play anymore; he just told his brother/dad to knock it off when they started. Which made it better, if not gone.

      Splash, that’s why Valerie suggests not constantly unloading/complaining to him, because there is not much he can do about it with the dad. You say that otherwise, he has no incentive to help the situation. But other than developing signals with his wife about how to shift the convo, or how to unawkwardly excuse herself when it gets bad, there may very well be NOTHING he can do to “help the situation” being that the dad will do what the dad will do.

      I don’t agree that she should never be able to mention it, or that she should have to always suffer in silence, but if every time she leaves them, she rips into them to her husbankd partner (like I used to), it will devastate him that being with the family he loves causes so much pain in his partner, which is not her goal. We partially broke up over his family, in that I can’t imagine spending a life around these people and he wanted a partner who could love his family. But that’s not an option for this couple, so they need to find a balance between her partially sucking it up and he helping to mitigate as best as he can.

      [Though I will say, I fully expected him to have a conversation with his mother about their lack of boundaries if we were to stay together and to make her adhere to the boundaries that we established, even though he would argue that she just wouldn’t. But I believe that is slightly different as it had to do with the dynamic between us and her, rather than her dynamic with the rest of the world generally. I felt I could only insist she change how she related to me/us.]

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        splash November 8, 2011, 12:56 pm

        Hm, I see your point but I disagree that there is nothing the husband can do. In your experience, you conveyed your discomfort and your ex DID come up with something: “And I told my BF how uncomfortable it made me, and so he wouldn’t play anymore; he just told his brother/dad to knock it off when they started. Which made it better, if not gone.”

        That is what I am looking for in this situation. If your ex showed your discomfort support and tried to help (even it ultimately was not successful), he tried. This is completely missing in this scenario. I don’t see why the husband in this situation should not be expected to try and ease his own wife’s discomfort like your ex did.

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        6napkinburger November 8, 2011, 1:12 pm

        I see. And I totally agree that he should. But I think an easy reaction (the one paragraph “dear prudence” solution) to this is: “the husband should tell the father not to do it anymore and then avoid the father unless he stops.” The father stopping is unrealistic and avoiding him if he doesn’t will probably be very damaging to the son and create a wife v. dad showdown.

        I think we are in agreement that the LW should:

        1. Calmly discuss with her husband that his father does things that bother her, and she knows he isn’t going to change. But, as his wife, she needs to know that he understands that she is uncomfortable and is willing to do what he can to make her more comfortable, without alienating his family. Therefore, LW and husband need to work on coping mechanisms to create a situation that LW will feel comfortable in, making her able to enjoy seeing his family. These include, but are not limited to: (a) husband changing the topic if the dad goes off in an offensive direction; (b) if the father veers into VERY offensive territory, the son will say something (dad, knock it off, dad, that’s enough, dad, not the right time); (c) the husband understands that the LW will not just smile and nod when she feels she cannot and she is “allowed” (without confusing or surprising the husband) to stare blankly at the father, refusing to acknowledge his “joke”; (d) when LW has had to much and needs a break, she will excuse herself to a secluded area and read/watch hulu/whatever without husband being hurt, and husband has an excuse ready to give the family, etc.

        2. [LW will] Stop going off on angry rants about how horrible his family/father is. If she wants to rant, she should do it to someone else. If there is something specific that can be changed or he said something to/about her outside of the husband’s earshot, she should tell him. But she should not “unload” on her husband anymore.

        3. For the most part, LW will use the strategies set forth in Point 1. to make hanging out with his family palatable and will basically woman up and deal with the rest of it. She doesn’t have to agree with him or love him; she just has to refrain from attacking him. Her knowledge that her husband supports her and disagrees with the way his father talks will go a long way towards making this more bearable.

        In short, husband expresses his support for his wife and together they develop coping strategies, and LW sucks it up otherwise.

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        splash November 8, 2011, 1:26 pm

        Totally fair summary =)

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    Carolynasaurus November 8, 2011, 11:10 am

    I think there are two unaddressed issues that maybe I’m just projecting, but could be bigger issues in the future. 1) Your husband is failing to make you comfortable with his family 2) If your FIL doesn’t change his behavior, how will that affect how often your future babies see him.

    I think Billie’s advice is spot on about creating a strategy with your husband before Thanksgiving, but I doubt you’ll only have to create this strategy once. After Thanksgiving, you’ll probably know what worked and what didn’t and sit down again with him before Christmas. You may have to do this before every holiday for a while, but you need to show your husband that you’re willing to make the effort if he is as well.

    Secondly, if you’re uncomfortable now, you’ll be infinitely more uncomfortable when your future babies are around your FIL. Are you and your husband the only ones in the family who are uncomfortable with his behavior? What about the MIL? Is she still in the picture? Siblings? Once you and your husband are on the same page, try to gauge the temperature of the rest of the family. I have to imagine that if the MIL found out that you and your husband may not be comfortable having your future babies around this type of guy, she may try to help wrangle him in. Or she may completely explode over everything so take that one with a grain of salt.

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      splash November 8, 2011, 11:21 am

      THANK YOU! No one else has mentioned the husband’s lack of support in this situation, which is concerning to me. This is the woman who he has chosen to have his own family with, and he has been unwilling to support her.

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        6napkinburger November 8, 2011, 1:44 pm

        This was a HUGE factor for me. I felt I couldn’t trust my imaginary children with his parents. I couldn’t trust them not to smoke around them, or follow whatever crazy dietary restrictions I felt were appropriate, etc,not to make subtly racist comments or weirdly homophobic remarks, or just be the crassest people I’ve ever met.

