“My In-Laws Screwed Over My Family and I Don’t Know How to Move Forward”

I need your advice on what to do or how to move forward with my in-laws. I’ve always loved my mother-in-law and thought my husband’s siblings were sweet until this weekend. Let me explain what happened.

My husband and I went in on a shore camper with his brother, “Eric.” The camper is right next to my mother-in-law’s camper as well as their aunt’s camper. I was hesitant to buy a camper with Eric, but both he and my husband assured me that he would more than likely use it during the week since he “works from home” and we could have it most weekends. I even got a shared calendar app so we could keep track of when each of us would be using it.

When we first got the camper, my husband and I did all the work getting it ready, from calling the shore site to get it into a spot to getting everything hooked up; I even got the electric on in my name and took a day off work to make sure they hooked it up right. I spent hours cleaning it from top to bottom and buying everything we needed to feel at home. Because we bought it late in the season, my husband and I were down there only three times (most of the time being to set everything up) and Eric was down there once, leaving it a little bit of a mess although I didn’t say anything about cleaning it up. Then Eric offered it to his friends one weekend. I closed it up at the end of the season, and all was good.

Now this season we have made it down to the camper twice so far, including opening day when I brought all the supplies back down and my daughter and I spent hours cleaning and opening everything up again. I was looking forward to the season ahead, but this past weekend has shown me another side to my in-laws, and now I don’t know how to move forward with them.

I had planned to bring my parents down to the camper last weekend since they hadn’t seen the place yet. To my surprise, I got a call my from my husband that Friday as I was leaving work, saying his brother was using the camper over the weekend and my parents could sleep at their mother’s camper instead. My parents had made food and brought things down just for us, and it was a weekend that was planned out for weeks. My husband said he told Eric this, but it was Eric’s 31st birthday weekend, so he and his new girlfriend were getting the camper since they hadn’t been down yet and we – my parents, my husband, and I – could share his mother’s camper.

My parents had already traveled two hours to the camper site when I found all this out, and when I called them and told them the new plan, they said they didn’t feel comfortable staying with my in-laws. They dropped all the food they brought for us with my mother-in-law so it wouldn’t go bad, and they had to wait for me to get down there so we could decide what to do. We ended up getting a hotel at a local shore point. It was a dirty old hotel that cost us $500 for the weekend.

Then, at the end of the weekend, I took my parents back to the camper to at least show them the inside, and we discovered that Eric had trashed the place and the whole camper smelled like weed. OUR FAMILY CAMPER!! I never wanted to scream more in my life, and all my in-laws kept saying was that next time there wouldn’t be any confusion over who was coming down.

There was no confusion this time. They chose to take care of Eric and screw over my family. Now my husband and I are deciding how best to move forward. We are either going to sell our half of the camper or buy it from his brother BUT I can’t even look at his family now the same way after this weekend and how they treated my family. How should I handle my feeling towards them moving forward? — Hampered Camper Weekend

Mistakes were made! The first mistake was buying property with your irresponsible brother-in-law right next door to property owned by your in-laws. It takes a really special connection with in-laws to want to spend your vacation time with them on the regular and you don’t have that connection with yours. Maybe you thought you did, but you were mistaken. It sounds like you were also mistaken about the best way to schedule use of the camper, and you were mistaken about the character of your in-laws. These are disappointing things to be mistaken about, but they aren’t the end of the world. You can easily sell your half of the camper and wipe your hands of that whole scenario. Now that you’ve had a taste of owning a camper, you can decide whether that’s something you really want in your life or not and you can make decisions that best benefit your immediate family rather than having to consider your in-laws’ wants and needs. That’s kind of a score!

Obviously, I do NOT recommend buying out Eric and keeping the camper that’s next to your MIL. I can’t underscore what a horrible idea that is for so many reasons (not the least of which is that you don’t currently know how you even feel about her). You know what’s really not fun at all? Spending a weekend that’s supposed to be chill with someone you’re pissed with and resentful of.

