Carolyn Hax: How to Help Daughter With Cruel In-Laws by Helping Wife

Dear Carolyn: My daughter is married to a wonderful man who has an entitled, spoiled younger sister. His mother enables her and takes her side whenever there is any conflict. My daughter goes through cycles with his family where things are calm, but then the sister causes conflict. My daughter has a heart problem that is made worse by stress.

My generous son-in-law often takes them along on family vacations and pays for everything. It has now gotten to the point where they are upset if he and my daughter go without them. Her husband knows his family can be difficult, but he doesn’t want to face it. My daughter says she wants to avoid most gatherings with her family altogether. She is fine with him and their child. Is this the best way to go about it?

Worried mom: Whatever the best way is, it’s not about you or me.

Or his sister, or the rest of his family.

It is best if the two, the exchange of vows, agree that it is best. If you give me a vote (you can’t), then I’ll go further and say that the best course of action is for the two of them to start prioritizing their marriage over one or the other’s family of origin.

That their centers of gravity are still with their families, as it seems, is more of a problem than any sister-in-law overdoing it — though the former can certainly make the latter a lot worse than it would otherwise be.

And maybe it’s just that I’m writing this on a Monday, but I don’t understand what’s “wonderful” or “generous” about inviting along, but refusing to deal with a family who knows it’s “difficult” in general and unpleasant company for the woman in particular of.

We all have things we don’t want to deal with. If we are to give in to this urge and knowingly neglect it at the expense of another, then we are typical at best, not great.

Except for the shakers who travel for free. To them, his negligence is too awesome.

But this is all academic unless your daughter asks for your opinion. If he does, then start by asking her what he thinks is right. Then ask if she has shared this idea or plan explicitly with her husband. Then ask why not, if not.

In other words: Deal with this by encouraging her to approach him about including her so they can handle things like this as a unit. Nah. And so he acknowledges, if he refuses, that his refusal is Problem Zero.

The exception to this linked box is, of course, when you see signs of inspection and damage. In this case, you stop promoting “unit” thinking and instead speak clearly, with evidence, on behalf of the one who is being hurt.

Dear Carolyn: Our wedding took place a few weeks ago. It was a beautiful event that included an outdoor ceremony followed by a move indoors to host hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and a full hors d’oeuvres dinner. The cost of booking the venue with all the restaurants was not cheap and was based on a price per person. Our wedding invitations were sent three months in advance, said the wedding included cocktails, dinner and dancing and included personal stamped replies. We submitted our number and paid for the venue based on the RSVPs we received.

We were disappointed that several people were surprise no-shows on the day of the wedding, especially when we later learned they were “too busy” to attend or had other flimsy excuses. This cost us hundreds of extra dollars.

Is there a way to word the invite that lets people know we ARE PAYING to attend without sounding like a cheapskate? It’s too late for us, obviously, but maybe others will benefit.

I mean, you’re 100 percent right: It was awful for your loved ones to do this to you, and you deserved to be treated by your guests somewhere on the same level of care as you prepared to host them.

But the idea that a line on an invitation worded precisely can reverse the effects of social disclosure? This is an “Oh, honey” moment. [pat, pat]. Either they live in protective bubbles or they know you paid through the nose.

The best advice I can give couples is to build this “loss” into their budgets — and their emotional expectations. As awful as it is, it happens all the time now. (I know we’re all tired, people, but stop doing that.)

So why post a letter with a hopeless non-response? Because your letter, worded just like that, has a better chance than I do of finishing it someone’s impulse to rudeness for the benefit of others. Thank you for the effort.

And for what it’s worth, you don’t sound like a “cheap skate” at all.

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