        Unrelated rant: In addition to many worse things, the woman would not stop trying to re-decorate my bathroom, despite how often we told her we liked it the way it was. Everytime she would come, she’d bring some horrible, ugly, tacky, thing (that she couldn’t afford) because, despite what we had told her, she thought the bathroom could use it.( And then she’d hit my BF up for money and complain about how broke she was.) I know its a bad example,but I knew the same thing would happen with the kids: we’d say no to something, she’d do it anyway because she thought she knew better and didn’t like the way I was handling it. While grandparents are supposed to spoil children (candy, ice cream for dinner, late bedtimes), I knew if I told my mother that something was not allowed, no really mom, not ever, she would listen. I did not have the same faith (read: any faith) with his. And I knew that with how close he was to them this would be a huge issue, forever.

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    • parton_doll

      parton_doll November 8, 2011, 12:43 pm

      I don’t know if I would say that her husband is being unsupportive. He may just not know what to do. Given her very strong reaction and venting he may not know how to be supportive without being what he may feel is unduly harsh to his family. My husband has felt like this in the past. I had a severe issue with a member of his family and it wasn’t that he wasn’t being supportive, he needed to find a solution that could accommodate BOTH my in-laws and me. This was early on in our marriage where we were honestly still learning how to be married, so to speak. I think they should communicate together, like the advice that was given, and work through some coping strategies for her. And maybe decide on a exit sign. My husband and I did this. When I had enough and really couldn’t take it anymore, I gave the sign and we would make an exit, be it a temporary exit or a “this visit is over exit”. Once you get used to someone else’s parents, it does become easier to deal with personality differences.

      And LW, just please be aware of how you vent to your husband. Remember that regardless of how he says he feels about his father, it is still HIS father and he can say whatever he wants. That doesn’t mean that you can. I am speaking from experience, for whatever it is worth. Look at some of your past venting sessions and imagine that he was saying those things about your parents. If you wouldn’t want him to speak in that manner about your parents, then adjust how you speak to him. I am not saying that you shouldn’t be honest with him in what you feel, just be aware of how you are saying it.

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      LW November 8, 2011, 2:08 pm

      We’re not planning on having kids (although the in-laws don’t know this yet) but you’re right, it does bring up concerns about the future. I’m mostly afraid that as Mark gets older, he’ll become more and more like Hank. He already has a lot of Hank’s personality traits, just not to that extreme. He likes being the center of attention and has a crass sense of humor. But he can and does tone himself down around me – and I guess that’s all I’m expecting out of Hank, too: that I can make it known to him that his comments and behavior make me uncomfortable, and that Hank would choose to tone it down out of respect for me, but it’s just as likely that he would brush me off as being oversensitive and continue on as before. And I guess at that point, the only thing left to do is control my own temper and reaction to him and try to spend as little time around him as possible.

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    Calliopedork November 8, 2011, 11:39 am

    I suggest you completely ignore.him like you would a child. Treat his.rudeness like a tantrum, talk around, tell him he is rude and then stop responding to him. If it really is for attention he will get bored. Ask your husband to help by doing this with you. Also limit your venting for truly offensive behavior.

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      mf November 8, 2011, 12:41 pm

      I love this. If the FIL is acting out for attention, the best way to squash his behavior is to ignore it.

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    Greebo November 8, 2011, 12:12 pm

    This sounds regrettably familiar.

    LW, we teach people how to treat us by what we accept, tolerate, or respond to, but we don’t change who they are. If FIL “jokes” by abusing you or your kids (if you have any), then your husband needs to stand up for you–the family he has chosen. If FIL chooses to be nasty to or about others, diminish your reaction to reduce his persistence. Like this:

    FIL: So-and-so is sure showing off her rack. Too bad she hasn’t caught a husband yet.
    You: *no response*
    FIL: Think she’ll get tired of shoring it up?
    You: [Husband], did we tell the kennel we’ll pick up Fido after 2?
    FIL (getting frustrated): Did you hear me? Do you think so-and-so got a boob job?
    You: Of course I heard you. Please pass the salt.

    Deprive FIL of the reaction he wants and after a while (sadly, it could be a ling while), he’ll look elsewhere for a reaction.

    Just a note: you may despise his views about minorities, gay rights, sexual liberation, but it isn’t your job to educate or inform this man. You cannot change him. If your husband is good at defending you/your family, if he is able and willing to tell his dad that you are off-limits, then he’s probably frustrated that you seem to want him to do something he can’t–namely, make his father be someone else. He’s learned to roll with it or tune it out. So can you.

    For emphasis: this last assumes husband doesn’t just throw you to the sharks and let you sink or swim. If he doesn’t stand up for you, you two have other issues to address.

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    jumper November 8, 2011, 12:32 pm

    First things first, has your FIL ever been seen by a psychiatrist? This guy has a lot of the classic warning signs of bipolar I disorder- inappropriateness, hypersexuality, rudeness or disregard for social norms. A lot of times these traits usually occur during manic episodes, but episodes can be subtle, and often can be brought on by stresses like noisy restaurants or family gatherings. I actually had a bipolar patient in clinic this AM who sounds a lot like your FIL. Does he have periods when he’s down? Does he ever speak really quickly or loudly, dress strangely, move around excessively? Either way, bipolar can manifest a lot of ways, and he should be screened by a psychiatrist. Other possibilities include various early onset dementia, which can manifest w/ inappropriateness long before memory loss appears. If he won’t go, consider going yourselves w/ other concerned family members.

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      LW November 8, 2011, 1:34 pm

      Yep, and he’s on meds. Not sure exactly what for, I haven’t asked (they’re very hush-hush about his behavioral issues), but they do seem to help a lot compared to when he’s off them. But it still doesn’t excuse him being intentionally offensive.