Keep some distance with your in-laws now that you’ve gotten a taste of their less desirable traits. The good news is that you liked them all until now and so, presumably, when you aren’t meshing too much personal space with them, you can maintain civility, and there’s no reason that needs to change. Space and time are the main ingredients in this casserole. The anger and hurt feelings are understandably fresh for you, but unless you actively choose to hang on to them, those feelings are going to lessen a whole lot with a little time. And now that you are armed with new knowledge about them, that can – and should – influence what kinds of boundaries you set with them going forward, which will protect your energy and feelings going forward.

The third ingredient in this is love for your husband. Getting along with your in-laws until this point has been relatively easy it sounds like, but now it’s going to require some effort on your part. Think of that effort as a gift to your husband, and for this scenario as an opportunity to express love for your husband. Your making an effort to get along with your in-laws despite your disappointment in their behavior and the way that disappointment has changed your relationship with them is really a love letter to your husband. It’s saying “I know these people and your relationship with them are very important to you, so I will do my part to contribute to the ease and joy in connecting with them because I love you.”

When we marry someone, we really do marry into their families, which can mean decades of engaging and interacting. Pace yourself, pick your battles, and set and adjust boundaries as needed. Family dynamics shift and change a great deal over the course of decades; don’t even get too fixed on your feelings or too worried about how you’re going to move past them. Feelings are as fluid as time.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. That was a crummy situation! Why didn’t you stay in your MIL’s camper? did Eric end up cleaning the camper?

    I think you do need to accept this mistake if this was the first time. Can Eric afford to buy you out?

  2. I would have refused to let Eric have the camper. I would have just arrived and told him: not going to happen, it is reserved for my parents since ages. Go away.
    You are too nice. I would drop the whole thing and freeze the in-laws for a good while. They suck, what a lack of respect.
    But how could you sell half a camper? I can’t see anyone ready to buy half a camper. First, I would cut the electricity, as it is on your name. Then give the whole thing back to your husband and I would also charge the husband for the 500 $ hotel costs. Frankly, he is a fool to have even accepted to go with this disrespectful scenario. He is as responsible for this mess as his family, I would be disappointed in him as well. Both siblings seem completely immature.
    What I see is that you overworked for a camper which is too far and you are taken advantage of by two selfish men (your husband and Eric). I would be fuming.

  3. I know what you should do: buy Eric’s half of the camper, then sell it, preferably to a loud family…

  4. Rethinking of this story, what really isn’t ok is this: ” My husband said he told Eric this but it was Eric’s 31st birthday weekend so he and his new girlfriend were getting the camper since they haven’t been down yet and we – my parents, my husband, and I – can share his mother’s camper.” Your husband decided for you without even asking you! That is your main problem. Please don’t follow this wrong Wendy’s advice: ” Think of that effort as a gift to your husband, and for this scenario as an opportunity to express love for your husband.” Certainly not! Your first boundary to set is with your husband (he doesn’t get to arrange your life without first discussing it with you), and you will have some work here (good luck with that) because he doesn’t act like an adult with his folks, he doesn’t have your back, he doesn’t respect you and use your free labor for this camper. His family still organise stuff like the siblings were minors. You need to get a backbone and put a sound, healthy distance with your in-laws (your parents must have been horrified by your treatment and wondering what the hell you are doing). But you could buy a camper somewhere else, you seem to enjoy the experience. I would never, although I like my in-laws, spend my free time as a regular fixture next to them. And my husband would never do so with my parents. You have to determine your own couple territory, grow up.

    1. Agreed. I don’t agree with Wendy at all. The husband is the one that messed up. Have a firm talk with your husband. Eric is hardly the one that screwed you over.

  5. Agree 100!
    Wendy is completely wrong on this one. Your husband is the one responsible for what ultimately happened. This is the reason I’m single after 2 marriages and 3 children. Men need to put their wives first. Expecially when the situation is so very clearly the right and just thing to do!
    Shame on him. Shame on his family.
    Good luck going forward with this entire selfish group.
    I feel for you.

  6. I also think this is partly a husband problem. I get your mad at the in-laws, and I would be annoyed too. They have some blame. But why did your husband let his brother walk all over your family? And why were the in-laws part of the discussion? They don’t own the camper. Sounds like there’s zero boundaries. So yes, sell your half and get some distance. Your husband needs to set boundaries and not bow to his family.

    31st bday is a BS excuse too.

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