      When he’s “down,” he’s pissy, very easily provoked and short tempered, and we all walk on eggshells until he snaps out of it.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark November 8, 2011, 12:56 pm

    Eh, somebody else pretty much echoed what I said last week about dealing with exes. You can’t control other people — only your responses to them. So do it. Start controlling your reactions. That means tuning out your father in law and ignoring his silly comments. Clearly, he IS loving that he so gets your goat, so stop feeding into it.

    Oh, and do stop whining to your husband about it constantly.

    How much do you wanna bet that there are a lot of things about YOUR own family that annoy the hell out of your husband? That you don’t know know about them is only due to the fact that your husband simply just deals with it. In other words, he acts like a grown up about it. I say this mainly because among all my married friends, one thing is pretty much unanimous and that is that they all seem to find their inlaws very trying…

    Constantly whining about something over and over only makes you seem like a negative person and is exhausting to listen to, so for the sake of your marriage, LW, kindly give it a rest.

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    LW November 8, 2011, 12:58 pm

    I’m going to address several things at once from the comments above (for the sake of clarification, not self-defense – a lot of my original letter got chopped out, and rightly so, because I was rambling).

    Deciding not to go, or staying at a hotel, aren’t at the top of my list of solutions.They’re a very tight-knit family, so for them, exclusion/isolation = rejection (I’ve seen it happen with my brother-in-law and his wife when they tried to duck out of family things). Plus, we want to bring our dog so we don’t have to foist him on my parents or kennel him. They have a dog too, and Hank himself really loves our dog and is looking forward to us bringing him up.

    Hank does have redeeming qualities. He’s a great leader and has had a lot of professional success as a firefighter and now a college professor. Unfortunately, the same traits that make him successful at work make him come off as a bully and a blowhard at home. He has redeeming qualities, just none of them social! A lot of the respect I could afford him on account of his profession has been diluted by the way he treats women, especially my MIL. They’re both on medication, him to control his wild temper and her just to put up with him, which I find really sad, but that’s between the two of them. For as bad as he is now, he’s even worse when he’s off his meds. All that said, telling myself “Yeah, he says extreme things for attention and has not treated his wife or family very well over the years, but he’s a great firefighter…” doesn’t really make it easier to handle him. I suppose the best thing I can say is, at least he respects me enough to not direct any of his comments at me.

    The event I mentioned above with the cousin’s date’s breasts, I did finally snap at him and say “So? I have big breasts too, do you want to see them? Do you want to put your face in them?” That got a hooping howl of laughter and a high-five from my MIL, and Hank did shut up for the rest of the car ride. That’s what I mean about being able to dish it and take it. Ignoring him or saying “you’re being inappropriate” just seems to encourage him to get more extreme with the next comment. He’s actually MORE likely to shut up if I make it funny in some way (even at his expense) than if I were to approach him seriously.

    Hank been this way, in some form or another, for a very long time, so to Mark and his brother and their mom, it’s just par for the course. We all know, myself included, that Hank is not going to change. But as Billie said, I’ve hit my tolerance limit – I’ve bitten my tongue long enough that now it’s just a bleeding wound. That said, I’ll shut my mouth with the complaining as much as I can. I hadn’t given much thought to how it affects my husband. So thanks for that advice.

    I would have loved to apologize to the ladies at the other tables at the restaurants in front of him to make a point, or otherwise said or done something to really drive the point across. I didn’t think of it at the time, I was just embarrassed like hell for being at the same table with him. But even beyond that, I’m afraid that making him aware that I’m offended might backfire into me being labeled the oversensitive one who can’t take a joke – and then that itself would be something to tease me about. (“I was going to hug you hello but you might be offended!”)

    You guys have definitely given me a lot of good language to use when I talk to Mark about sticking up for me in front of Hank, even if the end goal isn’t to get Hank to change. It’s a conversation that we haven’t had yet that obviously needs to happen.

    Thank you all for the reminders to distract myself with other things. I definitely will make a conscious effort to do that whenever my temperature starts rising over him. My baby niece will be there, so I can just fuss all over her, or the dogs, or excuse myself for a nap. And I will wrack my brain for anything I might have in common with him.

    So thanks, Billie, and thanks, DWers, I have a much more positive attitude going into Thanksgiving now. 🙂

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    • bittergaymark

      bittergaymark November 8, 2011, 1:24 pm

      Well, if you can go so crazy and snap like that and it shuts him up but doesn’t offend him in the long run and the family all thinks it hilarious, then I don’t see what the problem is. Hell, I’d treat it all as a hilarious acting exercise. It actually sounds almost fun compared to the passive aggressive bullshit, I’ve hat to put up with at significant other’s family holidays…

      SIDENOTE: Oh, how wonderful. We FINALLY get to see first hand the damage comments here can inflict when they are completely misguided. Yep, I predict that the LW being so happy that she now had “good language” to use when she tries to goad her husband into choosing between her and his father is going to be a real disaster. Mark my words, mark my words. At any rate, I can’t wait for the next update! Yeah, further dragging your husband into this? That’s just going to go oh-so-well…

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        splash November 8, 2011, 1:30 pm

        I am confused as to what is misguided? Offering the husband specific strategies to help her deal with his family is misguided?

        Definitely much much better to suffer and be miserable in silence so hubby is happy, I can see that!

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        splash November 8, 2011, 1:33 pm

        Hit the button too soon…how is supporting his W-I-F-E and her feelings forcing him to choose between ANYTHING? She never asked him to give up his family. She never told him he could not talk to his family again – she asked his help. Which is part of a marriage – supporting your spouse! Perhaps he should have offered his assistance so she didn’t have to “goad” him into supporting the person he stood up and decided to share his life with.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark November 8, 2011, 1:40 pm

        Because there REALLY isn’t anything he can do about it and demanding he stand up for her is only going to create even MORE family tension and drama. You all REALLY think the father is going to magically change overnight? Hah! Hopeless, hopeless dreamers. Trust me, he won’t. What he will do is become angry. Very angry. And now he will be able to actually target the LW as being the one who turned his own son against him. And you know what, it will be true, too.

        That is how this will play out. It will NOT be pretty. And while the LW may feel happy for a while… Do you REALLY think he husband will be so equally thrilled. No. He won’t. Odds are he will eventually come to resent her for it big time.

        NEWSFLASH — with the pathetic mockery that all you heterosexuals have made of marriage lately, far more people break up with their spouses than they do with their parents…

        A wise man once said — You know, you pick your battles. And this one is pretty petty and silly. It’s certainly NOT the mountain I would ever chose to die on.

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        splash November 8, 2011, 1:48 pm

        No one ever said that the husband could definitively change Hank’s behavior. And yes, a lot of people trivialize marriage – but neither of those things makes it okay to be unsupportive of someone you claim to love! Again, the LW should be miserable and suffer in silence so hubby dearest is fat dumb and happy with his daddy? Heaven forbid someone expect support from the person who has chosen to theoretically spend their life with!

        I think a spouse who is unwilling to do anything – zip-zilch-zero – even symbolically – to support their spouse when they easily could IS a battle worth fighting. Because where does it end? If someone cannot even manage to make a tiny effort to support their wife, they also belong in that group trivializing marriage because they are obviously not ready or willing to be creating their own family unit.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark November 8, 2011, 1:54 pm

        Fine. We agree to disagree on this issue. I still say if she thinks she is suffering now, just wait until her husband is seething at her as they spend the holidays alone because she started WWIII over pretty much…nothing.

        And you know what, suffering in silence is something MANY chose to do when it comes to inlaws. When you marry somebody, you marry their families. None of them are ever perfect. And somehow they have all been functioning for years and years. Then you come into the picture and decide it’s time to rock the boat? Whatever. Good luck with that playing well! It’s both silly and petulant to expect them all to change into what YOU want them to be. And from the entire tone of the letter, the LW is going out of her way to be offended.

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        splash November 8, 2011, 2:00 pm

        So if your significant other were to come to you and say, I have a problem and I am at the end of my rope dealing with it, can you help me? You would say “tough shit, we’re going to break up soon anyway so figure it out yourself”? Awesome

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark November 8, 2011, 2:13 pm

        People do so love to put words in my mouth around here.

        Look, to answer your question, It really depends on what the problem is.

        Here, I would probably simply say, “Oh, you find my parents annoying. Great! Here is all the problems I have with yours… What? You didn’t know I felt this way? Well, yeah, I was just dealing with it, but hey, if you can’t deal with my parents… Hooray! I finally have a great excuse for not dealing with yours…”

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        LW November 8, 2011, 2:22 pm

        So it’s either me sitting there every holiday resenting my husband for not standing up for me, or him sitting there every holiday resenting me for asking him to stand up for me. I don’t know why you think situation A is better than situation B. I don’t like EITHER scenario. I’m trying to find a compromise that doesn’t involve resenting each other.

        I’m specifically trying to AVOID WWIII. Note that in my letter, I did not ask for help on how to change my FIL, but how to deal with him. I DO NOT EXPECT HIM TO CHANGE his opinions, thoughts, feelings on women, gays, etc. But his behavior in the presence of family is a choice – one affected by his mental issues and medications, sure, but still a choice.

        My aim, at this point, is to make sure he is actually aware that his comments and behavior make me uncomfortable, and ask him to tone it down when I’m in his company. He can either respect that, or blow me off and continue being a jerk, at which point it’s on me to contain myself and limit our contact with each other (not my husband’s, just mine). It will be easier to get the first reaction if I have other people backing me up.

        No, I don’t expect it to play out picture-perfect, but I am trying to set myself up for success.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark November 8, 2011, 7:03 pm

        Okay, fine. Exactly how is he going to stand up for you? I mean, it would be easier to actually do this if your Father in Law was actually attacking you, but you seem to imply that he isn’t. Instead, you just find everything he says to be offensive. He never seems to really go after you. Yes, you are offended. But what is your husband really supposed to do. His father is a bit of a jerk. It’s who he is. It’s much easier for you to just not take everything personally. So, he doesn’t like lesbians. They probably don’t like him.

        What is your husband supposed to do that he hasn’t already done?

        This is a NO WIN situation that you seem hell bent on only making worse in some whiny, insecure power play of needing your man to stand up for you… Grow a pair and tell him off yourself — especially as there seems to be absolutely ZERO repercussions for doing so. Stop trying to get your husband to fight your own battles. If your such a liberated feminist that start acting like one. Seriously. Be your own knight in shining armor if that’s what you need.

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        PFG-SCR November 8, 2011, 8:11 pm

        It scares me how much I agree with you at times, BGM. I especially like your last paragraph, and I get so tired of how some women use the feminist label only when it works in their favor, yet they expect men to fall into stereotypical gender roles when it suits them.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark November 8, 2011, 8:32 pm

        Don’t be scare, instead, fully embrace the Markside. 😉

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        PFG-SCR November 8, 2011, 9:50 pm

        Since I’m not a gay dude, I’m limited in being able to “fully embrace the Markside”. 😉

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark November 8, 2011, 10:13 pm

        Tragic…

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        Flake November 8, 2011, 1:52 pm

        Just for the record, once married, your spouse becomes your family.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark November 8, 2011, 1:56 pm

        Right… Until the divorce five or so years later where most of the people on here chose to never, ever even so much as speak to their exes again.

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        Flake November 8, 2011, 2:13 pm

        Well, that could be one reason for divorce. If your spouse is never your priority, and can’t count on you for support, then you probably should not be married anyway.

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        Valerie November 8, 2011, 2:22 pm

        I totally agree with you BGM. Especially with this comment, “odds are he will eventually come to resent her for it big time.”

        I worry about resentment too with this couple…

        “far more people break up with their spouses than they do with their parents” Also VERY VERY true.

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      • parton_doll

        parton_doll November 8, 2011, 2:07 pm

        I don’t think Mark is saying that she should suffer in silence (far be it from me to put words in your mouth BGM), but she does have to be careful about how she approaches her husband. His perception may be that she is trying to make him choose between her and and his family. Yes, I agree he should support her, but there is a way that they can go about it so that they can both win a little. And that may mean that he has to set some boundaries that make him uncomfortable and she may have to deal with some interactions that she doesn’t like. But hopefully that will be what their conversation will be about.

        I hope you don’t think that I am trying to be rude, I am just trying to help someone else out based on lessons that I have learned. I used to think that my husband wasn’t supporting me with his family. We almost divorced over that foolishness. All that crap could have been avoided by having the right kind of conversation about how to support each other. She has to be careful not appear that she is making demands or ultimatums … hence the potential for “goading”. And by the same token, I agree that he has to listen and stand up for her and set new boundaries with his family because what they all accept as normal isn’t going to work with her. There is a compromise to be made here and I am sure they can find it if they discuss this reasonably and are ready to make concessions on both sides.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark November 8, 2011, 2:15 pm

        Yes. Exactly. Thank you.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark November 8, 2011, 2:24 pm

        PS — The words in my mouth reference a few posts up is NOT in reference to you either. 😉

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        PFG-SCR November 8, 2011, 1:38 pm

        “The event I mentioned above with the cousin’s date’s breasts, I did finally snap at him and say “So? I have big breasts too, do you want to see them? Do you want to put your face in them?” That got a hooping howl of laughter and a high-five from my MIL, and Hank did shut up for the rest of the car ride.”

        Yeah…that comment and resulting behavior made me go “Huh?”

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        LW November 8, 2011, 1:48 pm

        I guess it just bothers me to snap like that because it doesn’t seem the mature thing to do? (But then again, he’s not being very mature himself.) I also think it encourages him to keep “baiting” me to get another explosion out of me. He laughed when I snapped at him too, I don’t know if he realized the true feelings behind my outburst. He just switched to another topic, I don’t remember now what it was. I guess I’d rather try to foster an environment where I don’t feel I HAVE to snap at him to make him stop.

        And I hope you don’t mean to imply I’m going to go to my husband all “You don’t support me because you don’t stick up for me in front of your father and I expect you to be 100% on my side so you’d better shape up!” What I mean to say by “good language,” is a lot of what splash was saying made me think about my husband’s role in this, and I can ASK him to help bridge the gap by showing some sort of solidarity. Otherwise I’m the only one who’s not “playing along,” and that doesn’t put me in a very strong position to stand up for myself. Splash is right, he has not been incredibly supportive “in the moment” and has expected me to suck it up and deal with it and not bitch about it, so there IS a conversation that needs to happen here. So thank you, Splash, for bringing that issue out of the shadows for me.

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        LW November 8, 2011, 1:52 pm

        I should also add, I was brought up to not be rude and crass with my elders, so outbursts like that are very out-of-character for me and don’t come naturally – not reliably enough that I could just whip out a witty comeback every time I get annoyed with him.

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        PFG-SCR November 8, 2011, 1:56 pm

        It’s not so much that you snapped, but _what_ you said when you snapped…it’s just “odd” given the context of your letter, and it’s not what I would think anyone would say when they’re trying to dissuade that type of behavior in another person.

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        LW November 8, 2011, 2:33 pm

        You know how when someone says something to you and all you can do in the moment is fume, and you don’t come up with the perfect comeback until much later? This was one of the first times I can remember having a comeback at the moment I needed it. I know he would never lay a hand on me (much less a face), I think I was just trying to one-up him on the inappropriateness scale to show him I was sick of hearing about the other woman’s breasts. I had tried changing the subject to how sweet and smart she was, but whenever someone mentioned her, the next thing out of Hank’s mouth was about her boobs, so it was finally like “Yes, Dad, we get it, women have boobs and they’re fun to stare at, can we move on?” (Which is probably what I should have said instead. Anger + impulse do not go together.)

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        PFG-SCR November 8, 2011, 8:04 pm

        You’re missing my point – you’re all offended at comments from your FIL that involve sexualization of women, yet you choose a “comeback” (by your definition) that does that same thing, yet it’s about yourself. But, you didn’t make a point with it…anyway, what you said is not a feminist rant (as you claim), nor is the comment that you think you should have said.

        I’ve read some of your other comments, and it sounds like there’s much more going on than just this.

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        splash November 8, 2011, 1:57 pm

        I will say that after your updates (thanks!) I do agree with BGM in that there isn’t going to be a real fix. I am totally no doctor…but it sounds like he does have some actual personality/behavioral issues and isn’t just acting out for the fun of it. Doesn’t excuse it, but that being said, you could even just ask if your husband would help you to develop those “please rescue me I am getting upset” signals and support you in deploying them as necessary/being a buffer.

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        6napkinburger November 8, 2011, 2:10 pm

        Exactly. We all readily admit that Hank is not going to change. All you can do is change how you deal with Hank. But that doesn’t have to be a battle you face on your own. The whole point is to work with your husband to figure out a way for you not to hate spending time with your inlaws, which makes everyone happy. You knowing that your husband doesn’t agree with his dad and understands why his dad’s behavior bothers you is a HUGE help in dealing with it; because you know you’re not alone.

        And working together to figure out coping mechanisms is all about changing YOUR (yours and your husband’s) behavior, not about changing Hank’s. You can’t change a baby’s nature, but you can distract him when he starts to cry or give him a cookie. You don’t have to get Hank to change himself to make your life easier. (As listed above), you find ways to deal and to remove yourself when you can’t, all with your husband’s support, including distracting him, changing the subject or taking a breather. This way, no one has to pick any sides. And your husband will be much happier to know you genuinely like (aka don’t hate) spending time with his family rather than just suffer through.

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        LW November 8, 2011, 3:50 pm

        I just remembered what he said after I snapped at him (and I did YELL the above, I didn’t deliver it with a straight face).

        Still giggling over my comeback, he turned to my husband and said “Mark, can you control your wife, please?”

        So… there’s that. Oooaarrrggh remembering that made me irritated. Deep breaths…

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      AKchic November 8, 2011, 8:28 pm

      Having read this comment now, I think I see a little more into your FIL. I come from a long line of loud military/truckers/roughnecks, and my 2nd husband’s family is all firefighters.
      As you can imagine, get togethers are loud, crass, etc.

      Your FIL is more used to the “Good ‘Ol Boys” social networking, and depending on his age, probably preferred the time when women “knew their place”. Not because it’s demeaning, but because the most respecful thing a man can do is take care of their woman. That’s a man’s JOB. Financially support the woman, who in turn is the caregiver of the household, husband and co-caregiver of the children. That’s how it was, and then things changed radically in a short amount of time. We’re still trying to deal with the social shifts. He’s not sure how to act, and he prefers things the way they were. He likes the “good ‘ol boy” system because that’s how he grew up and how he made his career.

      He’s also aging. He knows he’s not the young buck anymore and he is doing whatever he can to try to hold on to that youth, however vicariously. That can mean acting like a drunken teen at times.
      He may even be suffering from bipolar disorder (wouldn’t surprise me, the way you described his moods). As a former firefighter, PTSD is not out of the realm of possibility for him either, which exacerbates and is exacerbated by bipolar disorder (I’m a co-occuring disorder diagnosis myself and know this one pretty well). MIL might be suffering from anxiety/depression issues just dealing with HIM.

      Hope others have helped you here. This isn’t a pretty pickle.

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    AKchic November 8, 2011, 12:58 pm

    I can think of a few things in this letter here.

    1) If this has gotten worse in the past few years, has anyone spoken with MIL about it to see if she is concerned? If she is, perhaps speaking with a doctor is in order. Maybe he’s on a new medication that makes him a little less “censored”. Narcotic pain killers do it for me. Alcohol does it for most people. Blood pressure meds can do it for others. Or, neurological issues are creeping up.
    Even undiagnosed adult-onset diabetes issues can be the cause. We thought my grandpa’s mild dementia issues were alzheimer’s creeping up on him, but it turned out that he KNEW he had diabetes and wasn’t treating it because he didn’t want to alarm anyone. He also had throat and lung cancer, heart disease, etc. A heart attack and stroke and 3 months in ICU is what got us all alerted to it. He died 7 months after the heart attack. He didn’t want to waste the money on an old body and was willing to just waste away rather than attempt to prolong the inevitable.

    If there are no medical/neurological reasons – then it is a personality issue. You have to realize that there are generational differences between us and your FIL, and personality differences. You two don’t have to be alike. Meetings of the mind in what you DO have in common is about all you can do.
    I’m ambivalent about letting him know in private about your offense at what he does in public/semi-public family functions. It could be a source of teasing your way, or, it could lead to better relations. I think you need to discuss it with your MIL and husband. Maybe discuss with the other offended female relatives and have a group pow-wow with the FIL.

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    GatorGirl November 8, 2011, 2:55 pm

    I must confess, I didn’t read all of the comments, my brain just isn’t working that well today.

    LW, I completely understand where you are coming from. I have an uncle who has serious substance abuse problems and makes everyone uncomfortable. Since my grandma insists on including him in everything family related and he lives with in walking distance of my parents house, I’m forced to see him on a regular basis. The best/easiest solution I’ve come up with is simply walking away from him. For example, at Christmas dinner if he walks into the kitchen I’ll excuse myself and go visit with someone in the living room. It is incovenient and not going to change him but it’s the path of least resistence.

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    Kate November 8, 2011, 3:04 pm

    Ugh…my dad is just like this guy. It’s completely intolerable, and I’ve decided (after a previous awful encounter between my now ex-boyfriend and my dad which ended with my ex storming out and my dad laughing) to limit the interactions between my family and anyone I date that I want to continue dating.

    It’s really sad, as family is important to me and my mum is excellent, but having to put up with my dad making his “jokes” and constantly denigrating women in front of me, my mum and my boyfriend is just too stressful for me to want to go through it.

    The worst part? Even though I’ve said to him “hey, could you stock being a misogynist in front of my boyfriend, a strange who you barely know?” he still thinks it’s a big joke and is always asking why I don’t bring my boyfriends around more…

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    Addie Pray November 8, 2011, 8:17 pm

    Am I the only one who feels a little let down when Regina Rey doesn’t comment? Sigh.

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    Betty Boop November 8, 2011, 10:27 pm

    First, I’m sorry, you have to suck it up and get through Thanksgiving as gracefully as possible. You’ve made the commitment and any changes you make right now will make your husband even unhappier than you’ll be by going through with it.

    Conversations I would have in this situation to find a workable situation for the future.

    1. Husband dear, I love you and your family and I know it’s driving you nuts hearing me complain about your father. Would it be okay if I only come every other visit or so ? Keep things from building up to the point where I want to explode? How would you feel if I were to talk to your mother and/or father directly about this so you’re not stuck in an untenable position?

    Depending on that conversation I would follow up with:

    2. Mother In Law, any advice for me on how to be more comfortable with Hank? It feels like he’s really sexist, always attacking women, and I’ve become quite uncomfortable. I want to be able to come visit the both of you without worrying that I’m going to say something in the heat of the moment that I’ll regret.

    3. Hank, I love you, you’re family, but it bothers the hell out of me when you demean women all the time, can we find a middle ground on this so I can have fun and enjoy your company without feeling like I’m gonna explode?

    These conversation may not do any good, but you’re far better off trying to deal with the situation than fuming all the time. If it fails completely, you can know you’ve tried, and look to limiting your interactions with his family. Also, no matter what, you’re best bet it to control your reactions to Hank. As many people have mentioned, you cannot control another’s actions, only your own. From your letter and updates, it doesn’t sound like you’ve managed that. Even if Hank takes no reaction and implicit permission, it’s better than knowingly feeding his behavior.

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    Addie Pray November 8, 2011, 11:56 pm

    I’ve read the letter and some of the LW’s additional comments above and all in all this strikes me as more of a “need to vent” situation and less of a “give me advice to change it or get through it” situation. And that’s fine. Sometimes venting beforehand — get it all out, all of it, vent! bitch! — is how you make it through. But I don’t think you can or want to change the situation. You’ve said that not going to the family gatherings is not an option, staying at a hotel is not an option, joking back is not an option (or it’s something you do occasionally but I guess don’t like?), pulling him aside and talking to him seriously is not an option, apologizing to the girls in the restaurant in front of him wasn’t an option – you’ve basically rejected every piece of advice everyone has given to you to make your FIL less of an ass. I’m not blaming you – you’ve had reasonable explanations for each. I’m just saying, it doesn’t really sound like you can or want to change the situation. So just vent, get it out. He is terrible! He sucks! Now what? Maybe realizing that you’re not actually trying to change him or the situation and letting it go will help the situation bother you less. … Or maybe not. I don’t know, I suck at this.

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      HmC November 9, 2011, 12:28 am

      Well I think you have about ten times the insight and one tenth the confidence of all the over confident people in this world that constantly think they know everything!

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        Addie Pray November 9, 2011, 5:58 am

        Alright, it’s morning time and I am more alert and … more confidant. LW should definitely stop kidding herself that this is something she is interested in changing. She just wants to vent and maybe get some sympathy. And hey, that’s ok. The FIL sounds like a little shit. But now just suck it up and get through the holiday already.

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      • KKZ

        KKZ November 19, 2012, 5:46 pm

        Looking back on this after the repost a year later… Addie, you’re pretty much on the dot, I did just want to vent. I was feeling quite alone in this situation at the time and just wanted to get validation that Hank was indeed a jerk and other people outside of this family would find him crass and tasteless too.

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    lynda November 9, 2011, 5:57 am

    My thoughts:

    FIL has serious anger managment issues and he’s on meds because his job may require them…if he behaved inappropriately at work, his job could be compromised…which would make him angry about having to take the meds…which he probably very much needs.

    Something no one has brought up is the effect of toxic anger. It’s not just the un-pc nature of his comments, I’m sure they’re laden with anger and scorn. For some people the effect of the comments is not an intellectual one (although we feel offended for others, some part of us feels violated by the lash of the anger) but a deepseated need to respond. As fear provokes the urge to flee, so someone else’s anger can prompt our own.
    Something else to think about is that the FIL is using his anger to control everyone. The comments keep them uncertain about what he is going to say or do next, makes some feel uncomfortable in social situations, so he feels in charge. His anger trumps their indecision, passivity or unwillingness to respond.

    The husband of a friend suffered from depression and he went through manic states where his hate was palpable. Same thing with my ex (this was back in the early 60s when people weren’t as aware as now). I’d come home from work, open the door–he’d be in another room but I could feel his anger even though he was in another room and I couldn’t even see him.

    I would suggest getting reading material on anger management and see what tools are recommended there. I doubt the MIL will discuss anything. I suspect she’s been a prisoner to his anger for a long, long time and has given up any claim to any sort of power or authority in the marriage.
    Since bipolar depression often runs in families, you might try to find out if he started being the way he is at a certain age or if it’s been lifelong. Since your husband may have been on the receiving end of the FIL’s anger as a child I dont’ know that he feels confident enough to deal with his father’s anger or negativity. I think if you can depersonalize the situation so it’s not the FIL it’s his disease/condition then it is something to be treated (with people not accepting the anger as a valid response or finding more positive ways (as discussed above) of shunting the anger aside.
    I would also make your husband see that the FIL suffers himself because he is limiting himself in his relationships. If you were to ask him about other teachers at the school, peers, etc you might find him as critical (without cause) of them as well.
    Anger is a big stressor and you might want to find out what the effects are—you FIL could be aggravating other health conditions (heart, etc) which I’m sure the son doesn’t want.

    I guess what I’m saying is take the situation out of the FIL’s hands and
    turn it into an impersonal approach ….as if you were studying it. You’re not involved, you’re the impersonal researcher…but you’re fascinated by it.

    I’ve studied astrology for a long time–not so much forecasting but as personality study. I’ve used it (when I’m fairly certain the person isn’t totally opposed to ‘fortune telling’ things) to divert things…asking them their birth sign, when were they born, the focus is still on them, but it’s nothing they can control. I use the wheel as the example…I might say when I was younger I didn’t see why the zodiac had to have a ____sign init, then I understood that all the things ruled by that sign were things I didn’t want to be involved in. In my case it was Capricorn–all the business world things. Then I realized I should really appreciate Capricorns because they could take care of all those things I didn’t want to bother with. A wheel needs all of its spokes or it will break. And that knowing someone’s sign helped me appreciate them more for their positive attributes.

    When I was involved with a lot of people (and a lot of conflicts) in a community nonprofit group I developed the habit of finding some sort of animal/creature to idenitfy the person…
    a secretary who would never provide hard copies of minutes….had a short black bob and large round glasses—I saw her as a spider in a web..didn’t want anyone touching anything that was ‘hers’ (papers, etc)…so it wasn’t ‘what’shername’ but Spider Lady and by making it a second-hand relationship, her complaints, etc., didn’t affect me [which they were supposed to] so things went more smoothly. It’s not meant to belittle the person, just put a mask on them so I’d deal with the mask rather than the person [with personal issues] behind it.

    And one last thing: Remember however offensive he is, he’s really more an object of pity. Would you want to live in a life with that kind of emotional battleground?

    Good luck…

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    Phalluster November 9, 2011, 3:04 pm

    You could solve all these problems yourself by developing a worldview that is racist, bigoted, and misogynistic.

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  • Juliet

    Juliet February 16, 2012, 3:34 pm

    Ahhh the crazy family member who’s always making inappropriate comments; it’s a holiday staple, and just as frustrating as the weight gain and impractical presents! To keep your sanity, try to find the humor in the situation. Isn’t everyones family a little dysfunctional? As long as his mocking doesn’t come in between the relationship you have with your husband or attack you personally, just pour yourself another glass of wine. Engaging him sounds like it makes your husband uncomfortable, and since you only see him on limited occassions it’s better to take the high road.

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  • KKZ

    KKZ November 19, 2012, 5:26 pm

    Ahahahaha this brings back memories. This was my letter. ^_^ I wrote it at the tail end of my depression from last year that made everything seem like a much bigger deal than it was.

    I think I sent an update at one point, but the situation now is a little less tense. I don’t see “Hank” as often as I once did, just a handful of times a year, usually for holidays or when we’re visiting my brother-in-law (who lives closer to Hank than we do). My BIL has a two-year-old daughter, maybe that’s helped Hank keep the inappropriate comments to himself?

    But, it is sort of a crapshoot, what kind of mood he’ll be in. He does have an emotional/mental disorder of some sort (my husband is unclear on the actual diagnosis, but knows Dad has been taking stabilizers for his mood for years and years) and even with medication he can range from tame/quiet/serious to really raucous and ornery to seriously prickly. Since I’m seeing his ornery side less often, it doesn’t get to me as much.

    From time to time I have discussed Hank’s behavior with Mark (not a post-visit venting, just casual conversation) and when I referenced an example of a particular situation that had bothered me, his reaction was “Why do you have to see it as sexist/bigoted/creepy? That’s not how he meant it, and that’s not how anyone else in the family takes it.” Which I do understand…but that’s not to say I’ll follow suit. I only have so many cards in my hand and ‘excusing creepy behavior because he’s family and thus above reproach’ is not one of them. If I come up with a witty comeback, I use it, but otherwise I’ve gotten a little better at just rolling my eyes and thinking a very nasty thought and then getting on with my meal.

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    • avatar

      AKchic November 19, 2012, 5:59 pm

      I hear you. Whenever I call my SO out on his enabling behavior towards his mother, or call his mother out on her bad behavior and point it out to my SO, he gets huffy and says “you are just looking for fault because you hate her”. *sigh* I haven’t said I hate her. I have said I dislike her behaviors and antics. I dislike the constant enabling by her children because it’s easier to enable her than to make her grow up (and then make THEM grow up that much more, by extension).

      The funny thing is, we have one of my co-workers living with us (she’s divorcing) and she’s got a doctorate in psychology and going for her second right now. She sees everything I’m seeing and agrees with my original hypothesis, so we get to giggle and watch him act like a child and I don’t have to do a damned thing. It irritates him, but I’ve washed my hands of it. If he wants to act like a fool and be a 30 year old man-child, that’s HIS responsibility, not mine. I will only go so far for him. Raising him is not in my job description.

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      • KKZ

        KKZ November 20, 2012, 10:40 am

        My husband told me last night that he’d talked to his mother yesterday on the phone (just a normal update call) and apparently there’s all sorts of drama bubbling in the family-in-law. Everyone’s bickering over petty shit, Hank included, and overall it makes me very glad we decided to spend this Thanksgiving just with my parents. Hopefully it will all blow over by Christmas.

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    • Fabelle

      Fabelle November 20, 2012, 8:21 am

      I love finding out which commenters wrote in! Glad the situation is a little less tense than it was.

      Anyway, this blast from the past reminds me…where the hell is Budj??

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    Eve Harrison November 19, 2012, 7:02 pm

    You deserve to feel offended. Personally, I would suggest you bring some items, like an mp3, a book— whatever helps you zone out before or after these altercations. I have a relative who gives me the same problem. It’s dwindled down to a handful of phone calls every year, a long with holiday visits. You’ve already limited the visits to monthly check-ins, so now it’s time to zone-out.

    Good luck!

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